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What's New
Independent Spirit Awards 2009 or the same people dressed independently 
I’m a little confused by the Independent Spirit Awards. I think I nailed down a few essential guidelines:

Lack of dress code
Trash can joke
You people


The slew of words under this category need no introduction and were used often at the award show.

Lack of dress code

Another obvious one – Philip Seymour Hoffman wore jeans, a sweater and stocking cap (although he also wore the same hat to the Oscars). This is no big deal, but everyone there was probably coached on what to wear and I’m wondering how the conversation would go:

Dress Code Manager (DCM):The Independent Spirit Awards are coming up. You need something to wear.

Actor/Actress: Who cares what I wear, it’s the Independent Spirit Awards


To male: Don’t wear tie, untuck your dressshirt, wear “cool” pants and try to look kind of sloppy.

To female: Don’t do your hair, where this dress, look “independent” and try to look kind of sloppy.

Actor/Actress: More importantly, what am I going to wear to the Oscars.


Over-sized bottles of Jameson and champagne, major sponsorship by Heineken and numerous shots of guests at the bar -- my kind of award show.

Trash can joke

The host made a joke about drugs. In effect he said that drugs are not allowed and should not be consumed so there was a yellow trash can where guests could dispose of their drugs. Then he said that many of the guests were confused because the drugs in the yellow trash can were not very good so they could go ahead and throw those drugs in the regular trash – hilarious!


There was an overt effort to facetiously compliment the entire show. Example, the five synopsis’ below are from the documentary category:

Against this opulent backdrop, she uncovers a tangled web of historical violence and power dynamics, elusive forces that keep this hallowed tradition organized along enduring color lines.

Filmed over the course of 23 years, The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) is the story of a family's epic journey from war-torn Laos to the mean streets of New York. Thavisouk Phrasavath tells his own story of struggling as a young man to survive both the war and the hardships of immigrant life, as well as his mother's astonishing tale of perseverance.

In Encounters at the End of the World Werner Herzog examines human nature and Mother nature, juxtaposing the breathtaking locations of Antarctica with the profound, surreal, and sometimes absurd experiences of the marine biologists, physicists, plumbers, and truck drivers who choose to form a society as far away from society as one can get.

In the early morning hours of August 7th 1974, Petit, without safety netting or a harness, danced across his wire and created the single beautiful spectacle that became known as "the artistic crime of the century."

In China, it is simply known as “The River.” But the Yangtze—and all of the life that surrounds it—is undergoing a truly astonishing transformation wrought by the largest hydroelectric project in history, the Three Gorges Dam. Canadian documentary filmmaker Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather’s youth to trace the surreal life of a “farewell cruise” that traverses the gargantuan waterway.

In introducing the nominees, Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix were introduced. Instead a guy in a cheap batman costume and another guy sporting a fake beard, sunglasses and personifying the most recent Joaquin Phoenix shananagans, come to the microphone to introduce the nominees and subsequently overshadow the moment through a funny bit that, to me, insulted the nominees and highlighted the facetious surface of an awards show meant to “award” the hard work and depth of countless filmmakers. It’s like a wife or husband, partner or spouse spending the entire day making a wonderful full course dinner and as the guests arrive and the dinner is served, the other half of the partnership is drunk, overtly sarcastic, making the guests uncomfortable and facetiously complimenting the effort that went into making the dinner.

You people

Cameron Diaz came on to introduce a movie and at one point referred to the audience as “you people” as if she did not respect the process. As if to say, “you people” aren’t real filmmakers, but a bunch of anti-establishment wanna-bes (the establishment being Hollywood and the Oscars, even though a lot of the Independent Spirit films are part of Hollywood subsidiaries) who would not only attend the Oscars if invited, but are already a part of Hollywood and to cool to admit it – “you people”, really the same people dressed independently.

The same people dressed independently...

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InnovateND 2009 Round 2 
The Idea Plan is in. Apparently nearly 175 participants and 89 ideas enrolled -- NoDak Films being one of them. I am very happy with this year's Idea Plan. Here's what will happen next:

Feb. 7-15: Idea Plan judging and Top 20 finalist will be chosen to advance to the Innovate ND finals.

