Before Judith Guest’s first novel, Ordinary People, was published in 1976, she got a call at her Edina home from her editor at Viking Publishing. Robert Redford was interested in turning Ordinary People into a movie. He visited Guest in Minnesota to talk about the project and buy the rights to her book. She says there was a good chance the movie could have been filmed here in Minnesota. But Redford ultimately chose to shoot it in Illinois because at the time Minnesota had no state film commission.
Guest was disappointed and felt Minnesota was losing out on the jobs and economic benefits that movie and television productions bring to a state. Soon after, she became part of a group of people who wanted to see Minnesota become a player in the movie industry. “We formed the Minnesota Film Board, because we didn’t want to lose any more of our stories,” Guest says. Since the formation of the Minnesota Film and TV Board in 1983, over 250 films and television shows have been shot in Minnesota. According to the organization, in the past three years, film and TV productions have generated over $80 million in private spending in the state.
State film commissions assist producers in many ways. “We’re problem solvers,” says Edina resident Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board. Scouting locations is one of the things MN Film and TV helps producers do. They keep a “locations gallery” for producers to scroll through when they're making location choices. Some Edina locations featured in the gallery include Arden Park, Convention Grill and Centennial Lakes Park.
“Among other things, we help with permits and we help producers find local workers,” Winter says.
Winter also helps production companies access a film incentive offered by the state of Minnesota. Referred to as a “snowbate” by MN Film and TV, the rebate is paid at the completion of filming. “Eligible Minnesota expenditures” and are then entitled to a 20 to 25 percent reimbursement on that amount.
Unlike most state film offices, MN Film and TV is not an agency of the state government. It is a nonprofit organization working in a public/private partnership. That means Winter must convince potential donors about the importance of the film board. “We are about economic development,” Winter says, “but there is also a cultural currency that film and TV bring to the state. These TV shows and movies are being seen all over the world and they give Minnesota a worldwide identity.” A recent film in which Minnesota makes an appearance is Wilson, starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern; and production just wrapped up on the pilot of a potential HBO series for 2017.
The film The House of Tomorrow recently finished shooting in Minnesota and is based on a novel written by Macalester College professor Peter Bognanni. Ellen Burstyn stars and is a co-producer of this film that touches on the work of renowned architect Buckminster Fuller.
With Edina home to two women deeply involved in the film and television industry, it’s clear how much the business has changed since the days when all decisions were made in Hollywood. These days, Minnesota has a role to play in the movies, and Edina is at the center of the action.
For more info or to donate, visit the MN film and TV website.