In Production

As the winds whistle across the prairies, the U.S. Independent Television Service turns its eyes westward to support Margaret Carey's Shadows Across the Sun River Valley and Alex Beckstead's Wagons West.
March 7, 2001

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Homestead Act, allowing American citizens to settle on up to 160 acres of surveyed but unclaimed public land. After five years of making the turf liveable, the settlers received title to the land. The goal of this Act was to open up the West, and it worked. More than 600,000 people opted to migrate to the land of the setting sun, including Esther Strasburger and her two sisters – the subjects of a 30-minute documentary by Margaret Carey.

Shadows Across the Sun River Valley is the story of three women who took up the challenge to homestead in Simms, Montana, in 1909, and their living legacy, Esther’s great-granddaughter , who continues to live and work on the land near Simms today.

Budgeted at about US$80,000, Shadows is set to wrap by the end of March. Carey, a producer/director with Montana Public Television station KUFM-TV, is producing the documentary in association with ITVS.

Proving that the impulse to go west is still alive today, filmmaker Alex Beckstead examines his own family’s yearly pilgrimage in a one-hour one-off called Wagons West. While saddled up in the modern-version of a wagon – the RV – Beckstead’s clan expose the complex layers of family relationships and the strength of blood ties despite dysfunction and diffences.

Beckstead is a producer/director with public television affiliate KUED-Salt Lake City, and is producing Wagons West in association with ITVS. The project, which has a budget of $140,000, is also scheduled to wrap by the end of March.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.