As the summer heats up, so too does the movie-making in Manitoba.
Local stargazing opportunities begin Sunday with the commencement of Strings, a drama with a dance component with previously announced stars Josh Duhamel, Lucas Till and Maria Bello. (Buzz has it that Jurassic Park star Laura Dern may be joining the cast soon.)
In two weeks, cameras are expected to roll on Heaven Is for Real, a Christian-themed drama starring Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly and directed by Randall Wallace, whose impressive director resum© includes We Were Soldiers and Secretariat. (Wallace was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay of the 1996 Mel Gibson film Braveheart.) The film will be shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances with Wolves) and produced by heavy-hitter Joe Roth (Oz the Great and Powerful) and pastor-author T.D. Jakes.
The movie you didn't necessarily hear about is already shooting in Churchill. Midnight Sun, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies) stars Dakota Goyo (Real Steel, Dark Skies) as a young man on a mission to reunite a lost polar bear cub with its mother. The film, which also stars Goran Visnjic, started shooting in May and continues into July.
Bunks, a TV movie produced by local outfit Inferno Pictures, is gearing up for a July shoot. Producer Brendon Sawatzky says the Family Channel-bound project is about two brothers headed for a disciplinarian boot camp when they reroute themselves to a softer summer getaway, only to discover their new camp is haunted. It will be directed by Tibor Takacs, who famously blended juvenile hijinks and horror in his 1987 feature The Gate. Sawatzky says the film may function as a series pilot.
I'm especially excited about The Editor, the latest film from exploitation film collective Astron-6. It's a giallo-style thriller that presumably highlights Astron's outrageous humour, as demonstrated in pervious features Manborg and Father's Day. The film is approximately $4,000 into a $16,500 budget drive on Indiegogo in anticipation of an August shoot.
"We really are having a great kickoff for the year," says Manitoba Film and Music CEO Carole Vivier, who just returned from visiting the Churchill set of Midnight Sun.
The project Vivier cannot discuss is the possibility of a certain TV miniseries shooting here next winter. But the word is that Joel and Ethan Coen may be coming to Winnipeg to scout for locations for a 10-episode FX network miniseries based on their Oscar-winning film Fargo.
Reportedly, Manitoba may be in competition with Alberta for the series. As usual, it's a strike against Manitoba that no airlines service a direct route to Los Angeles.
On the other hand, Manitoba has extremely competitive tax credits and precisely the same bleak winter geography as that depicted in the 1996 film.
In fact, when the Coens were shooting Fargo in 1995, they had intended to shoot mostly in the vicinity of their Minneapolis hometown, but unseasonably warm winter weather compelled the production further and further north until they reached Grand Forks, where they got the snow they needed.
If the winter of 2012-13 was any indication, snow and cold shouldn't be a problem for a Winnipeg shoot.