The Iron Range town of Chisholm will soon be home to a new movie production studio.
Ironbound Studios Minnesota has reached a $2.5 million lease-purchase agreement with Chisholm on its historic city hall. Ironbound will build its studios in an old hockey rink in the basement while the city looks for new office space. The building is much too large for the city's needs, said Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich.
Ironbound's founder Jerry Seppala of Wayzata says the full-service production studios will be able to create movies, television shows and commercials.
"Anything that you would see in a studio in Los Angeles, we'll have in that space in Chisholm, Minnesota," Seppala said.
He says it makes sense to build the studios on the Iron Range because of financial incentives offered.
Minnesota's "Snowbate" program provides rebates to film companies for up to 25 percent of what they spend in the state. On top of that, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board offers a 20 percent rebate to projects shot in its northeast Minnesota service area.
Since the incentives became available, several feature-length movies have been shot in northeastern Minnesota.
And Seppala says several more are interested. He says he has letters of intent from production companies totaling about $65 million. He concedes many of those likely won't end up being filmed in Minnesota, but he says financial incentives help drive where companies film.
"As a matter of fact I had a conversation two months ago with a producer in Bollywood in India," he said, "who was very interested to know what the possibilities are on the Iron Range."
A challenge to producing more movies on the Iron Range, Seppala said, has been the lack of infrastructure and film equipment, something he believes his studio will change.
Construction on the new studio space will begin next week, Seppala said. The city of Chisholm is asking the IRRRB for a $500,000 infrastructure grant to help upgrade the building.
Seppala expects to have 10 to 20 full-time employees once they're fully up and running.
The anticipated show business activity makes Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich giddy. "We want to be that hub," he said. "We want to be that place where people come to do their movies."
Ironbound's first project, a $4 million animated feature called "The Legend of Grimrock," is slated to begin production on November 17.