Christmas in the Clouds, written and directed by Kate Montgomery, is a Native American comedy of errors that humorously defies Native stereotypes on the big screen. “I wanted to create something that was just light and fun, and really celebrated the great sense of humor that is really central in the Native community,” says Montgomery. Set at a plush Tribal owned and operated ski lodge, Christmas in the Clouds combines multiple cases of mistaken identity and a cast of quirky characters that flies “in the face of stereotypes about Native American people.”
The film begins with retired Chief Joe Clouds on Fire exchanging love letters with a widow, Tina. As a widow, Joe assumes she is approximately his age. Through their letter writing, Tina is led to believe Joe is her age as he leads on that he is the general manager of the ski lodge, a role actually held by his son Ray, an eligible bachelor with an east-coast college education. “He [Joe] thinks because she’s a widow that she’s older, and because he’s misleading her to impress her, she thinks he’s still running things,” explains Montgomery. At the same time, Ray receives a letter notifying him and his staff that a prestigious hotel rating service is sending a critic. The confusion only builds as Tina, a professional woman from New York, decides to surprise Joe by visiting the lodge at exactly the same time the travel critic is expected to arrive. Identities are mistaken; Ray and Tina meet in the lobby; he thinks she’s the critic, she thinks he’s her pen pal, the critic goes unnoticed and hilarity ensues. “I really just wanted to do something positive and fun,” says Montgomery.
Montgomery’s filmmaking style is heavily influenced by her broad creative background. As a child, she loved drawing and painting. “I’m certainly visual, and I’m at home in the visual world,” explains Montgomery. In college, she was a studio art major but changed to history “because I fell in love with history and writing,” she says, “I never really set out to be a filmmaker.” Throughout both high school and college she was also an actor, a skill that lends itself to her script writing allowing her to “inhabit each role” as she writes.
After college, she went to work with a film producer making commercials and corporate films. “I didn’t go to film school; I learned on the job,” explains Montgomery. Working on commercial and corporate productions began to lose its appeal after a while. “For the amount of work you go through to get a commercial sold, you could write a whole script,” she says, “I felt like if I was going to work that hard to get something financed and off the ground I'd just as soon have it be something that really matters to me.”
Interview by Ben Kreimer
Editing done by Ben Kreimer