Sam Rosen's 'Stuck Between Stations' leads with First Avenue brawl

Becky and Casey
Becky (Zoe Lister Jones) and Casey (Sam Rosen) find they have a lot in common when they meet by chance one night in Minneapolis in Brady Kiernan's "Stuck Between Stations."
Image courtesy Stuck Between Stations

If you had to single out an actor who has starred in more Twin Cities-based films than anyone else, it would probably be Sam Rosen.

Rosen lives in New York, but he's made three Minnesota movies in as many years. None of them have been wide releases, but all have been warmly received. His latest film, "Stuck Between Stations," which Rosen co-wrote, opens Friday evening for a week-long run at the Film Society of Minneapolis-St Paul.

"Stuck Between Stations" features a conversation that begins between a man and a woman after a brawl at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. The woman has no idea who the guy is, nor why he took a swing at her friends. But he says he knows her.

"What do you mean, you know me?" she demands.

"You're Becky Fine," he replies. "You grew up on 28th Street, in that blue house half way down from 33rd."

He continues, relating how they went to grade school together, and how she brought her gerbil to school one day, and it ran away.

"I know you. I am Kasper Phillips," he says.

Sam Rosen
Minneapolist native Sam Rosen co-wrote and co-produced "Stuck Between Stations" as well as played the lead role of Casey in the film.
Image courtesy Stuck Between Stations

She remembers and they begin to talk. The conversation continues all night as they walk through Minneapolis.

It seems a pretty simple story, but don't be fooled, Rosen says. It turns out both Becky and Kasper have amassed some pretty heavy secrets in the ten years since they last saw each other.

"What's behind it, What's above it, What's lurking around every corner of the story, I think, is a much deeper, more interesting, weirder thing than what you think you may be seeing," Rosen said.

Rosen has a huge disarming smile, and a self-deprecating manner which stems from his upbringing in Minneapolis. His writing partner Nat Bennett grew up Minnesotan, as well. It was Bennett who started the script, originally as a play, but he stuck it in a drawer.

First Avenue
Becky and Casey meet outside First Avenue in "Stuck Between STations." The film includes a host of well-known Minneapolis locations
Image courtesy Stuck Between Stations

Then Rosen pulled it out again and rewrote the first act as a screenplay. He showed it to director Brady Kiernan, another Minneapolitan, who was immediately sold. The idea of walking around the city at night, trying to work out if you are in love with someone resonated with him, Kiernan said.

"It's like, 'Oh, right, I went on this date with this girl to this, this, and this place," Kiernan said.

"We should shoot scenes there," he deadpans.

"I'm not the most imaginative writer," Rosen said. "I only tend to write about things that I know about, like Lyndale Avenue, and the Wedge, if you know what I mean."

Rosen sells himself short. The City of Minneapolis itself is a character in "Stuck Between Stations." The film takes its name from a song by "The Hold Steady," a New York band with Twin Cities roots.

Kiernan says he became a fan of Rosen after meeting him on two other, locally shot films: "Nobody," which is about art school life, and the suspense thriller, "Four Boxes." Kiernan doesn't skimp on praise, comparing Rosen to Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

Kiernan and Rosen
Brady Kiernan, left, and Sam Rosen say "Stuck Between Stations" should be recognizable to anyone who has fallen in love in Minneapolis.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

"They, throughout their careers, one of the ways that they were able to have success is that they generated and went out and found their own material, and that's the way that they got to be in stuff," Kiernan said. "I see that coming through in Sam."

"Stuck between Stations" premiered at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The New York Times praised the film, and described Rosen as having "an appealingly self-effacing naturalism, earthy and unglamorous."

"Stuck Between Stations" is getting a limited theatrical distribution before its release on DVD and on-demand in the new year. For a small indie film it's a pretty big deal, Kiernan said.

"I think it's been successful, far exceeding any of our expectations," he said.

Kiernan and Rosen will introduce the film to the hometown crowd Friday at St. Anthony Main Theaters. They plan another movie, but won't say much about it yet. Rosen has been focusing on getting "Stuck Between Stations" out, and admits he finds it stressful.

"Thirty days a month I'm like just horribly frustrated and depressed about how it's going and then there's like the one day it all happens and it's like 'Man, it's awesome,'" he laughed.

And just for a moment the Minneapolis teenager reappears.

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