The writer of an Iron Range hockey movie is trying to film the movie in Minnesota, even if the incentives are better in other states and Canada.
John Montague, who wrote the screenplay for “Way of the Warriors,” a movie about an Iron Range hockey team that rallies around their coach with terminal cancer in his final season, said there’s been pressure to film elsewhere, but that he “demands” the movie be filmed in Minnesota.
“There was just a huge push to move the entire production to Canada, and it’s just pure economics, because Canada provides such a generous tax incentive,” Montague said, adding that it would be 40% cheaper to film in Canada.
But in a meeting held over the teleconferencing service Zoom on Wednesday, the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation's advisory board approved reimbursing 25% of the production company’s costs spent in the Taconite Assistance Area up to $350,000, giving a boost to the movie with a $7.5 million budget.
According to IRRR documents, approximately $3 million of that would be “spent locally for labor, locations, services, equipment, materials, supplies, food and lodging.”
The Taconite Assistance Area includes much of Northeastern Minnesota but excludes Duluth, and the IRRR, a state agency funded by taconite taxes, provides businesses and communities in that area with loans and grants.
"Way of the Warriors" will star Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly on "The Office," and Josh Lucas of "Ford v Ferrari," according the the film's project overview Montague sent to the News Tribune. Millie Bobby Brown of "Stranger Things" is listed as "interested" in the overview. Lee Kirk, Fischer's husband, is listed as the movie's director.
Montague said the film, which is expected to begin filming later this year, still has an “enormous gap” in funding, even with the IRRRB grant and any incentive by the Minnesota Film Board.
Montague said he hopes to make up that gap with private donations.
State Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, also an IRRR member, called the film a “real authentic Iron Range story.”
“This is a really good project,” Tomassoni, a former professional hockey player and defenseman at Chisholm High School, said during the meeting. “I actually read the script, and I'm not going to tell you how the movie turns out, but it’s a really good result because Edina loses.”
Between the production company paying union wages and money spent on meals and at other businesses, Tomassoni said the impact is “significant.”
“When we get a movie up here, it generates a real lot of economic activity,” Tomassoni said.
For example, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development estimated “North Country," the 2005 film starring Charlize Theron about a sexual harassment class action lawsuit brought against the mining company, had an economic impact of $5 million and created more than 70 temporary jobs, the IRRR said.