FARGO — In 1996, a neo-noir, dark comedy film gave people around the world a chilly idea of our cold corner of the Midwest — complete with a thick and distinct accent and the infamous murder weapon that's become the backdrop for millions of family photos in the city that bears the film's name.
Fargo begins another chance to make a name for itself in the feature film world beginning Monday, Sept. 16.
Click Content Studios, a video-production company owned by Fargo-based Forum Communications Co., and Los Angeles-based Momentum Studios have partnered to produce "Tankhouse," a comedy that follows two New York City theatre industry exiles as they leave the Big Apple to start a theatrical revolution in Fargo.
The process to set a film in Fargo doesn't happen overnight. Planning began back in April, with the formal announcement coming out this week. Filming downtown begins Monday.
"It was just one of these strange things that somebody in LA knew someone in Fargo and the producer ran into the writers at a conference or television thing in Denver," said Jim Manney, director of Video Content for Click Content Studios. "It sort of fell into place. All of these things had to fall into place, and they fell into place really quickly and then it was just trying to make it all work."
"Tankhouse" is based on the lives of Chelsea Frei and Noam Tomaschoff.
"We both started doing theatre in college and after college in New York City, and there's a very specific lifestyle you live and people you interact with and things you value and do in there," says Tomaschoff, a writer and director of the film. "A lot of it is pretty absurd to us. We felt it was really important to tell that story in a comedic way as much as we can. Initially, the story is two characters we came up with who left New York to go to an unspecified small town. Then a year later we were showing our initial piece at a film festival and that's when Fargo came into the picture."
"We really re-wrote the script so it would be as 'Fargo' as it could possibly be," says film co-writer Frei, adding, "We did a lot of research about the Sons of Norway — that's a big part of our film — and different locations like the Fargo Theatre. We made it super specific to the town once we found out we were filming there."
The couple also notes the Fargo-Moorhead theatre landscape helped solidify the script, becoming a central part of the story line.
"The movie on its own is a lot about this pretentious theatre couple from New York City who come to a town and are like, 'Oh, we know everything because we are from New York and we come from a theatrical background,'" Frei said. "The thing we loved about Fargo and what is very true to Fargo is that there's an incredible arts scene here. Once we started realizing that, it kind of fit in perfectly. This couple comes into Fargo thinking they're easily going to take it over and they don't realize it's very thriving here, the arts."
The film will prominently feature parts of downtown Fargo, with places like the Fargo Theatre, Sons of Norway, The Forum building and the former Schumacher Goodyear store being a few of the more well-known places playing an integral part.
Most of the filming next week will happen inside and around the former Schumacher Goodyear store at the northeast corner of Broadway and Fourth Avenue North.
The ensemble cast features both up-and-coming actors like Alex Esola, whose movie "After The Wedding" is currently at the Fargo Theatre, as well as veteran actors like Richard Kind and Christopher Lloyd, who played inventor "Doc" Brown in the "Back to the Future" trilogy.
Bill Marcil Jr., president and CEO of Forum Communications, has been involved in creating past feature films. He said "Tankhouse" fits right into the company's mission of providing valuable news and entertainment for its audiences.
"For over 135 years we have been focused on providing content to our audiences. For us, content means more than covering local politics and community issues," Marcil said. "In the last year we have an Emmy nominated documentary on Mariah Prussia, a doc being filmed in Yellowstone Park about the elusive cutthroat trout and a 30th anniversary special on The Blenders. Tankhouse the movie fits right into this niche of providing entertainment along with our Pulitzer prize-winning journalism. And there is only one place to get all that content. Inforum.com"
"I love it here," says Tomaschoff of Fargo. "It's such a thrill for us to work here. Everyone's been super excited about this and they've been very helpful and want to get involved. It's been really nice."
"We're just so grateful to be here," says Frei, adding. "It's just so nice to be meeting everybody and having such a positive reaction to our presence."