Feb. 16-20: All participants will receive a message via email that says if you are a Top 20 finalist or not.

I'm adding a 'to be continued...' in the hopes NoDak Films advances to the finals.

Click on the 'related link' tab below to check out NoDak Films 2009 InnovateND Idea Plan.

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House Concurrent Resolution No. 29 
Below is an actual resolution passed by the Idaho Legislature


House Concurrent Resolution No. 29

It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho recognizes the vision, talent and creativity Jared and Jerusha Hess in the writing and production of “Napoleon Dynamite; and
WHEREAS, the scenic and beautiful City of Preston, County of Franklin and the State of Idaho are experiencing increased tourism and economic growth; and
WHEREAS, filmmaker Jared Hess is a native Idahoan who was educated in the Idaho public school system; and
WHEREAS, the Preston High School administration and staff, particularly the cafeteria staff, have enjoyed notoriety and worldwide attention; and
WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho’s most famous export; and
WHEREAS, the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro has furthered multiethnic relationships; and
WHEREAS, Uncle Rico’s football skills are a testament to Idaho athletics; and
WHEREAS, Napoleon’s bicycle and Kip’s skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation; and
WHEREAS, Grandma’s trip to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes highlights a long-honored Idaho vacation destination; and
WHEREAS, Rico and Kip’s Tupperware sales and Deb’s key chains and glamour shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho’s small towns; and
WHEREAS, Napoleon’s artistic rendition of Trisha is an example of the importance of visual arts in K-12 education; and
WHEREAS, the schoolwide Preston High School student body elections foster an awareness in Idaho’s youth of public service and civic duty; and
WHEREAS, the “Happy Hands” club and the requirement that candidates for school president present a skit is an example of the importance of theater arts in K-12 education; and
WHEREAS, Pedro’s efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and
WHEREAS, Kip’s relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology driven industry; and
WHEREAS, Kip and LaFawnduh’s wedding shows Idaho’s commitment to healthy marriages; and
WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho’s beef industry; and
WHEREAS, Napoleon’s tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and
WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho’s animal husbandry; and…
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth Idaho Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate concurring therein, that we commend Jared and Jerusha Hess and the City of Preston for showcasing the positive aspects of Idaho’s youth, rural culture, education system, athletics, economic prosperity and diversity.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of Idaho, advocate always following your heart, and thus eagerly await the next cinematic undertaking of Idaho’s Hess family.


The purpose of this resolution is to recognize and commend Jared and Jerusha Hess for their cinematic talents by which they have increased the nation’s awareness of Idaho.


Movies are a powerful tool and to think that NoDak Films is offering an even more unique experience then Napoleon Dynamite or any other film ever made for that matter.

Join us with a $100 contribution

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InnovateND 2008-09 Round 1 
So I am competing in InnovateND again this year with the goal of getting to the finals and winning...

Just to refresh everyone's memory, here is the format -- taken directly from the innovatend website:

Judging Rounds

NEW-- Determine your competition category!

This year [2008-09] participants will broken down into two categories of competition: Idea Stage and Start-up Stage. Participants choose a category to register in based on the criteria that your business venture meets. Ventures in both categories will still be judged on the same criteria: Innovation, Commerical Viability, Investment Opportunity, Entrepreneur Team and Quality of Presentation. Designation of Idea Stage or Start-up Stage Entrepreneur and Innovator

Idea Stage: 1. A successful prototype and business model may or may not have beendeveloped.
2. Initial marketing is in early states or yet to be developed.
3. Venture is in the process of organizing and securing a leadership team.
4. May or may not have been in business for a short time.
5. Early beginning or conceptual stage of operations.
6. Under$50,000 invested in the venture

Start-up Stage:
1. A successful prototype and business model may or may not have been developed.
2. Initial marketing is in every early stages
3. Venture sis in the stage or expanding operations and marketing.
4. The business seeks to fill out its leadership team, refine operations and the business model, expand and grow, identify and secure new markets.
5. May have attracted funds from a family or an angel investor and performed well with initial investment.
6. Over $50,000 invested in the business.

