Billings Gazette: Winifred Teen Filmmaker Honored in U.S. Senate

Winifred teen Riley Slivka has been receiving accolades for his documentaries  about rural Montana life for years, but Friday’s praise on the U.S. Senate floor  was a first.

Slivka, a 17-year-old student at Winifred School, was entered into the  Congressional Record as Republican Sen. Steve Daines’ Montanan of the week.

Every time Slivka gets a little recognition, his following grows. In the past  two weeks, Slivka’s latest short video posted on YouTube has been viewed more  than 21,000 times. The film tells the story of the 2015 wheat harvest on the  Slivka family’s Central Montana farm high above the Missouri Breaks. At times  the combines cut wheat and barley right along the Missouri’s 1,000-foot cliffs.  The video is titled “Harvesting Along the Edge in Central Montana.”

“It’s incredible to have that many views for an agriculture video in two  weeks,” Slivka told The Gazette. “It used to take a couple years for me to get  4,000 views.”

Winifred is a Central Montana town of 200 located a few miles south of the  Missouri River. It’s the kind of place where the blue canopy of the Montana sky  converges with endless green pastures without ever being interrupted by tall  building.

The grain and cattle trades contribute to bank accounts of just about every  household in this sparsely populated area. Slivka sees real purpose in  contributing to the world food supply, and he’s determined to convey  agriculture’s importance to people who know little about it.

“I think that this story is important. It seems to be what a lot of people  don’t know, or basically don’t understand,” Slivka said. “The more ways we can  get it out, the more they might understand. We’ve got to find a way to get that  story out so people care about this.”

Slivka just started his senior year, but he’s already planning to pursue a  degree in film and agriculture communications in college. He’s working on a  documentary about Lewistown, which should be released later this year. He’s also  been hired to produce a documentary about a robotic dairy farm in Iowa.

What’s impressive, said Erin Slivka, of her son, is that he’s achieved so  much while also overcoming autism. Riley Slivka is also class president, FFA  president, and has a good shot at class valedictorian, his mother said.

Even when Riley’s on the computer loading his videos onto YouTube, he’s being  productive, Erin Slivka said. It’s the farm kid way.

“I always told him, ‘Don’t mind if you sit in front of the computer, but you  better be doing something productive,’” Erin Slivka said.