Will a feature film be shot in Zumbrota?

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By Marilyn Anderson

ZUMBROTA – Approximately 30 people attended a ninety-minute presentation at the State Theatre Thursday evening, September 5 to learn about the possibility of Zumbrota being the setting for a feature length film. Scott Thompson, a writer, director, and producer for “My Town Pictures,” gave an overview of his work and his company and how individuals or groups could invest in his next project to be filmed this fall. An additional four projects are also planned for 2014. The initial feasibility meeting ended with a discussion by those in attendance and plans for another meeting on September 12.

My Town Pictures

Thompson, of Mondovi, Wisconsin, has been making feature films in the midwest since 1999. In 2004, he started “My Town Pictures,” a production company focused on making films in small communities. Thompson adjusts the script to fit the specific community where the film is done, incorporating local history, landmarks, and people as components of the story.

In 2010, My Town Pictures began adding a professional crew and well-known actors from film and television in producing the feature-length films. The professional actors and crew work with the local community members who also act and perform in the film. By partnering with the local community, production costs are diminished substantially compared to Hollywood productions. Thompson cited several examples of communities working with known stars from the company’s productions in Iowa in the past two years. 

To meet production costs, host community investors are asked to split the cost of the initial budget, plus one dollar. When the limited liability company (LLC) is established, the host community then has the majority ownership of the film. The next film, “Our Song,” has an initial budget of $190,000.

See the “My Town” website for the movie trailers of three completed projects (including one on Netflix) and descriptions of three upcoming projects: http://mytownpictures.com/

Our Song

The next project planned by the company is “Our Song,” scheduled to start filming at the end of October and completed close to Thanksgiving. Thompson explained, “We move fast. We schedule the actors only a few months ahead.” 

The website’s description of the film is, “A woman in her 70s finds the courage to break free of emotional abuse at home after re-discovering her passion for music. An emotional, funny, important story starring Oscar-nominee Sally Kellerman (MASH) and many familiar faces, including four-time Emmy Award winner Michael Learned.”

Thompson noted that four Minnesota towns including Zumbrota are being considered for the project, each having their own strengths to offer the film. The other sites that have either held or are planning to hold feasibility meetings soon are Red Wing, Excelsior, and Maple Lake. Towns such as Zumbrota and Red Wing are appealing due to their historic theatres for some of the scenes.

Discussion

Time was spent discussing the marketing and distribution of the independent films produced by the company. Besides the potential return on investment (ROI) due to distribution and sale of the film, Thompson pointed out the promotion the community receives from being prominently displayed throughout the film. A suggestion was made that once investors received their initial ROI, profits could go toward the State Theatre renovation project. Thompson also described a current applicable tax relief available for investors. How some local places of interest could be incorporated into the film were also discussed.

A handout with more details on the production and investment of “Our Song” was available at the session.

Next steps

The public is encouraged to attend a follow-up feasibility meeting, scheduled for Thursday, September 12 at 6 p.m. at the State Theatre. The purpose of the meeting is to continue to explore whether or not there are sufficient investors of time, resources, and talent to make such a project happen in Zumbrota. In addition, discussion to identify how such a project would assist with other community progress and promotion will be held.

Questions can be addressed to State Theatre Director Ronda Anderson-Sand at 507-272-1129 or statetheatre@zaac.org.

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