Innovate ND Ventures will be judged on the following criteria:

Innovation: An innovative idea can be for a technology, product or service; high tech, low tech or no tech; or it can be an entirely new idea or the evolution/improvement of a previous idea. Ideas should be unique and different, providing a competitive advantage. Ideas that show the greatest innovation will be viewed more favorably.

Commercial Viability: Can the idea be commercialized within two years? Can the idea create or serve a market need? What are the customer benefits? What is the entrepreneur's strategy for making the idea into a high-growth business? Judges will be evaluating ideas on their potential to generate revenue, profits and employment.

Investment Opportunity: If an investment opportunity was available and contemplated, would investors invest in this venture? Is the entrepreneur team invested in the venture?
Entrepreneur Team: Are key leaders and advisors available (or identified subject to financing) to fill key positions to execute the venture plan.

Quality of Presentation: As the judging progresses to the final round, some emphasis will be placed on entrant's quality of presentation (clear, concise), both written and orally.

Description of Judging Rounds

Round One: Executive Summary

Due: November 21, 2008
Entrepreneurs will be asked to provide an executive summary online of their idea or concept. Submissions should answer the following questions clearly and concisely:
What is your idea or innovation?
How does your idea translate into a commercially viable venture and high growth business?
What is your strategy for executing your idea?
Why is your idea economically viable and profitable?
The top entrepreneurs with the most thought out and sustainable ideas will go forward to the second judging round. Remember that judges will need to read a lot of material so prepare your materials in a clear and concise manner.

Round Two: Idea Plan

Due: February 6, 2009
Entrepreneurs participating in the second round will prepare to submit an Idea Plan. Entrepreneurs in their Idea Plan will be asked for:
An explanation of the innovation and what competitive advantage it has
A more detailed explanation of how the idea can become a viable, profitable business.
A marketing and sales plan that details how they will address a market need.
Financial projections demonstrating how to generate revenue and profits, and why the venture would be attractive to investors.
A description of the entrepreneur team and their ability to execute the business plan.

Round Three: Final Business Plan

Due: April 10, 2009
Final business plans, financials and PowerPoint presentations due.

Innovate ND Finals

The Top 20 Finalists will advance to the Innovate ND finals in May 2009. Finalists will prepare for their oral presentations with investor pitch to be given to the Judges. Finalists will make a 15 minute oral presentation followed by a Q&A session, and are encouraged to use presentation materials such as posters, PowerPoint, handouts, prototypes and/or multimedia.

View the 'related link' tab below to take a look at the Executive Summary...

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Innovative Thinking... 
I listen to National Public Radio a lot, enough to know and look forward to the next day's broadcasts. A few weeks ago I listened to a show called “Forum” hosted by Michael Kransy. The show’s next day topic was titled “Innovative Thinking” with the tagline:

“Neuroscientist Greg Berns joins us to discuss the human brain and innovative thinking. He says our brains normally constrain original thought. How do innovators buck the brain's lazy habits to eventually overturn conventional thinking? Bern's latest book is "Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently."

The next day I listened attentively and actually got a chance to ask a question on air. I asked Dr. Burns if the most important thing in an Iconoclast was the perception or the selling of that perception.

Dr. Burns clarified that there are three criteria in the Iconoclast:


Fear Response

Social Intelligence

which I take as:

Perception -- Innovative idea or as Dr. Burns uses, "someone who tears something down and puts something in its place"

Fear Response -- "the fear of a new idea, uncertainty and failure"

Social Intelligence -- "you still have to convince a number of people about the merits of your idea" OR “we all have to operate within the confines of a particular thought structure and even if you discover something great you still have to convince other people about it.”

I put NoDak Films into this category.

The perception is that with digital technology, the doors of perception regarding filmmaking have yet to be harnessed and comprehensively utilized to the same effect that NoDak Films is trying.

