My Minnesota: Filming where all actors are above average

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2011 - 8:46 PM

Minneapolis filmmaker Patrick Coyle is marshaling resources for his fourth film, a high school football tale called "Half at Zero," slated to start shooting here in the fall.

Patrick Coyle

Photo: James Lileks , Star Tribune

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Sometimes you watch a movie and think man, I could do better than that. OK, try it. Write the script, direct it, act in it perhaps, live with it for a few years in your head -- oh, and don't forget to raise the money to make it.

Well, when you put it like that, you say, maybe I'll just hit Redbox.

But none of this daunts Minneapolis filmmaker Patrick Coyle, who's marshaling resources for his fourth film, a high-school football tale called "Half at Zero," slated to start shooting here in the fall. He was born in Nebraska, but if anyone wants to doubt his local bona fides, he played Lou Grant in the recent stage version of the Mary Tyler Moore show. That practically merits a picture in the State Capitol.

Why film here?

"I scouted two other Midwestern cities to shoot my last film, both in states with film incentives superior to those offered here at the time, but stayed home because I would have had to ship in cast and crew. Actors here rock. I mean it."

Plus, we have everything from scenery to excellent crews to friendly people. Even the Gritty Urban Underbelly is accommodating:

"I needed to shoot a scene in an adult bookstore and told my locations person to get me a place like Sex World and she said, 'Why not Sex World?' So I explained that many had tried, and no one had actually been allowed to shoot inside Sex World. She came back to me the next day and said, 'I got Sex World.' "  I asked her how and she said, 'You don't want to know.' And to this day, I don't want to know."

He's had national actors in his Minnesota films, including Jeremy Sisto from "Law and Order," and the guy who plays "Kevin" in "The Office." How do they do when they come to the Land of Lakes?

"On Kristin Chenoweth's first day on the set of my last film ["Into Temptation"], her first scene was a shot where she walked up the steps of a church in 5-inch heels, dressed like a hooker, and disappeared inside. Word had gotten out that she was shooting that day and a crowd of about 100 people were on hand to watch. She executed the scene perfectly on the first take, the crowd applauded, she came back out smiling and waving and ... tripped, tumbling down several steps of Incarnation Catholic Church in south Minneapolis. People gasped, screamed, rushed to her side, and like the tough Broadway hoofer she is, she hopped up and yelled, 'I'm good!'  Scared the holy ... out of me."

If you had a Hollywood-size budget, and you were required by the investors to make the movie about a Minnesota subject, what would it be? They'd probably want something focus-group-safe, like a 3D CGI feature about Hubert Humphrey getting zapped by radiation, growing to the size of Paul Bunyan and adapting to a new career as a folk-tale lumberjack.

"It would be a subtle character study set in the state Legislature focusing on the strange Minnesota proclivity known as "passive/aggression" and I would spend all my money on getting Johnny Depp or a cast member from "Glee" to ensure the film gets distributed."

But realistically?

"I want to shoot a scene at that cool water tower in Tangletown with all the stone faces glowering out from the top of it. It feels quintessentially Minnesotan to me."

Will it appear in Patrick's next film? You'll have to watch and see.


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