A taconite mine in Hibbing, Minn.
If all goes as planned, the Iron Range can make room for some movie crews and cameras next spring. Hollywood producer Josh Blum ("Margin Call," "Wendy and Lucy") has chosen the northern-Minnesota region to shoot the tentatively titled "Thanksgiving at Denny's," which he describes as a "grown-up comedy about a six-foot-four-inch overweight man who loses his job in Chicago and goes home to the Iron Range to win the heart of a woman he once drove home drunk from a party in high school."
Blum, who co-wrote the script and will direct, was persuaded to come to the state by the Minnesota Board of Film and TV and Griffin Productions, a young Minneapolis company aiming to bring more film business to the state. With veteran political fundraiser Jerry Seppala at the helm, the company includes two other partners, film and television producer Steve Brown ("The Tudors") and Hubert "Buck" Humphrey IV.
The last film set on the Iron Range, "North Country" starring Charlize Theron, had an estimated $5 million economic impact on the region, despite shooting less than 20 percent of its scenes there. This film will be shot entirely on the Range.
Blum said he was persuaded to shoot in Minnesota, which has a hard time wooing movies because other states give them more financial breaks, after Seppala and film board director Lucinda Winter "went the extra mile, carefully reading the script and going up there to take pictures of enough outdoor and indoor locations to shoot the whole thing."
Seppala, whose father was an Iron Ranger, said he scouted the "quad cities" of the Range -- Eveleth, Hibbing, Virginia and Chisholm -- "and they'll all probably be locations."
Casting for the low-budget feature is planned for L.A., New York and Minnesota. "It's an ensemble cast with a lot of great parts," Blum said.
[Photo: Ariana Lindquis]