The fear response is my fear that NoDak Films will fail, that I am taking on too much with our goals and I am uncertain that North Dakotan's will embrace such a concept even though we have many North Dakotan's on board right now.

I feel I have social intelligence, not only in my belief that the films we will make will be great for North Dakota, but also for the people, business, towns, musicians, actors, artists, and really anyone involved with the process.

My issue is really a combination of the fear response and social intelligence because I have to convince nearly 2,000 North Dakotans to contribute $100 each. This process brings me the least amount of joy, the most amount of anxiety and fear and is the wall that I need to climb last.

In the many conversations I have had with many people about NoDak Films, I always go back to the same mantra that I have echoed well before I heard Dr. Burns say it:

"Put yourself in circumstances that make you uncomfortable"

I am extremely uncomfortable making calls and essentially selling NoDak Films, but I know that once that wall is scaled, I can use the experience on every level of NoDak Films throughout the rest of my lifetime. I grew up in North Dakota, I know North Dakotan's and I know that when I finally convince nearly 2,000 North Dakotan's to contribute $100, I will be able to sell NoDak Films to the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

Click on the "related link" tab below to listen to the entire broadcast -- I only touched on a little of what was said and I found the entire broadcast worthwhile

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The United States of Mind...an article 
The Wall Street Journal published an article the other day titled:

The United States of Mind: Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America

The article focused on the "geography of personality" on a state by state basis using the "Big Five Inventory" model:


The article goes on to say, "while the findings broadly upheld regional stereotypes, there are more than a few surprises." North Dakota is one of those surprises.

"And what of the unexpected finding that North Dakota is the most outgoing state in the union? Yes, North Dakota, the same state memorialized years ago in the movie "Fargo" as a frozen wasteland of taciturn souls. Turns out you can be a laconic extrovert, at least in the world of psychology. The trait is defined in part by strong social networks and tight community bonds, which are characteristic of small towns across the Great Plains. (Though not, apparently, small towns in New England, which ranks quite low on the extraversion scale.)"

Juxtaposed with...(near the very end of the article)

"Yes, North Dakota and Wyoming rank quite low in openness to new ideas. But why label them narrow-minded and insular? Say...they value tradition."

What strikes me and has always struck me about North Dakota is how we are referenced in a lot of articles -- it bothers me and this article takes the same liberty (based on title alone!):

"Yes, North Dakota, the same state memorialized years ago in the movie "Fargo" as a frozen wasteland of taciturn souls."

129 years of history is reduced down to a movie that has nothing to do with Fargo, let alone North Dakota; made by a couple Minnesota born filmmakers that spend the entire film in Minnesota. I have a book called Independent Feature Film Production and in it the author uses Fargo as an example in the casting section. The example illustrates a script breakdown of the movie where a bold faced "NOTE:" requires that "all actors must be able to speak in a Minnesota dialect". This is North Dakota's sound-bite, but it doesn't have to be. The study considers North Dakota the most outgoing state while directly opposing that view in the next sentence because of a movie -- this is why NoDak Films exists.

The second mention of North Dakota brings up another part of the research that has North Dakota ranked "quite low" in openness to new ideas. Peter Rentfrom, the author of the study, "suggests, that [North Dakotans] value tradition." I believe we value patience, which is not so much a tradition, but a pace that won't allow one to grow up prematurely, at least in my experience. I grew up near a farm, not on one and I know my nephew (about to turn 13) has an awareness born from the land around him.

I believe NoDak Films is in stride with the article because I don't want Fargo to be our sound bite and I want North Dakotans to be more open to new ideas. Both of these are a hybrid that will bring North Dakota into the second decade of the 21st Century through great films -- great NoDak Films, where great Films live.

Click on the 'related link' tab below to view the article.

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Actions, words, and Farm Rescue... 
My wife was giving the kids a bath the other night. I was sitting on the couch and feeling unmotivated, which has been the case this summer between our 2-month-old son August, our 4-year-old son and 21/2 year-old daughter, my part-time job as a Resident Advisor, music, and NoDak Films -- the former taking up more time than I'd like away from the latter, but in the end NoDak Films will benefit from the added income.

