Hollywood has come to Duluth. And when Hollywood is done, Duluth is headed to Cannes, the movie mecca on the French Riviera.
Duluth’s Marshall School, an independent college prep academy best known in entertainment circles thus far as the alma mater of comedian Maria Bamford, is the setting for an upcoming comedy film. Shooting began this week on “Christmas Break-In.” And plans are to market the movie in Cannes in the fall.
The film stars Danny Glover (of the “Lethal Weapon” films and “The Color Purple”) and Denise Richards (of “Starship Troopers,” “Love Actually” and the 007 thriller “The World Is Not Enough”). Hastings native Michael Kampa, who has extensive credits writing and directing shorts, directs.
Gil Aglaure, the film’s executive producer, described it as a “Home Alone”-style farce about Izzy (played by Cameron Seeley, Hugh Jackman’s character’s youngest daughter in “The Greatest Showman”), a plucky 9-year-old boarding school student. She is stuck on the campus when her workaholic parents (Richards and Sean O’Bryan of “Olympus Has Fallen”) are unable to pick her up for winter break. When bad guys enter the almost-deserted school and kidnap the friendly janitor (Glover’s character), Izzy must save the day single-handed.
The production was drawn to the area by two Minnesota features: snow, which provides beautiful, outdoor set design that’s free of cost, and the state’s Snowbate program, which refunds a portion of filmmaking expenses spent in the local economy and offers the kind of financial break that attracts modest-budget independent films.
“We could have chosen anywhere with snow, working with Snowbate made our decision to film in Minnesota easy,” Aglaure said. “It’s not a very big budget, but we’re very happy to have quality actors.”
There’s also abundant local talent available, with Marshall School students, teachers, and parents making their screen debuts as extras in the film.
“We’ve shot the scene of them exiting out into the snow. When we couldn’t include everyone who wanted to appear, there were lots of tears,” Aglaure said.
Shooting will continue through April, with a target release date in early December this year. The film will have a premiere of sorts at May’s Cannes Film Festival, the film industry’s global marketing convention, when a trailer is screened for 3,300 buyers and distributors representing international markets.