World Premier of DRYLAND film at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Feb 22

Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhelm, the creative force behind Hare in the Gate Productions, announce the World Premiere of their feature documentary Dryland in the prestigious Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Dryland offers a portrait of rural America in transition through the eyes of a young man pursuing his dream. The film screens Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at the historic Wilma Theater in Missoula, Montana. The filmmakers, composer Mark Orton, and members of the cast will be present and available for questions after the screening.

Set in Eastern Washington’s dryland wheat country, the film follows Josh and best friend Matt over ten years, as they pursue their passion for farming and quest for victory in the annual Lind Combine Demolition Derby. With barn-raising fervor, this annual event raises funds for the community of 500, while supporting the legacy of regional family farms. Called “a bittersweet and beautiful new film” by Modern Farmer magazine, Dryland plays a cinematic duet between an exuberant, freewheeling spectacle and a meditation on our changing heartland.

Dryland - The world premier at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Matt Miller (back) and Josh Knodel, the two main characters in Dryland.

The sign on remote US 395 in Eastern Washington first enticed the filmmakers in 2003: “Welcome to Lind. Drop in—Mt. St. Helens did! Combine Demolition Derby and Rodeo.” Intrigued, Sue and Richard pulled into the Lind rodeo arena to observe the drivers’ meeting a week before the derby. “We were immediately struck by the participants’ love of family, land, community, and the willingness to fight for a threatened way of life,” Sue notes.

Over the years, the filmmakers returned to follow Josh and Matt through high school and college, as they piloted “JAWS”—a hulking blue vintage combine—in the annual derby. But even as they ride to victory, Josh and Matt witness their town dying. Then, Josh loses a lifelong bid to stay on his fourth-generation farm and must leave to find work. A theme all too common, as agricultural technology advances, and the need for labor wanes, fewer young farmers can stay on the land. Higher costs force farms to consolidate or grow, and many family farms and the rural towns depending on them simply disappear.


Matt Miller drives his derby combine, JAWS, in the Annual Lind Parade.

The film showcases an original score by Mark Orton, who most recently scored the Oscar-nominated Nebraska, shot partly in Montana. Orton’s multi-instrumental score deftly characterizes the yearning of a young farmer, his community, and the striking landscape they cherish. Songs by John Mellencamp, founding member of Farm Aid, who donated a song, and the legendary late Don Walser, round out the film’s soundtrack.

Audiences of all ages and backgrounds will be inspired by youthful optimism, generational perseverance, and a town cultivating rural resilience. As Americans increasingly seek connections to the source of food and the craft of farming, and as concerns about food security and a desire for healthier diets have altered urban behavior across the country, this tale is more timely than ever.


About Hare in the Gate, LLC

BioBased in Portland, Oregon, Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhelm formed Hare in the Gate Productions in 1999, creating documentaries that explore such topics as affordable urban housing, Native American history, and the work of world-renowned artists. Their work aims to forge connections and deepen our understanding of a complex world. Splitting time between Portland and rural southeast Oregon, both partners maintain close ties with rural life and a deep interest in the viability of the family farm. More information can be found at, or join the Dryland conversation on Facebook.