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Making the grade

Two Harbors could make it, big time -- in the movies, that is. For the historic town on the shores of Lake Superior is the location, and title, of a hot, new screen play written by Minnesotan William Kruse that has a movie mogul scrambling to see...

Two Harbors could make it, big time -- in the movies, that is.
For the historic town on the shores of Lake Superior is the location, and title, of a hot, new screen play written by Minnesotan William Kruse that has a movie mogul scrambling to see if he can get the film produced by a major studio.
In fact, Alan Blomquist, who produced films like "Chocolate," "Cider House Rules" and "Beautiful Girls," has a six-month option on the script for "Two Harbors" and is shopping it around to the big studios and directors in Los Angeles.
And Mali Finn, one of the most highly regarded casting directors in the industry, who has cast movies like "Titanic" and "The Green Mile," is also very interested in the script, Kruse said.
"We're pretty excited," said Rikki McManus, director of the Upper Minnesota Film Office, which works with the Minnesota Film Board.
Blomquist is so convinced that "Two Harbors" can be a blockbuster that he has upped the proposed budget of the film from a $2.7 million project to $30 million, she said.
If, indeed, the film is produced in Two Harbors as proposed, that will mean about $900,000 will be funneled into the local economy, McManus said.
"The rule of thumb is that 30 percent of the budget is spent on location," she said. "It can be a huge economic development piece."
Money aside, if "Two Harbors" hits the screen in neighborhoods across the nation, either as a film produced by a major studio or as an independent production, it will still be an incredible boost to filmmaking in northern Minnesota as well as to Kruse himself, she said.
And it might happen. The 29-year-old filmmaker has written a poignant story about an Irish family struggling with its own issues amidst the faltering iron ore industry in the late 1940s.
"It's a personal story, but it's about larger issues as well," said Eric Mueller, production manager of the Minnesota Film Board. "He's on track here."
Kruse, who won the prestigious Minnesota Independent Film Fund award last year, used the $25,000 award to continue to develop the film.
Winning the award also gave him a chance to work with Oscar award-winning screenwriter Barry Marrow, who wrote the script for "Rain Man."
"He helped me tighten up the script," Kruse said. "He taught me to ratchet it down and streamline it, basically. We also worked on what's necessary to create a sympathetic character."
That character, Seamus Conroy, played by Minnesota actor Eric Lindsay, almost leaps from the screen in a trailer Kruse produced and directed in the Northland earlier this year.
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Kruse and the actors and crew spent five days filming key scenes to help give investors an idea of what the movie could be.
He shot in Two Harbors and Duluth, including an underwater shoot at the pool at the Washington Center. He also went to Virginia and Mountain Iron and shot vintage cars and old-time bars that harked back to the postwar days.
"It's amazing to me how I could find things that had been so untouched since the '40s," Kruse said. "There were ready-made locations."
"It looks so great," Mueller said. "Not only did he have good actors, but he used good locations as well. He was down at the ore docks and in Virginia -- it was a smart way to use those locations."
The trailer, which will be screened in Minneapolis and Duluth at the end of the month, could not have been made without contributions from a wide variety of businesses which jumped in to help the production, Kruse said.
Locally, the Holiday Inn provided free rooms, restaurants provided free meals and Lance Parthe and Parthe Productions provided helicopters for the aerial shots and underwater cameras for the pool.
"It would have been impossible to make this trailer without those people," Kruse said.
But that, perhaps, is the point. Minnesotans have shown over and over again that they support a viable and productive film industry in the state, McManus said. Films like "Iron Will," "Simple Plan," and "The Good Son" not only brought money to the region, they also helped establish Minnesota's reputation as a good place to make a movie.
Kruse's enthusiasm is catching, too, she said.
"He has a passion for getting it done, and a lot of people want to help him get it done," she said.
That passion could well take him over the top on this one, she said.

Joan Farnam is the Budgeteer arts and entertainment editor and can be reached at by e-mail at joan.farnam@duluth.com or by phone at 723-1207.

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