Duluth native asks public to support movie about deformed frogsDirector Jim Ojala was in Duluth last week to scout filming locations for his movie, "Strange Nature."
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Duluth News Tribune
When Jim Ojala was in Gary-New Duluth last week scouting locations for his upcoming film, some movement in the grass caught his eye. He looked a little closer and found a frog with a mutilated back leg. The irony was not lost on Ojala, 36, who is hoping to film a movie in the area about deformed frogs next fall.
Ojala grew up in Duluth but moved to New York City after high school and later to Los Angeles, building a successful career in movie special effects. His passion has always been filmmaking, and he’s hoping to make his first feature film in Minnesota.
“I’m trying to stick to my guns because it’s a Minnesota story,” he said.
The story is familiar to most Minnesotans — a group of schoolchildren found a pond full of deformed frogs in 1995 in southern Minnesota and the news quickly spread worldwide. The attention has faded, but the mystery of the deformed frogs is far from solved.
According to one of Ojala’s supporters, an ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, reports of deformed frogs are increasing in frequency. Researcher Pieter Johnson reported that a pond he studied in Oregon had a 100 percent deformed population.
Ojala has already put close to a decade of work and $60,000 into the film “Strange Nature,” which he hopes will bring the public’s attention back to the unsolved mystery. His film shows what would happen if the deformities spread to other populations.
“I try to bring it to the next level, like, what if it was your family pets being affected? At what point is it too late?” he said. “I’m a storyteller and I like making entertaining films, but I want to do something that matters, as well. This is a way that we can hopefully reach more people through entertainment and open their eyes to a real case.”
Ojala launched his second Kickstarter campaign in August. Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing website where individuals can donate any amount of money and receive a perk in exchange. In the case of “Strange Nature,” donors can receive a downloaded version of the film or the opportunity to name a character, among numerous other incentives.
“If we had enough people that pledged $5, we’d reach our goal. None of this matters if we don’t get the money,” he said.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing way of fundraising. If Ojala doesn’t hit the goal of $45,000 (he’s close to $14,000), none of the contributors pay. He said that will cover a bare-bones budget, and he is hoping to find private donors to fund post-production, which he estimates will cost another $40,000.
A fundraising event featuring five bands and three comedians will be held at Clyde Iron Works on Oct. 4.