Though movies are generally amusing, the Bozeman Film Society has always sought deeper value in their diversion, seeking out “films that engage, entertain and foster an understanding of the world around us,” according to the BFS website.

This mission is furthered this week with Bozeman Film Society’s participation in the Science on Screen initiative. The first event of the series is Wednesday, March 30, and will feature a screening of “Druid Peak” paired with a presentation on wolf and teen behavior, “Wolves & Teens: ‘Un-packing’ Social Creatures,” with locals Doug Smith and Katey Franklin and a Q&A with writer/director Marni Zelnick and executive producer Maureen Mayer at the Ellen Theatre. The film is a coming-of-age story set in and around Yellowstone National Park and deals extensively with wolf reintroduction issues.

BFS is one of 23 independent cinemas across the country awarded grants to implement a Science on Screen program, which enhances films with talks by local scientists. The films are varied, with organizations around North America choosing presentations on harnessing fusion with “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” map use with “The Goonies” and even cartoon and basketball physics with “Space Jam.”

In addition to “Druid Peak,” the Bozeman Film Society will pair presentations on genetically engineered dinosaurs with “Jurassic World” on Saturday, April 30, and soil science with “The Martian” on Wednesday, May 25.

Science on Screen provides the template for the events. Each cinema is asked to use one “Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Festival award recipient or a film developed by Sloan through its film development pipeline,” according to From there, the series is open for interpretation.

Zelnick, a New York University graduate who spent time as a nanny in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, received a $100,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation for production of “Druid Peak.” The grant and her time in Wyoming provided seeds for a story where each character, much like the wolves, is misunderstood by those around them.

“One of the first things I read about wolves is that in our entire history, there is no recorded instance of a wolf attacking a human,” Zelnick said in a phone interview last week. “... It’s so fascinating. The whole human race has a massive misperception about the species.”

In the film, 16-year-old Owen (Spencer Treat Clark) is a rebellious teenager in West Virginia whose actions contribute to the death of a friend. For Zelnick, this has a direct connection to her own adolescence, as several kids in her community were killed in similar car crashes.

“I was heartbroken by that,” she said. “I spent a lot of time as a teenager thinking about what went wrong or what could have been done different... I still think about them.”

When Owen is sent to to live with his wolf biologist father (Andrew Wilson), he locks eyes with a wolf in the woods and is set off on a new path. In collecting data about the park’s wolves, specifically the Druid Peak pack, he finds something of himself.

“I find kids are touched by the film,” said Zelnick. “It gives them a talking point, a way in to more traumas, struggles and discomfort in their own environment.”

The father in the film, Everett, is inspired by Smith, project leader for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who will give a talk before the screening. Smith’s book “Decade of the Wolf,” was Zelnick’s first resource for the film, purchased right after a presentation on the Sloan Foundation grant for scientific films. The inspiration isn’t in Smith’s personal story, as Everett’s backstory is fictionalized in “Druid Peak,” but is evident in the scope of wolf reintroduction.

“He’s one man in the wild sort of willing this thing into being,” Zelnick said.

Zelnick talks about wolves with reverence, but also acknowledges that reintroduction is a complicated issue. “Druid Peak” addresses rancher concerns and wolf hunts alongside the biologist-centered story.

“The film tries very hard to promote understanding and to be fair to both sides,” Zelnick said.

Each of the aspects, from the Yellowstone setting to the exceedingly relevant mental heath aspects, according to Lisa McGrory, executive director of the Bozeman Film Society

“There’s so many different levels that the film works for the community of Bozeman,” she said. “It’s more than just the wolves. It’s also dealing with youth and growing up and finding your place in the world.”

Rachel Hergett can be reached at or at 406-582-2603. Hergett is on Twitter at @hergett.