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Making history 
I was reading the Film section of the City Pages, which is a weekly News and Arts newspaper in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The particular article I read dealt with the Cannes Film Festival, held in the south of France in a resort town that bears the festivals name. Cannes began in 1939 and is considered the most prestigous of all festivals. The author of the article commented on the Hollywood aspect of the festival, but in a reversal of topic and in the last paragraph of the article, the author commented on a Cannes movie by saying it "managed to stay independent of Hollywwod -- philosophically and geographically."

That phrase really stuck with me, "managed to stay independent of Hollywood -- philosophically and geographically." I repeated the phrase and liked how it sounded. I want NoDak Films to fit in the same category of film while also approaching a festival like Cannes and faring well against Hollywood films.

I was an athlete in high school and college and enjoy competition, but more importantly I enjoy when someone or a group of people tell me or the team that we are overmatched. It is in these moments that history is made and I believe NoDak Films is on the verge of making history.

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Regional ----- Contributions 
I'm in the habit of reading movie reviews and articles that deal with independent films and films in general. Recently two articles captured my attention. One article dealt with George Lucas and other dealt with a film called "Disappearances" starring noneother, than Kris Kristofferson.

Although the nature of each article dealt with the man (George Lucas) and the movie (Disappearances) respectively, two small insertions made all the difference to me.

In the Lucas article, the writer as well as Lucas mentions Lucas' distaste for LA and the movie culture there. Lucas talks of creating Lucas Films in Northern California and uses the term regional to describe it. NoDak Films is creating a regional feature film production company and I believe that we are creating a TRULY regional production company because our films are set in and inspired by North Dakota -- we are using North Dakota musicians in the soundtrack, North Dakota art within the film, North Dakota products (Product Placement), North Dakota individuals, North Dakota land, North Dakota funding and North Dakota resources. NoDak Films will essentially create 2-hour North Dakota advertisments under the guise of great dramatic feature length films.

Although Mr. Lucas stayed away from LA, his regional production company is really a regional facility in that the property is in the same region where he grew up. NoDak Films is a wet North Dakota towel trying to squeeze out every positive aspect of North Dakota onto the landscape of big-box films, independent filmmaking, regional cinema and an audience looking for originality and depth of story.


What I found interesting about "Disappearances" was the nature of its fundraising. According to the article I read, in order to reach the 1.7 million dollar budget (nearly 9 times the budget of our first film Last Summer For Boys) the filmmakers/producers raised $500,000 in contributions from 1,700 people. That means, on average, each contributor gave nearly $300.

I'm looking for nearly 1,900 people to contribute $100 each and have the opportunity to be in the film. I'm not sure what incentive "Disappearances" gave to its contributors so I'll make sure to count the number of extras in the film or look for the names of each individual contributor in the credits because NoDak Films and our first film will not only list our contributors names, but show their faces alongside the rest of North Dakota.

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Breakfast with 'Northern Lights' 

The first question I asked the gentleman above (seated on the right) was, "What was it that made you even want to make a movie about North Dakota."

He said his mother was born in Bismarck, his grandfather was North Dakota's first filmmaker and the film's story fit with the production company's mission. About two hours later and a belly full of coffee we parted ways outside the small cafe off Gilman and 6th St. He told me about the bike route he uses to keep in shape. I told him about the running route I take to pick up my kids from daycare. His knees wouldn't let him run anymore, but the look in his face was the same look in mine as we talked inside the cafe -- his experiences in North Dakota combined with the experiences I am about to have .

In 1980, Roger Ebert wrote this:

"Northern Lights...makes some history of its own as a successful recent example of the movement toward a regional cinema in America."

"[The film] opens with an old man rummaging through some papers he'd almost forgotten about. Among them is a diary, recalling the winter of 1915-16, when he was a farmer trying to earn a living during hard times in North Dakota."

The film won the Camera D'Or Award (Golden Camera) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979 for Best First Film. The man in the above picture is Mr. Rob Nilsson and he along with North Dakotan John Hanson and a host of other interested parties are the one's responsible for bringing "Northern Lights" to film.

