Among the adult-size skis, backpacks and kayak equipment in Elizabeth Moore’s gear room are children’s ice skates, sleds and bedrolls. It’s a jumble of Moore’s former and current lives, memories of the days she would train for extreme adventure races and evidence of today’s starring role as a mom to Campbell, 6, and Astrid, 10.
This woven tapestry of extreme outdoor sports and parenting prompted Moore to mull a question after watching movies at the Banff Film Festival about 10 years ago.
“I was thinking, ‘Where are my people? Where are the women in this film festival?’” Moore recalled one recent afternoon, relaxing in the sun on her backyard deck in Missoula. “Then I thought, ‘Where are the moms?’
“I would see shows where the dad would be going off, doing adventures, and at the end was a blurb like, ‘While I was gone, my son Matthew was born.’”
Women don’t have that luxury. Moore knows how closely women are connected to their children, starting by carrying them in their wombs for nine months. Even though she continued training for extreme races after giving birth to her two girls, Moore said it took “tons of people” to help her get in shape and compete in 2016 in the 10-day, 450-mile Primal Quest Expedition race in Chile.
Her training included rising at 4:25 a.m. every weekday to run or hike, return home to pack lunches, plan meals, help with homework, shuttle kids, schedule photo shoots for work and market her husband Jeff’s real estate business.
“I was exhausted every night by the time we put the girls to bed,” Moore wrote in her blog “Artemis Outside.”
Her four-person team wasn’t able to finish the race after a horrific storm and a struggling teammate forced their evacuation by helicopter. Today, Moore can’t imagine being that far away for that long again, but is outdoors with her family every chance she gets.
Yet the lack of women in that film festival stuck in her head, planting a seed in Moore that recently blossomed into an epiphany; she had produced shows behind the cameras for ESPN and Barrett Productions, and also was a promotions producer for Max Media of Montana. Moore decided to put those skills to work by pairing her love of the outdoors and her children.
“I used to wonder if I could put a short (film) together. I was going hiking with friends pushing strollers — we had a stroller brigade, with five strollers and a couple kids on foot — and I interviewed friends on how to make a successful trip for kids, to get them into the outdoors. That was the angle I was going for,” Moore said.
With a recent $25,000 grant from the Montana Film Office, “Mountain Mamas” was born.
“One of the things the grant committee looks at is, ‘Are we creating opportunities for people to tell unique stories about Montana?’” said Allison Whitmer, the Department of Commerce’s film commissioner for the Montana Film Office. “We’re looking for stories that go beyond the traditional narratives. One of those narratives is the outdoors, which typically is masculine territory.
“Women and children can sometimes not be able to participate or are prevented from participating from outdoor activities because of their age or size — you don’t often see a 5-year-old mountain biking in films.”
But Whitmer said the grant committee knew that some of Montana’s greatest stories are about women and children in the outdoors, from the Native Americans to early European settlers to modern-day ranchers.
“She sent me some test footage about little girls learning to fish in a beautiful mountain lake,” Whitmer said. “They have little fishing poles and are having a blast just being around nature. What a great way to foster a lifelong appreciation for the great outdoors.”
Whitmer added that the statistics surrounding women in the film industry are “pretty dire.” Although 50 percent of film school participants are women and they initially have a pretty high acceptance rate into film festivals, men typically have their second management project within two or three years, but it’s closer to 10 years for women. And when it comes to the highest-grossing films, only 2 percent to 4 percent come from female directors.
“For those who have taken time off to have a family and try to get back into films, the odds are stacked against women,” Whitmer said. “The committee found that she was not just brave … but the fact that she wants to tackle a subject that wasn’t being looked at much was important. Having women’s voices be heard was really important.”
Whitmer also recently had seen a short film out of Bozeman by Krystle Wright called “Where the Wild Things Play” that was a rowdy ode to badass female athletes shredding bodacious backcountry ski lines, performing death-defying tricks on slacklines and riding radical mountain biking routes — and biffing it occasionally.
“I thought that what she was doing is taking a dynamic direction for women filmmakers, and Elizabeth is doing that, too,” Whitmer said.
Moore set a personal deadline for the film for December 2019. In the meantime, she’s interviewing both friends and strangers about their strategies for having positive outdoor experiences with their children. She’s following a smokejumper, an Olympic skier, and an ultra runner, and also has footage of her own life.
Moore is always on the hunt for more women to highlight, too, whether it’s at The Rut 50K race in Big Sky she just ran or the Tiny Tales storybook time with her daughters at the library. She also plans to include older women, like the 80-year-old biker she recently met.
“I would like to interview dads, but this is about mothers and their experiences — like how your life was before having children, and then after,” Moore said. “Not to disparage dads, but we make accommodations; it’s a different connection. I can’t say what it is because I’m not a dad, but we birthed these people, and it’s a different connection.”
Moore also is looking for major sponsors — she loves the “Force of Nature” campaign from REI, which features “fearless women” and thinks it would be a good fit — and a good film editor.
“This is all about women who love their kids but have this mantra that they also love the mountains,” Moore said. “We still need to have that other part in our lives.”