Anyway, my wife called me away from a Cubs game and into the bathroom. On the floor next to her was an open magazine.

"Read this," she said, pointing to an open page.

'Get the Look: Summer's Hottest Shorts, Get a leg up on the short shorts trend with these star approved pieces.'

I told her my shorts were fine and she told me to turn to the next page. The page was really a two-page photo spread of a man standing in the middle of North Dakota farmland. The title of the article stuck to the top of the page:


The man in the field is Bill Gross whose non-profit Farm Rescue (www.farmrescue.org) "has helped some 60 farmers in the Dakotas and Minnesota." Mr. Gross grew up on a farm in North Dakota, graduated from UND's aviation program and took a job with UPS, but North Dakota never left him and he "vowed" to come back and help.

After reading the article; 1) I felt lazy and 2) Inspired. Like Mr. Gross, I want to come back to North Dakota and help. I am not making a direct comparison between NoDak Films and Farm Rescue, but the need to come back to North Dakota can be strong in those who have left and Mr. Gross came back with a purpose as necessary and innovative as the "neighbors" that preceded Mr. Gross and his own experiences as a farm kid.

I grew up near a farm, not on one and at this point I should write more about the philosophical comparisons between NoDak Films and Farm Rescue. Mr. Gross has taught me however that actions speak louder than words.

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Charles Bowden (Round 3 of 3) 
On April 9th, 2006 an article by Richard Rubin appeared in the New York Times titled "Not Far From Forsaken." Although the title sounds alot like Mr. Bowden's "The Emptied Prairie," -- 'Not Far' is a lot farther from the 'Emptied Prairie'.

Mr. Rubin ends his article by writing:

"But folks who are nostalgic for Small Town America might want to consider taking their next vacation in northwest North Dakota, where, if they visit soon, they can see such places before they disappear forever, where they can walk the streets and chat with the few folks who remain and drop in on quaint little establishments like the Centennial Bar in Grenora, where they happen to serve excellent hamburgers. Get one while you still can."

Mr. Bowden ends his article by writing:

"Something is ending here that no one ever saw coming. There is nothing to be done: It is simply the acting out of an economic reality. It is hard to watch. Yet it is impossible to look away. In Alkabo, the two-story public school still stands, fully equipped with trophies, musical instruments, and books. The students have long gone. The neighboring baseball field is named Field of Dreams. Just south is Writing Rock, where two stones bear prehistoric drawings. The native people said the rocks could tell the future, but then scholars took one stone away for some years. Since that time the stones have been mute."

Contrasting ends to contrasting articles, yet as I re-read Mr. Rubin's article the other day I noticed a picture: An old house in the background and a frozen carcass on a piece of cardboard in the foreground separated by an empty stretch of grass covered in snow. I went back to to Mr. Bowden's article and noticed a similar picture: An old house in the background, but instead of a frozen carcass, a skeleton remains. The empty stretch of grass is the same, but the season has changed.

The place in both pictures is the same and what's even more interesting is that 2 years ago the same place was already documented and Bowden felt it necessary to come back and try to add an unneeded obituary to a place that isn't even dead -- using a photo that was essentially used two years ago in a different article about the the same area of North Dakota.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but what about the same picture nearly two years later, about the same area, in another article with a different "ending"? Should I be mute as the stones suggest or get me one while I still can?

It's been written Mr. Bowden, the pictures have been taken and the interviews recorded. You took a beautiful painting and painted over it twice -- each time reducing its value to almost nothing. You still have your words however and you can leave them at home next time you visit North Dakota.

To view "Not Far From Forsaken" click on the "related link" tab below.

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Charles Bowden (Round 2 of 3) 
I went back and read Charles Bowden’s article to refill my senses with the “robin’s egg blue kitchen” of North Dakota’s past because I believe in second chances and maybe I read his article “The Emptied Prairie” with a bias bent too cynical. Then I scanned the first paragraph and remembered the “tempest” he created with words like:

“empty plains…lurches away.. wild yard… the white bones of a deer bleach in the sun… litter…stands watch by the long-dead coal furnace...abandoned…two old cars rust…moan of the wind…vanished barn…ghost towns stud North Dakota…empty house is just one bone in a giant skeleton of abandoned human desire.”