Before I met with Mr. Nilsson, I had only heard of "Northern Lights," but after a talk last week with my old boss who owns a Variety Shop in Fargo, my interest for "Northern Lights' peaked and so I did a little internet research and found that "Northern Lights" was more than just a film, it was a documentary/fictionalized record of North Dakota and the start of the Non Partisan League (NPL) in 1915-16. I also found that Mr. Nilsson lives just down the street from me. Let alone the film was made the year I was born and shot almost entirely in North Dakota (in Crosby) made for an interesting meeting, which Mr. Nilsson gladly showed up for.

After our meeting I realized two things:

1) NoDak Films was started and will remain for the people of North Dakota first and foremost.

2) North Dakota has another feature length film that North Dakotan's can be proud of and that film is "Northern Lights".

Roger Ebert was right when he said "Northern Lights" moves toward "regional cinema in America." Fast forward nearly 28 years and Digital Technology and NoDak Films and I believe, as I always have, that now is the time to stop moving and set up the first "regional cinema" production company in America. Imagine the "Pride of North Dakota" sticker on a DVD case -- I know I have.

Click on the "related link" below to see Mr. Ebert's review.

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What am I trying to do? 
What am I trying to do?

I’ve been asking myself this question the last few weeks because that’s the nature, right, of any business in its infant stage. The owner goes through emotional ups and downs wanting constant reassurance that the goals are still pure and the model is secure like those science experiments where kids build toothpick bridges and the winning bridge can withstand the most weight.

I’ve called what I’m doing the evolution and revolution of Film and I’m beginning to understand why. Thousands of films are made a year, perhaps tens of thousands, each vying for their moment under the sun with the ultimate goal of having a viewing audience and recognition. This is where, I believe, NoDak Films breaks off because dramatic fictional films are made in three ways:

1) Tens of Millions of Dollars and Major Hollywood backing.

2) Millions of Dollars and Hollywood backing or enough money to try to convince
Hollywood your film is right on time.

3) Virtually no money at all, but just enough to make a feature length film or a short
vignette of a feature, ship off to festivals and hope to become the next Hollywood
“Clerks” or “Napoleon Dynamite”.

This is where I see NoDak Films as a 4th option. We will make our film with virtually no money at all, ship it off to festivals and hope for theatrical or DVD or cable distribution, essentially, hope for some part of Hollywood to take notice. If that doesn’t happen, we come back (with a few extra dollars put away) and market and sell the movie on our own without Hollywood. Either way, the film captures North Dakota, captures you (because you’re in the film) and can captivate an audience, but timing and luck dictate film festival favor while back-to-basics business will make the next film more noticeable and the first film turn some heads towards North Dakota and NoDak Films, where great Films live. What NoDak Films is doing is taking Hollywood, if need be, out of the entire process pre, during and post production.

So at what point does the weight overwhelm the toothpicks? It’s my belief that more toothpicks can be added and that’s the short-term goal for NoDak Films. By the end of this year I want enough toothpicks (contributions) to start production and begin filming in the summer of ‘08. The trend of a 4th option will soon follow and quickly become the 1st option when other states and individuals turn their heads towards North Dakota and our model.

At least that’s what I think. There could be thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of filmmakers thinking and trying to accomplish the same thing in their respective states -- that’s why NoDak Films wants to set the foundation in North Dakota.

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Like parting the Red Sea (River) 
“Lift up your walking stick and hold it out over the sea. The water will divide…”
“The water was divided and [they] went through the sea on dry ground.”
“I will make them so stubborn that they will go in after them…”

Exodus 14: 16, 17, 22

Some say its better to be on the fence then on the wrong side (I might have just coined that phrase) Let’s assume, for the moment, that the fence is North Dakota and either side is water. At any moment, could Moses take his walking stick away, not likely, but perhaps this is why North Dakota’s population has declined. Not because of the young people who are leaving, but because outsiders are afraid their SUV might get stuck somewhere outside Dilworth before they realize they’re not even in North Dakota yet and still more afraid they’ll get swallowed by the great Red River (Sea). The story goes like this: God instructed Moses to part the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross and escape the Egyptians. Well, what am I escaping, what are you escaping, what are we escaping? What slopes my steps down into that middle rift? That “porthole to the east,/window to the west/ripples starting at two ends of a big pond,/canceling out in the middle,/middle rift mid rift/mid west”(Kevin Zepper, Heart land) and what makes those individuals tired from walking up and out?

