The Anaconda Project: Post-Trip

boy walking on outdoor bleachers

Hi Everyone!

I just got back from my five day trip to Anaconda, MT yesterday! I have not fully begun to process and reflect on the trip yet, but I’ll do my best to share with you all what I learned!

As I shared in my first post, I tried my best to do as much research and prep work on the town as possible. However, because the town is so small, there is very little information about it online and in books. Primarily, the town is known for its copper smelter, which provided jobs to the majority of people in Anaconda. The town was built on the smelter. Marcus Daly, one of the founders of Anaconda, was known as one of the “Copper Kings”. Anaconda was even going to be called “Copperopolis” when it was competing to become the capital (it ended up losing to Helena, MT). In 1980, when the smelter closed, the majority of Anaconda residents were put out of work, and Anaconda’s population began its decline. It peaked in the 1960s at 18,640 people, and is now under 10,000. It is predicted that the town will stabilize at 7,800 people in 2025, which suggests there is little hope for Anaconda to make a comeback in the workforce.

As a result of its lack of jobs, Anaconda is primarily made up of retired people, many of them veterans. Further, most people in Anaconda are mainly there because their families have lived there for generations. I met a teenager whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, and cousins all live in the town. Since it’s such a small town, everyone knows everyone, and are not extremely welcoming to newcomers. Also, from what I gathered, kids tend to want to move out of the town immediately after graduation (if they do graduate), but many of them will try to move back to raise families. But, a graduating class at Anaconda High School is about 66 students, and of that, likely less than half will move back after leaving for college. Though the town is about a mile long and can only be accessed East or West, it has an American Legion, a VFW Post, and a small VA Primary Care Center. The veteran population is quite large, but what I did not know is that about 90% of the vets in town (if not more) are WWII, Korea, or Vietnam vets. There are hardly any vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Moreover, the vets who did serve in Iraq or Afghanistan are not very involved with the veteran culture of Anaconda, because the lives of veterans today are so drastically different to those of vets of previous wars. Even something that seems as small as travel time between time of service and returning home is a major factor that separates veterans of the current war and of past ones. One man remarked, “There’s no time to decompress. When I came back home, I had three weeks on a ship to transition. Now, all vets have is a 12 hour flight.” Additionally, a lot of Anaconda’s younger veterans are forced to go on welfare because of the lack of jobs. Many move out of town, but because the town has such history — especially for those whose families have lived there for multiple generations — I can imagine it’d be very difficult to leave.

Another thing that fascinated me was the way the town uses space. Marcus Daly laid out very specific plans for every aspect of the town’s architecture. The streets are very wide, and the houses are all moderately sized for families. However, on the more rural areas of the town (towards the outskirts), it is ridden with trailers and mobile homes. When we had the chance to explore some of the homes, I noticed that many people live in these very cramped spaces within vast green meadows and endless lakes. Visually, it’s a very provocative dichotomy: claustrophobia amidst pastoral perfection. Since the main characters of my script live in a mobile home, I was very excited to explore these parks.

Finally, the youth culture — specifically as it pertains to young girls — was the most surprising part of my trip. I had no expectations of meeting any teenagers, but I ended up meeting two groups — a group of girls, and a group of boys. Further, they had an equal impact on my research as the veterans did, which was a complete surprise. But, since the script focuses on a teenage girl, it made sense to get the perspective of teens. To put it concisely, one girl said, “Girls are raised as boys.” Hunting, fishing, camping, and sports are all as common in boys as they are in girls, which I found to be fascinating as it pertains to my main character.

Once I have some time to look at the footage, I will edit together a little teaser video of some moments from the trip, but for now, here are some photos the producer/AD took!156042_10154473551500693_3535409561627356042_n 1743555_10154473550955693_1080911808392400480_n 10364017_10154473551470693_486587684903999577_n 10370351_10154473551620693_3922258046500194787_n 10385311_10154473551665693_1146045020970799471_n 10423850_10154473551680693_5540035141527573620_n 10440731_10203595311537713_7079247213878997798_n 10527863_10154473550695693_5413854039053356653_n 10544364_10154473550630693_7288992077720309617_n 10557299_10154473551335693_7026139817506971601_n 10557382_10154473550410693_5066004835764793410_n 10561533_10154473550920693_134816569781534730_n 10583892_10154473551790693_4772642196895740401_n 10592728_10154473550355693_7782149956985594168_n 10600420_10154473551935693_8535378499729343275_n 10600572_10154473550075693_1633716187393592136_n 10606096_10154473550830693_5533676052693087280_n 10606108_10154473551785693_5450597225965224746_n 10613014_10203628643710435_2530293167103870833_n 10616114_10154473550565693_163608963652117749_n 10616579_10154473551345693_4898053944420028926_n 10620571_10154473550270693_5999437427220849867_n

One thought on “The Anaconda Project: Post-Trip

  1. Dear Annabelle,

    I am so glad that you were able to immerse yourself in the landscape that you have been writing about. Anaconda sounds like a locale very far from most of our upbringings, and it must have been so fun to experience a place that you have spent so much time researching! This may seem somewhat trivial, but would you mind commenting on or captioning some of these photographs when you have time? I know that you only JUST returned to NYC, but I am interested in knowing who the individuals (aside from the film crew) are, as well as a few details about the locations!

    Thank you!

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