Wyatt Nelson ’95 is living a life that seems to be the epitome of the work-family balance. A resident of Bozeman, Mont., Nelson is a butcher at the Community Food Co-op, a husband and a dad. He rides his bike to work each day and sells free-range, grass-fed, organic, local meat and fish. He learned the skills working as a butcher’s apprentice in ninth grade in Irvine, Calif. Having always loved the culinary arts, Nelson considered a career as a chef, but decided to keep cooking as a passion rather than a career after hearing about the toll a chef’s hours and demands can have on a family.
Husband to Faye and father of Laila, 4, and twins, August and Mia, 21 months, Nelson loves the life he has created. Faye is a fourth-generation Montanan, making their children fifth-generation. The couple loves to ski, hike, bike and enjoy their beautiful surroundings.
This lifestyle is in stark contrast to the life Nelson led immediately after leaving Gilmour. During his senior year at the Academy, Nelson and a group of friends went to a “model search” at the Holiday Inn hoping to meet some cute girls. What happened that day sent Nelson on a path that would take him around the world several times over. A scout saw him in the hallway and told him he should consider modeling, leaving him with his business card. Nelson gave the card to his mom, who researched the scout and realized he was legitimate. After attending a convention in Rochester, Nelson was courted by many of the major modeling agencies. Upon graduating from Gilmour, he moved to New York and his first modeling job was for Calvin Klein’s worldwide ad campaign, turning Nelson into a male supermodel overnight.
Over the next eight years, Nelson lived in New York City, Paris and Tokyo while traveling around the world. Although glamorous and exciting at times – he met Nelson Mandela, knew Gianni Versace personally and went to many exotic places –the lifestyle was, in fact, quite lonely. He spent most of his time on airplanes and in hotels and missed holidays with his family. Modeling also wasn’t what he ever set out to do. Instead, Nelson had dreams of becoming a film director.
He decided to move to Los Angeles, looking for a change. He did commercials and some modeling work on the side, while trying to get into the production side of things. This, of course, meant starting at the bottom, a far cry from where he had been as a model. But, Nelson was okay with that as he was ready for something more challenging.
During this time period, he went to Montana for a vacation and met a producer named Patrick Markey, who produced “A River Runs Through It” and “The Horse Whisperer,” both of which were shot in Montana. He was starting a new production company, Crazy Mountain, Inc., and hired Nelson to manage it. He worked for the company for three years, helping to develop “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” an HBO mini-series. After finishing that project, Nelson decided to follow through on his promise to himself that he would go to college. He graduated in 2010 from Montana State University, after only three years, with a bachelor of arts in film and photo; while going to school, Nelson worked as a digital image technician, got married and had his first child.
Patrick Markey, the producer with whom Nelson worked, was a very talented line producer and served as Nelson’s mentor. After working closely with him, Nelson discovered he loved the producing side of filmmaking rather than the directing side. After Nelson finished school, a producer called him about a film idea she had looking at the battles war veterans and their families face after returning home. Nelson signed on to line produce the film, meaning that he would be responsible for creating a budget for the film, hiring the crew, arranging for all the crew’s equipment needs and keeping the film on budget.
He began work on the film, eventually titled “Not Yet Begun to Fight,” over two years ago. It tells the story of a retired Marine colonel who returned home from Vietnam and found that fly fishing was the one thing that healed him. Now, with a new generation of soldiers in America returning from war, he runs a program that brings these vets to the river and teaches them to fish. The film follows a group of five veterans on one of these trips as they attempt to begin to heal.
The film has been well-received by audiences at each of the film festivals at which it has premiered, winning the 2012 Audience Award at the Florida Film Festival in April and having an extra screening added because of demand at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colo. The film was described by critic Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel as a “mix of great wild beauty and ugly reality.”
While Nelson does love the film production work, he plans to keep it as a side job for now. He enjoys his work as a butcher and the freedom it allows him to enjoy his true loves – his family and his life as a Montanan.