In a nutshell

I love making movies, TV shows, videos, podcasts, or any other content dealing with story. I’m comfortable taking the lead on a project or collaborating to bring someone else’s vision to life. I’ve got over 20 years of industry experience and can confidently wear a variety of hats on a film set.

Origin story anecdote

Since I was a wee child I knew I wanted to dedicated myself to something unique. First, it was basketball. I practiced shooting 3-4 hours a day and became the 5’11” Larry Bird of Montana. Shortly after, I discovered filmmaking. It was a dog fight, but eventually filmmaking won out when I realized that my status as the 5’11” Larry Bird of Montana wouldn’t be enough to ascend to the professional level. Making a living as a basketball legend was out. I was 16. Like a freakishly thirsty sponge, I gobbled up as much filmmaking material as I could find. I was off. I found my life’s passion & purpose and have never looked back. 

Here’s my proper third person bio (pretend I didn’t write it)

John D. Nilles is an award-winning director/cinematographer/producer & film educator based in Montana. He has over 20 years of film industry experience working on a variety of projects for NBC, NatGeo, HBO, FOX, VH1, & many others.

John’s great-great-great grandparents homesteaded in the Bitterroot Valley. His family has called Montana home ever since. Growing up, John was enthralled by stories passed down through the generations. John discovered his passion for filmmaking at an early age and cut his teeth on an ambitious Indiana Jones fan film in high school. He then had brief stints at Montana State University and in Los Angeles before returning home to Western Montana.

Since then, John has directed, shot, & produced countless films, several of which have played at dozens of film festivals around the world. John has written over 10 screenplays and has several others in various stages of development. He is particularly fond of Westerns and Science Fiction; especially when they intersect.

John currently resides in Missoula, MT where he owns Shoot Montana & Treasure State Studios. His latest feature, “Saving For The Day,” won best Montana Film at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest and has secured a distribution deal for an international release in 2024.


    After a 13 year odyssey, “
    SAVING FOR THE DAY” had its world premiere in 2023 and will have an online release in 2024. The film is a love letter to Missoula and features the talent of over 400 Montanans. It’s a multi-genre feature in the form of a modern-day Indiana Jones adventure. 
    I’ve got several short films in post that will be completed this year. Two contemporary Westerns called, “BITTERROOT,” and “BLEACH BONE.” Plus a Rock Mockumentary titled, “THE DRUMMER MONK.” 
    Recently, I served as Cinematographer & Producer on several projects including a documentary about the 1918 Flu Pandemic in Montana (“BLUE DEATH“), a horror feature set in a forest service lookout tower (“WED THE DARK“), and a short pulp/noir/horror (“DOUBLE NICKEL“). 


  • DadMode is in full effect. Our family is growing and we couldn’t be happier about it. We’re thoroughly enjoying splitting time between Missoula (pictured above) and Florida (pictured below). 
  • We’re making plans to finally renovate our 32′ RV. Hope to get started next Spring!

Updated in March of 2024.

This section is inspired by Derek Sivers and his Now Page Movement.

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