As I wrote this post, the news that Tim Russert died solemnly came on the TV. I’m going to use Mr. Russert, his love of country, of family, of journalism and compare the spirit he embodied with the spirit of North Dakota and use those forces to make sense of Charles Bowden and his second visit to North Dakota.

I would ask Mr. Bowden if Mr. Russert abandoned his life when he died. A resounding ‘No’ would come from Mr. Bowden, probably followed by some choice words. Then I would ask Mr. Bowden what he meant when he said in his National Geographic article, “[the] empty house [in North Dakota] is just one bone in a giant skeleton of abandoned human desire.” What Mr. Bowden meant by the “willful amnesia in North Dakota.” What he meant by writing, just a few sentences from the end of his article: “Something is ending here that no one ever saw coming. There is nothing to be done: It is simply the acting out of an economic reality. It is hard to watch. Yet it is impossible to look away.”

Dying is not for the dead and the dead are memorialized through the honor of having lived by the people who loved them in life, who knew them in life – a stranger can feel the same strong emotions, but no stranger will write the obituary or prepare a speech at the funeral. When it comes to place, one gains the necessary soul to memorialize after having the benefit of living there, but the place remains and memories are recycled – a stranger can feel the same strong emotions, but no stranger will write the obituary or prepare a speech when the town decides to vote itself out of existence. First off, Mr. Bowden is a stranger, secondly he wrote an obituary about a place and people that still exist, thirdly the only "ending" Mr. Bowden has watched in North Dakota is a sunset and lastly Mr. Bowden has not earned, nor shall he ever earn the necessary soul to memorialize a place like rural North Dakota. It seems like Mr. Bowden came back to North Dakota to offend North Dakotan’s, not to defend his article. In his second visit to the state Mr. Bowden called us “fools” and “willfully dishonst and illiterate” and saved his harshest critique for our Governor followed by all North Dakotan’s, "I don`t know about your governor, I haven`t met him, but I guarantee you I can hand [The Emptied Prairie] to a 10-year-old in Arkansas, and they`d read it, and they`d perfectly understand it. If people in North Dakota can`t reach the level of a 10-year-old in Arkansas, I don`t know what to say."

Mr. Bowden wrote an article filled with 2,130 words about a topic that was not saved for him, yet he treated the “adandoned human desire” of North Dakota as though he were a native son or profound colleague or a loved one to the state that reared him – all of which he is not. Mr. Bowden tried to write an article shaping rural North Dakota’s seeming vanishing act without living a life that allowed those words to take shape. Mr. Bowden then proceeded to come back to North Dakota, after the ghosts of his article responded with a Person of the Week appearance on Good Morning America, and piss on our proverbial grave…

There is a simple saying that goes “don’t eat yellow snow.” I take the phrase a step further and say “don’t believe yellow journalism.”

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NoDak Films on North Dakota Public Radio... 
Although the interview is from last October, the dialogue is a great window into NoDak Films. I do say, in the interview, that our fundraising goal is June 1st, 2008. We will not reach that goal, but with your help we can reach it soon.


Bringing ND to the Silver Screen

FARGO, ND (2007-10-19) A Plaza, North Dakota native...has launched a project to bring film making back to the state.

Prairie Public's Todd McDonald has details...

© Copyright 2007, NDPR


Above is the write up from the NDPR website under Prairie Region News from last October. I would like to thank Mr. McDonald for taking the time to interview me and North Dakota Public Radio (NDPR) for broadcasting the interview.

To receive the same contribution packet that US Ag Secretary Ed Schafer received, ND Ag Commissioner Roger Johnson received, former ND Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp received and the many other North Dakotans have received as $100 contributors -- it's as easy as a click of a button on the "Your Moment" for individuals/families, "Your Business/Product" for businesses, or "Your Town" pages of this website.

Please click on the "Related Link" tab below to listen to the interview.

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