Mary Riitano



Introduce yourself and tell us a few cool things about you.
Hi! I’m Mary Riitano, an actress based out of Helena. I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing (alongside communities of artists) creating a film acting body of work where the film industry was almost non-existent at one time. When I first started, I was in single mom mode and it’s taken a ton of resourcefulness, perseverance, and vision to stay in the game. With an autodidact learning style and disciplining myself in follow-through, I’ve traveled and Zoomed to LA, Portland, Atlanta for acting training. I’ve trained with the Margie Haber Studio, Crystal Carson, Jo Kelly, Lindsay Frame, and Christine Horn. I was accepted for an eight-week scene study intensive with The BGB Studio out of LA which I’ll begin late January 2022.

Outside of acting, I love being outdoors! You’ll often find me in the mountains soaking up sunbeams and recharging myself with the energy flows of nature while hiking, biking, meandering, or snowboarding. I appreciate great cheese, absolutely love the frosé from the Hawthorn Bottle Shop/Tasting Room in Helena, and adore Italian food. I cook up a righteous mouth watering garlic loaded spaghetti sauce with homemade meatballs!

How did you get started in this line of work?
I started acting in theatre and my work includes contemporary pieces such as  Accomplice, Crimes of the Heart, and The Blue Room to classics such as Lion in Winter and Hamlet and quirky offbeat productions such as The Reindeer Monologues and The Underpants. I recently appeared at our local fringe festival style theatre in the original works of  Colter's Hell and How to Poison the President. Being involved in the development of a black box theatre and later in the developing film culture in Montana (including a group of stalwart people that put the MT Film Tax Incentive back into play in 2019) have given me a wide range of communication skills, an understanding of how things run, how to sustain endeavors, and diversify what I do in front of the camera, on stage, and behind them. When the black box theatre closed, I changed direction to film acting. I wasn’t connected to or seeing film being done in my local market at that time. I started educating myself by volunteering at the Hatch Film Festival in Bozeman. Realizing the importance of industry quality tools, I traveled to LA for headshots, training, and grew self-knowledge by connecting with industry professionals and reading about the film industry.

What is your favorite movie or TV show filmed in Montana?
You can’t just have one! There are many that touch my heart and elevate Montana film artistry. A River Runs Through It is one of my favs! You feel Montana nature living and breathing in this film through the cinematography. Certain Women brought soft focus light onto the complexities of the quiet and yet fierce feminine energy making their own journeys and has a stellar female cast led by female director Kelly Reichardt. The Slaughter Rule and Wildlife are two more films that are beautifully done and I’ve really appreciated.

What practical advice would you give others in the industry in Montana?
Outside of the main hub of an industry, you won’t find exactly what you need to start your dreams coming into the reality of life… where there isn’t something, create it. Find the smallest nugget of an available, I believe “yes you can do it” inside yourself. Bring your interested film crew together to share existing skills and make a plan and schedule your follow through actions. Apply the magic of a great attitude, tenacity, flexibility, and continuing to learn on the fly to keep making it work. You are more capable than you know!

What positions do you usually work on films or television productions?
I’m 100% an actress. However, being involved in many smaller budgeted films has afforded me the opportunity to wear many different hats in production. This has given me a rich understanding of how the pieces come together as a whole for a film. I’ve done casting, behind the scenes & on-set photography, acting coaching, script supervising, assistant directing, location scouting, assisted with set dressing and props, and have been on a team of people for crowd fundraising for films. Most recently I’ve done some post-production film work including feedback in the editing room, quality control on final cuts of a film, voice over work, film festival connecting, and social media promotion of film.

How long have you worked in the film/television industry in Montana?
I’ve been working in film for nearly 12 years in Montana.

What do you like most about working in Montana?
I really appreciate the approachability of nearly everyone I work with in state as well as the ease of getting to a film set and, of course, the gorgeous Montana landscapes. I feel like Mother Nature gifts us with her visual presence and beautiful light; we’re so lucky! Montana landscape always shows up incredibly on screen.

What are your favorite resources for filmmakers?
Honestly, I have to say the people here in this state are gold. When I wear other hats in film production and reach out to people or businesses for assistance, I receive generous answers or they point me in the direction of where I might get help if they don’t have what I need. The Montana Film Office is and has been a huge advocate for our films and offers a continually evolving place to share information and resources.

List three of your most notable credits.
My most recent film credit is in Wuthering Heights as the character Nelly. This film is due to be released wide VOD in March 2022 and is directed by Bryan Ferriter. Another film credit is for the character Amber in Useless which is currently out on Amazon Prime and is directed by Josiah Burdick. Another film credit I’m proud of is my character Joey in Willow Creek Road, which is an award winning short film directed by Francesca Mirabella and a film I helped produce. I’d love for you to check out more of my credits on IMDB!

What is the highlight of your career so far?
In March 2020, I was thrilled and honored to be awarded a Best Supporting Actress award from the Idyllwild International Cinemafest for my work as the character Nelly in the classic film Wuthering Heights.