National Geographic TV series to focus on Montana Hutterite colony

2012-05-29T00:15:00Z 2014-08-25T23:50:20Z National Geographic TV series to focus on Montana Hutterite colonyBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

It's not a stretch to say that the National Geographic Channel opens up little-known, fantastic cultures from around the world to the viewing public but it's rare to find that culture in your own back yard.

But that's the case with its new reality series, "American Colony: Meet the Hutterites," which premiers on Tuesday night and focuses on daily life in the King Ranch Colony of Hutterites near Lewistown.

"Most Americans are not familiar at all with Hutterites," said Jeff Collins, the show's executive producer. "I know I hadn't heard of them before the show. You guys in Montana have probably seen them in the street but you've never seen what goes on behind the gates in the colony."

The show follows the 59 members of the colony as they go about their day-to-day duties. The Hutterites are an Anabaptist group scattered mostly throughout North America who live in rural, pacifistic and communal colonies in which nearly all property and goods are owned by the colony instead of individual members.

Collins said spending time on the colony for the show was an eye-opener and hopes it has the same impact on viewers, even in states like Montana, where Hutterites are more known.

One of the things that stood out most to him was the Hutterite belief in shunning most modern technology and living a life largely dependent on farming and ranching.

"I don't mean this in a positive or a negative way, but these people really do live a lifestyle that is a throwback to 150 years ago," he said. "It was a bit of something to get used to for somebody like me, who is from Los Angeles."

The inner workings of Hutterite colonies, especially the King Colony, have rarely been filmed or photographed. Collins said that, as far as he knows, just one film -- a choppy black-and-white snippet filmed by the Canadian Broadcasting Co. in the 1930s -- of the colony exists.

The TV crew, which wrapped up filming of the first season earlier this year, gained access and trust partly because National Geographic did a feature on the colony about 40 years ago and followed up on it 10 years ago.

"When we walked in to talk to them about signing a contract, we had a copy of that magazine in hand," Collins said. "They recognized the people in there."

National Geographic began shooting during harvest season, an important time of year for the colony, and followed its members during their daily lives, something Collins said hasn't been seen by the general public.

"It's a never-before-seen side of them" he said. "If you thought you knew about the Hutterites before, no one ever, ever, ever has been able to get this kind of access."

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