MontanaPBS Writer to Receive Prestigious Spur Award for Documentary

MISSOULA Paul Zalis, writer and co-producer of the MontanaPBS production “Charlie Russell’s Old West,” will receive the 2021 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.

Zalis was named the winner in the Documentary Script category. The winners are scheduled to be honored June 16-19 at WWA's convention in Loveland, Colorado.

Photo of Paul Zalis
Paul Zalis, writer and co-producer of the MontanaPBS production “Charlie Russell’s Old West.”

“I’m honored to be not only receiving this prestigious award for our film about one of Montana’s most beloved citizens,” Zalis said, “but particularly to be in the company of past Spur Award winners such as Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, Robert Utley, Tony Hillerman and Larry McMurtry. I’m thankful to the entire MontanaPBS team and for our truly extraordinary scholars and consultants for making the program a success.”

The documentary’s executive producer, William Marcus said that Zalis captured the humor and plain-spoken nature of Russell’s character.

“Paul worked around and through Charlie’s art and words to bring him closer to us in today’s hectic world,” Marcus said.

WWA promotes and honors the best in Western literature with its annual Spur Awards, which are selected by panels of judges. Awards – for material published last year­ – are given for works whose inspiration, image and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West.

“Charlie Russell’s Old West” told the story of Montana’s cowboy artist. According to Zalis, no one played a larger role in mythologizing the cowboy’s place in American culture than Russell. The program explores his art and life as he witnessed and documented the end of the Wild West’s open range as America entered the 20th century.

For a list of this year’s Spur Award winners, visit

MontanaPBS (KUFM-TV in Missoula, KUSM-TV in Bozeman, KUKL-TV in Kalispell, KBGS-TV in Billings, KUGF-TV in Great Falls and KUHM-TV in Helena) is a service of the University of Montana and Montana State University. For more information, visit


Contact: Paul Zalis, writer and co-producer, or William Marcus, executive producer,