I started NoDak Films because I want to positively broadcast North Dakota and I honestly believe I can accomplish that goal through the screenplays I have written. By today’s standards, a screenplay is an abused word for writers afraid to compose a novel on the same idea. Its taken me over two years with countless revisions to write NoDak Films current and first feature length film, Last Summer For Boys. Now is the business of putting my movie on a flat screen and watching my words come to life. My words are as simple as my North Dakota upbringing, but my film is a complex mixture of all that makes North Dakota beautiful and frustrating while inevitably promising. I lived in New York after September 11th, I went to Mardi Gras before Katrina and now I live in Berkeley. Things happen in threes. FEMA warned against three major events happening, among other major events, within the United States: a major terrorist attack, the levee breaking, and a ginormous earthquake in the Bay Area. I don’t want to be on the side of water, I want to be on dry land, but I’m in an ideal situation right?: My wife is a graduate student at Berkeley, our 2 ½ year old son and 1 year old daughter are extremely healthy, we don’t pay utilities, the view from our apartment is like walking into Chaim Soutine’s “View of Cagnes” and I can smell the ocean everyday. By all intensive purposes I should be happy and I am happy, but something is missing and I’ve determined it’s North Dakota or what I still have in North Dakota (mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, two nephews and a niece) or what I was or what I had always hoped to be. I can come back that complete person because I was incomplete when I left: immature, ungrateful and ignorant. I believe North Dakota’s young people are leaving incomplete and by the time they’re complete, they’ve been cemented in the real world someplace else. We can’t forget about the people who live in North Dakota. Because of them, North Dakota remains that romantic piece of nostalgia and longing where one has always been and will always be – whether Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian, WE will always have North Dakota and the rural strip-mall businesses you can count on one hand and cities large enough to dream in.

That’s why I’m feeling biblical because I am on a pilgrimage in the shape of NoDak Films, which will bring me home. My wife grew up in SoCal and CenCal (Southern California and Central California). She spent one year in North Dakota while I finished my Undergradate Degree at MSU-Moorhead. She still talks about Fargo and The Radisson and Ted on the piano and that Indian restaurant off 45th St. and our long red couch I bought from the New Life Center thrift store and her Political Science professors (she spent a year at MSUM) that helped her immensely transition into Berkeley and our small one-bedroom in The Gardner that overlooked that dinner movie theatre, which became a church.

I started this whole sermon by quoting Exodus from the Bible and how fitting, Exodus means (pause) a departure of a large number of people. ‘Well’ I thought, ‘I want to know who’s leaving’. Are North Dakotans leaving? Are others leaving to inhabit North Dakota? It’s obvious North Dakotan’s are leaving, specifically young North Dakotan’s, but what inspires the young, maintains their parents and provides legacy to the elders? North Dakota is on the endangered species list, but we will never go extinct and maybe that's what alot of North Dakotan's want -- the luxury of being left alone by outside influence. As for me, I want to make movies based in and inspired by North Dakota. Not the Wooly Boys or Fargo – both films offer a slice of North Dakota, although the latter only offers one bite, which is the wrong flavor and I am not out to make a family film.

That’s why I’ve built this excitement within my head and view NoDak Films as a pilgrimage that not only will bring me back to North Dakota, but may bring other young families or inspire young North Dakotans to stick around while maintaining a unique level of entertainment for their parents and providing a visual legacy to the elderly. I can come back to North Dakota complete and do what I love.

