Writer Michael B. Dillon (left) and director Michael Burns (right) are on a mission to put Alaska’s film industry on the map.

By Jacob Mann

Two Valley filmmakers made a splash down in Iowa at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in April, selling out two shows and packing the theater with eager eyes which ultimately caught the attention of several established people in the film industry.

Writer Michael B. Dillon and director Michael Burns are now working under the guidance of a big name industry professional, whose name cannot be revealed at this juncture, they said.

“Unfortunately we can’t give out names yet, which sucks but this guy’s worked with (Steven) Spielberg, he’s worked with Peter Jackson. He’s Emmy nominated. He’s a big deal,” Dillon said. “At this point, he’s operating as a consultant to us because until he has a contracted obligation to the project, he can’t say I’m your producer. But, he’s been pushing us through to everybody. We’ve got two law firms in Beverly Hills that we get to pick. It’s kind of crazy.”

The festival is where the two premiered their locally grown production, filmed mostly in the Valley called “Peaks and Valleys” about a rural-Alaskan recluse who wants to be left alone and an afflicted young woman that literally dropped into his life.

Burns said their film made history for the festival, saying they’d never sold out a show before, let alone two. The attention they garnered led to their fateful encounters.

“All the pieces started there,” Burns said.

Burns said they had to move to a bigger theater and there was still not enough, with people sitting on the floor and lined up outside.

“We had a legitimate industry producer sitting on the floor with us. It was nuts,” Burns said.

That woman helped the two connect with the aforementioned industry professional. He watched their film and was impressed. He handed them a “blueprint” for everything they need to do over the next months to get the ball rolling for an entirely new, big budget film.

“…And we’re gold, he’s in this is happening,” Burns said. “He kind of gave us the outline for it and basically said if we’re able to raise a certain amount, he’s got the capacity to do the rest. I mean he’s got all the connections. Through him, we can get A-list actors, we can get major crew members, DP’s, casting directors, all that stuff. He’s the door.”

The proposed film is a heist film set in urban Alaska, flipping the norm for what most people consider an “Alaskan movie.” Dillion wrote the script.

“This is a movie like Alaska’s never seen before. We’re not going with the standard, beautiful, pristine wilderness type thing. This is an urban film,” Dillon said. “It’s going to be shot in Anchorage. It revolves around the permanent fund dividend and some people who figured out how to take it all.”

Burns and Dillon both want this endeavor to boost Alaska’s film industry and invites the return of the state’s film production incentive program. It was a tax credit program established in 2009 as a way to encourage the growth of the film industry in Alaska. Former Gov. Bill Walker ended Alaska’s tax credit program in 2015, according to a statement from the Department of Revenue Tax Division on the state’s website.

Many states have financial incentives for film and television production. Burns said the money brought in while they’re working on a movie would benefit everyone, the local industry and the economy. For now, the major film is in development, as the two gain investment capital.

“We’re talking about like, a 200 person crew/cast… There’s so many avenues to make money,” Burns said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at

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