Ivan Doig’s Uniquely Western Genius Explored in New Documentary
“He writes about people who don’t often get portrayed in literature or film… he writes about everyday people and their struggles and successes…recognizing that we all have these incredible stories regardless of what it is that we do.”-Nic Davis, filmmaker and director
A new documentary film, Ivan Doig: Landscapes of a Western Mind is now streaming on PBS Passport. The film by Montana PBS and 4:08 Productions offers an intimate look at the life and work of Ivan Doig, the iconic Montana author whose novels and memoirs depict a rugged and authentic American West.
Born in White Sulfur Springs, Montana, Doig (1939-2015) was widely known for his 16 works of fiction and nonfiction. His first book, This House of Sky, detailed the real-life characters and events that shaped his upbringing, quickly earning him recognition as “a presiding figure in the literature of the American West,” by The New York Times.
Doig earned wide appreciation from readers and critics alike for his exceptional ability to build characters as harsh and beautiful as the landscapes in which they lived.
The film about Doig’s storied life features key voices from the people who shared life and landscape with Ivan, including his wife and most rigorous editor, Carol Doig. Lois Welch, who headed the creative writing program at the University of Montana and was married to writer James Welch, and Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants and the Red Ants Pants Music Festival, which are based in Doig’s hometown of White Sulfur Springs, also appear.
Nic Davis, founder and CEO of Montana-based 4:08 Productions and the film’s director, says he wanted to find the “poetry under the prose,” a phrase Doig often borrowed from Montana author Norman Maclean. “Ivan’s life-like his work-was filled with complexity, beauty, hardship and hard work. This film aims to capture these elements…We hope it honors the legacy he left behind.” said Davis. Landscapes of a Western Mind is a partnership production between 4:08 Productions and Executive Producers Scott Sterling and Aaron Pruitt at Montana PBS. The Montana State University Library, which houses the Ivan Doig Archive, has been an enthusiastic collaborator on the project as well.
“Ivan’s life-like his work-was filled with complexity, beauty, hardship and hard work. This film aims to capture these elements…We hope it honors the legacy he left behind.”Nic Davis, filmmaker and director
Davis, a sixth-generation Montanan himself, has long appreciated the complex narratives and heroic, yet ordinary characters depicted throughout Ivan Doig’s writing. “He writes about people who don’t often get portrayed in literature or film… He writes about everyday people and their struggles and successes… recognizing that we all have these incredible stories regardless of what it is that we do.”
Learn more and watch the film here.