Coens to shoot their next film in Minnesota

Joel and Ethan Coen
Filmmakers Joel (L) and Ethan Coen arrive at the premiere of Miramax Films' "No Country For Old Men." The Coens announced that there next film will be filmed in their home town of St. Louis Park, Minn.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Lucinda Winter is pretty darn excited and pretty darn relieved. She's executive Director of the Minnesota Film and Television Board.

Her phone has been ringing off the hook for months, with people wondering if the Coens were really coming back to Minnesota to make a film. "You know there had been so many rumors about where this movie was going to shoot," she said."

Lucinda Winter
Lucinda Winter says as executive director of the Minnesota Film and Television Board, she effectively acts as the state's film commissioner
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

"A Serious Man" is the story of a college professor and his dysfunctional family set in the Minneapolis suburb of St Louis Park. It will be the first film the Coen's have made here since "Fargo" in 1995.

While Joel and Ethan Coen have always said they wanted to make "A Serious Man" in Minnesota, the realities of financing movies meant this was no guarentee.

The exchange rate in Canada's favor drew "Juno" which was set in the Twin Cities and St Cloud to Vancouver. Even the Jesse Ventura TV bio-pic went north of the border.

Many states, including Minnesota, give tax credits to movie makers. But Winter says Minnesota lags in the rebate race.

Michigan currently writes off 40 percent of movie-making tax bills. Wisconsin also made a strong play for the Coens. But then last weekend the Minnesota Legislature, in the waning hours of the session, approved a half million dollar package which could be put towards "A Serious Man."

"They are already doing some secondary casting in the Twin Cites. They have someone working on that And then in mid-ish June they'll move into a production office here."

What will the state get in return? "A lot" says Winter. She says the film is budgeted for between $12 and $15 million, much of which will go straight into the Minnesota economy.

"I would feel very safe saying, and this would be conservative, that it will mean in the period of time they are here which would be June until november, December, they'll probably finish shooting in November, that will bring in a direct sense $6-to-8 million," Winter said.

Indirectly, just with the cast and crew spending money, she says it will likely be much more.

Lucinda Winter says despite the uncertainty of whether the film would actually shoot in Minnesota, preparations are well underway.

"They are already doing some secondary casting in the Twin Cites. They have someone working on that And then in mid-ish June they'll move into a production office here," she said.

That office will scout locations, hire the Minnesota crew and complete all the other tasks necessary before shooting begins. That will be September 8th.

The start date gives a couple of days after the Republican Convention wraps up in St Paul. It also gives time for the Coens to travel to the Venice Film Festival for the world premier of their latest movie "Burn After Reading."

For Lucinda Winter landing "A Serious Man" is a serious prize.

She sees it as just the start of her campaign to rebuild feature film making in Minnesota. She hopes to use the Coen film as to encourage other films to shoot here. Ideally she'd like to have a production ready to go when the Coens wrap up.

"And I have two right now on my horizon line, that I honestly think with a less competative incentive in terms of a percentage there are enough other good reasons for them to shoot here that I might be able to sell them into the state," she said.

And if those dominos fall she says, she'll be back at the Minnesota Legislature arguing for more film subsidy money as an economic incentive tool.

"I need need $5-to-10 million to really make our program viable to draw the big films that really do have a big impact on our economy," she said.

Winter says she senses growing support at the Capitol for such subsidies, but she realizes that the next budget cycle is likely to be tough.

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