L.A. filmmakers shoot thriller, become fans of northern Minn.
PARK RAPIDS, Minn.—A man, alone in the woods, finds a kidnapped woman in an abandoned car.
For three days, he and the woman — and the two kidnappers — wordlessly follow clues to a puzzle out what's actually happening deep in the wilderness.
That is the "log line" for an independent film recently shot northwest of Park Rapids, near Two Inlets.
"We love Park Rapids," said Megan Huber, producer of "3 Day Weekend."
"We are fans of Park Rapids," agreed writer and director Wyatt McDill.
McDill didn't have a particular place in mind while writing the script.
"I kind of thought, 'Well, it could be anywhere,' foolishly. It's just four cars, four people, a lake and some woods. And Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, would be so easy," McDill said.
McDill and Huber, a husband-wife duo, scouted for a film location for six months before choosing the Two Inlets area. They crisscrossed the state, visiting the Iron Range, Duluth, south and west of the Twin Cities.
"But this place was perfect. When we saw it, we said, 'Oh, we're so lucky.' In fact, I hope we've exploited it properly. I mean, it's so beautiful, I hope it shows up in the film," McDill said.
The fields, lakes and woods of the Park Rapids area wonderfully suited the filmmaker's needs.
Originally from the Twin Cities, Huber had returned to Park Rapids over the summer when her parents rented a cabin.
"While we were here, I said, 'This looks like the kind of landscape we need.' It kind of had everything, which is rare," Huber said, adding, "My parents ran a candy store at Many Point Scout Camp when I was 2 years old."
McDill is also from the Twin Cities. The couple moved to Los Angeles seven years ago. Their previous film, "Four Boxes," was shot in Rosemount, Minn.
"3 Day Weekend" is another small budget, independent film. McDill worked on the script for about year.
"It's a thriller with no dialogue," explained Huber. "It's very fast-paced. Every time the characters come together, the plot has to move forward. It's told from the four characters' point-of-views."
Most of the film crew is from the Twin Cities. They are shooting with HD cameras. The cast — Maya Stojan, Morgan Krantz, Scott MacDonald and Nathan Phillips — live in Los Angeles.
MacDonald is not unfamiliar with Minnesota. He has a brother who lives in Brainerd.
"I'm coming back in December for my niece's wedding, so I'm getting Minnesota time this year," MacDonald said.
Krantz "loves Park Rapids so much," he chose to stay a few extra days after filming is complete.
"He jokes that I'm going to run for mayor and he's going to be treasurer," Huber said.
A California kid, Krantz has never experienced fall.
"The leaves are far out for me. I grew up in L.A., so we don't have seasons. I can't get enough of it," Krantz said. "We've been fishing a lot."
Phillips caught a northern pike on the nearby lake.
"Is that like a walleye?" asks Krantz.
"No, that's like a shark," quips MacDonald.
Fortunately, cast and crew were blessed with sunny, temperate weather during the 17-day shoot. Only one scene in the entire film takes place indoors.
"No bugs. No mosquitoes. No ticks. So we're happy," McDill said.
Some filming took place at Chief Corner Store in Pine Point.
"We've just met so many great people in Park Rapids," Huber said.
Two Inlets Store allowed the film crew to leave their vehicles there.
Ron Jensen, head of the Forest Riders ATV Club, loaned them an ATV.
Bucky Johnson provided his pickup truck.
"Jen Hanisch is doing our on-set photography," Huber said. "I just randomly emailed one person in Park Rapids about a BRBO or airbnb and she happened to be on the film board for the Twin Cities Film Festival. Then she introduced us to Jen, who introduced us to other people. Then we've introduced ourselves to other people, like fishermen on the lake. It's a great place to do a movie. We want to make another."
McDill and Huber will edit the film at a post-production studio in Minneapolis.
"The Minnesota Film Board has Snowbate, a tax incentive program, so we're certified for that. We want to do as much as we can in Minnesota," Huber explained.
According to the MN Film and TV Commission, the Snowbate incentive is available to feature films, documentaries, music videos, national television programs or series, television pilots, TV commercials, internet and post-production-only projects.
"Snowbate gives a kickback to these guys for filming here," said Kelly Evans, a Twin Cities Film Fest board member. "It's an incentive, and then of course, you know how good it is for a community. It creates a lot of excitement and business. It's marketing."
When filmgoers learn where the movie was made, she said, they want to visit.
Especially if the town is near the mouth of the Mississippi.
"There's just so many good parts of having a film done in your community," Evans said. "Even with bad guys in it."
Next year, Huber and McDill plan to enter "3 Day Weekend" into film festivals, including the Twin Cities Film Fest.