John and Courtney McKee scooped up double the 2015 Montana Tourism Awards on Monday in Helena.
The Headframe Distillery owners won the Grant Project of the Year award for their financial backing of “The Orphan Girl,” a short film that debuted to a packed house at the Mother Lode Theater on Sept. 11. The film, depicting realistic stories of Butte’s dangerous mining heritage, cameos local public officials and celebrates local history.
The McKees also won the Tourism Ambassador of the Year award for their work showcasing Butte as a viable tourist destination, a culture and history leader and its potential for business innovation.
Gov. Steve Bullock presented the awards to Courtney McKee on Monday during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Helena.
“That was so incredibly exciting and such a beautiful surprise,” she said. “Both awards – the other nominees -- were really remarkable.”
She called the film award “a really deserving project” in that she and her husband brought in people from across the state, including Chisel Industries of Bozeman and local extras, to film “The Orphan Girl” last summer – to the tune of $550,000 in economic impact.
Director Yarrow Kraner, Chisel Industries director who filmed “The Orphan Girl,” told The Montana Standard he is proud of what the McKees have accomplished.
“Their vision and understanding for the power of cross-media story-telling has and will continue to lead to more jobs, tangible economic development, and scaling a Montana success story and awareness for our state to the rest of the world,” Kraner wrote in an email. “Every time Montana is seen on a screen in another state, whether it's at a film festival, or on a YouTube screen, Montana's equity rises.”
Kraner added that the entire team was passionate about the project.
“I was also honored to have collaborated with Courtney McKee to help conceive and launch the non-profit Butte innovates, which will no doubt go on to do great things for Butte, and for Montana,” he said.
McKees opened Headframe Spirits in 2012. They plan to build the largest distillery west of the Mississippi River in the Kelley mine yard, breaking ground this year and opening in 2016. They work with other distilleries in the state through the Montana Distilleries Guild to boost tourism.