I think throughout h-i-s-t-o-r-y people are inclined to put themselves on either side of the fence, but I’d rather be looking somewhere, then going nowhere at all and North Dakota and all the small towns and towns and cities and NoDak Films are my somewhere and will always be my dry land…like parting the Red Sea.

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Grand Forks Herald prints story about NoDak Films...read all about it 
I'd like to think Mr. Ryan Bakken and the Grand Forks Herald respectively for writing and printing an article about myself and NoDak Films in Sunday's Community section of the Grand Forks Herald.

Mr. Bakken captures the essence of my conviction in the latter half of the story, but I
wanted to clarify a few things from the top half of his article:

Mr. Bakken said, "You've heard about the vanity press. Allow me to introduce you to the vanity cinema. The vanity press means you can get your book published - but you have to pay for it. And now comes along a deal where you can land a movie role - but you have to pay for it."

When Mr. Bakken interviewed me over the phone he stated that my funding strategy for Last Summer For Boys was like the vanity press and I said, "I suppose it could." To be honest, I really didn't know what the vanity press was so I did a little research and sent him an email the next day tItled Fees vs. Subscriptions, it said:
Mr. Bakken,

In our phone interview you compared what I am doing to the film version of the vanity press.

Rather than a vanity press(er), I consider myself like a newspaper; people will subscribe to NoDak Films and in return I'll give them something they can view (read).

The vanity press relies on Fees from creative minded authors. I am a creative minded screenwriter relying on Subscriptions to print (make, reproduce) my words on screen.

Thanks again

Needless to say Mr. Bakken didn't make the comparison between his job and mine.

Mr. Bakken said, "Mr. Anderson, a former resident of Plaza, ND."

This is true, however I moved from Plaza after my eighth grade year and lived in Minot the next four years - graduating from Minot High School. Also, while in college I lived in Fargo for four years so I consider myself a resident of Plaza, Minot and Fargo.

Mr. Bakken said, "Now living in California"

This is true, but I am living in California because my wife is in graduate school. After she completes graduate school we are moving back to the area.

Mr. Bakken said, "If you contriubte $100...you will receive A) a role as an extra B) a chance to audition for one of the 55 speaking parts C) a listing on the credits as an associate producer."

(B) needs further clarification. When someone contributes $100, they have access first to all speaking roles, if they wish to audition. Anyone will have a chance to audition for speaking roles, whether they contribute or not, but contributors have access first and have more time to rehearse a partiulcar role before the general public gets a chance.

Mr. Bakken said, "Anderson's script is about two childhood friends coming home to Plaza, one from theTwin Cities and one from Fargo. It wil be shot in Plaza."

Two things, the script is not entirely about two childhood friends coming home to Plaza. Plaza is only one part of the script that maneuvers between other cities and other elements about the two friends and the people who surround them. Secondly, Plaza is not the only shooting location. We will shoot in Minot, Fargo, Ray, along Highway 83, along I-94, in Minneapolis, and perhaps other North Dakota locations.

Mr. Bakken said, "As far as needing 1,889 extras? Well, there's a graduation scene and Anderson envisions packing them inside the Minot Dome. So don't plan on getting any close-ups."

The scene Mr. Bakken refers to is one of many scenes where we need extras. Also, plan on close-ups because I'm not short-changing my contributors with a squinting view of themselves in one scene. Contributors will appear throughout the film in various scenes and from various camera angles.

I am grateful Mr. Bakken went out of his way to interview me and I am grateful to the Grand Forks Herald for printing the article, however I just wanted to extend the dialogue on a few of Mr. Bakken's points.

I'd also like to think Kim Watson for encouraging me to contact the newspapers about NoDak Films.

Click on the "related link" tab below to view the article

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I have NoDak Films too....a quote 
This morning my 11-month-old daughter wore her NoDak Films sweater jacket. My 2-and-a-half year old son pointed to the logo on the back and asked my wife “What’s that”? She told him and he said, “I have NoDak Films too.”

