Excelsior is ready for its close-up.
The Lake Minnetonka town is expected to be the set of a small independent film this month as a group of filmmakers and actors descend on the town.
A Wisconsin-based production company considered other small towns in southern Minnesota and Iowa but chose Excelsior for the lake views and its small, historic downtown, with a theater and upscale homes needed for the project.
The film will be the most extensive use of the city yet in a movie — something local leaders hope will help showcase the lakeside town of 2,100 to draw other movie directors.
“This whole area is pretty much a movie set in itself,” said Laura Hotvet, the director of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce. “We do have a lot to offer the film production community.”
Filming is scheduled to start Oct. 26 and should take about three weeks, with about a dozen crew members from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Although it’s a small team, Hotvet said it should bring money to the town, boosting business at local restaurants and stores.
“This is something that will bring a fun buzz of excitement in the community,” she said. “It adds sort of an element of [community] pride.”
The film’s writer/director, Scott Thompson, started My Town Productions, which pegs itself as a community film company that creates films for and in small Midwest towns. Of his 50-some movies, this is the first in Minnesota. He’s planning to film movies this year and next in Maple Lake and Zumbrota.
“We tend to go where the interest is, so if other Minnesota towns are interested, we’re going to keep doing them one after another,” he said.
In Excelsior, the film “One Song” is projected to cost less than $200,000, a fraction of the $1 million that Thompson estimated it would cost in Hollywood. He’s set up a bank account locally to fund the project with local investors; no state money will be used.
“Excelsior isn’t just a location; it’s a character itself,” he said.
The two-hour independent movie about a woman in her 70s who rediscovers her passion for music is expected to feature 20 national and local actors such as Sally Kellerman from the original M*A*S*H move and Liza Weil of TV’s “Gilmore Girls.” No contracts had been signed yet, however.
Once it wraps up, the movie is expected to premiere next spring at Excelsior’s Dock Cinema movie house before airing at film festivals elsewhere.
“It’s a really great promotional tool [for Excelsior],” Thompson said. “The movie will be seen around the country and world.” □