Thirty-six years ago, American director Marc Marriott lived in Japan as a missionary and worked as a filmmaking apprentice to Yoji Yamada, the legendary director of the “Tora-san” film series. When Mariott returned to the U.S., he came across an article in an American magazine that stirred his imagination.

During the late 1980s, the height of Japan’s bubble-era economy, a Japanese beef company purchased a cattle ranch in Montana to expand its operations and better serve a meat-mad Japanese consumer base. To educate its staff in the ways of American cattle farming and teach Americans about the Japanese palate, the company sent a handful of salarymen to live and work on the ranch.

“That idea of this clash of cultures, Japanese cowboys on an American ranch,” Marriott tells me. “I just thought: There’s a movie in there, a great story.”