Helena 2018

Moving Pictures Productions – Documentary Film of Women in Montana’s First Prison

Moving Pictures Productions is producing a half-hour documentary film entitled “Born Under a Bad Sign – the Story of Women in Montana’s First Prison.” The documentary illustrates the complex and poignant plight of Butte prostitute Bessie Fisher, unfairly convicted in an all-male courtroom of second-degree murder in 1901. Her African American ethnicity, her profession, her addiction to morphine, and her gender made women like Bessie unredeemable in the eyes of the law. The press sensationalized her trial and the judge sentenced her to a harsh twenty years. “Born Under a Bad Sign” emphasizes the social biases working against Bessie. These issues, especially gender inequality and addiction, are issues relevant in today’s social milieu.

Filming Ellen Baumler in Butte

This grant helped fund production of this documentary including transportation and equipment rental for Steadycam. Steadycam was essential for shooting moving sequences within the cramped confines of the prison, as well as the narrow alleys and underground spaces of historic Butte. 

“Born Under a Bad Sign” will be the first time this story has been told in Montana. The documentary will add a much-needed chapter to Montana history and the story of women in Montana’s first prison.