Virginia Minnesota charms at International Film Festivals

DULUTHVirginia Minnesota, a movie shot locally and produced by Rushaway Pictures, is new to the film festival circuit and already charming film critics. It has been named a “female-led indie gem” by Cultured Vultures and Miro Magazine called it a “feel-good indie charmer.”

The low-budget film, written and directed by Daniel Stine, is a story of two young women who grew up in a residence for troubled girls. Over time, they are torn apart by a tragedy and unexpectedly reunited when they journey back to their childhood home for the reading of their former guardian’s will.

This coming-of-age movie is about imagination, innocence and belief—which is fitting for a movie that helped local North Shore residents achieve their own dreams of making an impact on the film industry.

“When I read the script, I was amazed by it,” said Brandon Cole, the 29-year-old owner/founder of Duluth’s Death Calm Studios and an active participant in the regional film industry. He served as the location manager for Virginia Minnesota, which was shot at multiple locations on the North Shore—including Duluth, Two Harbors, Silver Bay and Grand Marais.

“The rustic, small-town feel of Grand Marais has so much film potential,” said Cole. “I needed to be a part of this, because I’m from there.”

The movie poster for Virginia Minnesota. | RUSHAWAY PICTURES

After high school, the Grand Marais native moved to Duluth to pursue media studies at Lake Superior College. There, he cultivated a passion for filmmaking and has spent the last six years in the film industry, primarily focused on horror films.

About two years ago, Cole was hired by Virginia Minnesota’s producer, as Cole’s film company is one of the few Northland companies on the Minnesota Film & TV Board. He then began scouting locations along the North Shore. When shooting started in September, Cole recruited his 25-year-old brother Christian, an experienced sound recorder who also works in the industry, to serve as a boom operator. He even talked a few friends and family members into serving as extras.

“They often needed extras and I knew people, being from there,” said Cole, sharing a story about how the director once needed an extra to pick up boxes for a shot. He had 20 minutes to find someone, so he did what any of us would do. He called his aunt. “I said, ‘get your car down here, you’re going to be in a movie,’” he laughed.

While having a movie shot on the North Shore is special on its own, Cole said making a movie locally is entirely unique. “Minnesota, in general, is a different experience than what I hear of Hollywood,” he said. For example, rather than the hierarchy he would have encountered in a big budget movie, he was able to talk and engage with anyone on set. “You do make those connections with higher up people, with actors you wouldn’t make in Hollywood or another state,” said Cole.

Virginia Minnesota recently premiered in Minnesota and screened at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Film Festival. To check out the trailer for Virginia Minnesota and learn about other potential local screenings, visit: rushawaypictures.com or facebook.com/virginiaminnesotamovie.

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By Kelsey Roseth