He spoke in that great voice all 2 ½ year old's share--as though he was asking a question when he was just stating a fact. All day I’ve thought about what my son said in conjunction with an email I received from a young man a few days ago who called NoDak Films, and essentially my artistic integrity, “another folksy attempt at culture”

I call him a young man (he called himself an artist) although I don’t know his age (he did mention hIs college education), but his own artistic self-doubt crept into the tone of his email. The next day I emailed him and he responded with an apology for his “rant” and hoped it made for some interesting reading, which, interestingly enough, it did not.

I mention the young man along with my son because the young man questioned my integrity as an artist and my son confirmed my integrity, but not in the conventional way one perceives an artist.

I am not a “starving artist.” There was a time when I was an idealistic artist and believed that someone would find my art, (and I say art to encapsulate all forms of art from writing to painting to music to dance to film and all others in between) and I would then be discovered, but art like discovery takes time. The young man told me to make my films and ask questions later. My son told me, indirectly, through what he said that art takes time, patience and lots and lots of questions.

I spent over two years writing Last Summer For Boys while working as a High School English Teacher and then Program Coordinator at an educational non-profit, and in that time I asked myself a lot of questions and wrote and re-wrote the script…but I wanted more. I wanted the artistic value of my screenplay on screen the way I envisioned it and that vision was a North Dakota vision. I see every shot and every shooting location from Plaza to Minot to Fargo and all the specific locations therein. I see all the characters and all the people I want to involve, who are everyday North Dakotans.

While writing Last Summer For Boys, two more screenplays began to surface about other North Dakota topics and individuals. I realized that my stories are North Dakota stories and they should begin from North Dakota, both creatively and from a business standpoint.

NoDak Films is an extension of the idealistic young man I once was, just like the young man who sent me the email (although his “rant” sounded more uninformed than idealistic).

NoDak Films is an extension of my son and daughter who make me understand that hard-work and vision are best expressed by genuinely enthused words.

I have NoDak Films too

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What do you think? 
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2000 North Dakotan’s spent 6 million dollars in the Motion picture…industries.

In 2004, the most recent update, North Dakotan’s spent 11 million dollars in the Motion picture…industries.

In 2000 the average ticket was $5.39, which means 1,113,172
movie tickets were sold. That means, in 2000, every North Dakotan went to the movies twice.

In 2004 the average ticket was $6.21, which means 1,771,336 movie tickets were sold. That means, in 2004, every North Dakotan went to the movies three times.

So in 2008, next year, if the trend continues, every North Dakotan will go to the movies four times, which means that with demand will come supply and in this age of instant entertainment, NoDak Films is turning the lens inside out and broadcasting North Dakota films with you in them and with you (the everyday North Dakotan) in mind. Heart-warming, dramatic, feature length films that tell a familiar story, but one that most people haven’t heard yet.

So here’s a question for you -- when you think of a heart-warming, dramatic, feature length North Dakota film, what do you envision?

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How much is in 2.94%? 
$612, 692, 448

This figure represents the box office numbers of four films:

Dances with Wolves (shot almost entirely in South Dakota).
A River Runs Through it (shot almost entirely in Montana).
Field of Dreams (shot almost entirely in Iowa).
Fargo (shot almost entirely in Minnesota).

The average ticket price in the early to mid-90's (when these films were released) was $4.15. This means that nearly 150 million people went to see these films. Although the number reflects domestic and foreign sales, it's the equivalent of HALF of the population of the United State -1 out of every 2 people. That is unbelieveable.

With the exception of Fargo, the first three films also generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for their respective states because they positively and beautifully depicted their respective states through great dramatic film. Unfortunately Fargo highlighted every negative stereotype of our state, which is ironic because the film was shot almost entirely in Minnesota. ( a poInt i make in a previous blog)

South Dakota, Iowa, Montana, Minnesota. With the exception of Iowa, these states border North Dakota, yet North Dakota is absent from the list and the positive economic windfall that was created by a 2-hour movie done right.

It's time for North Dakota to take another chance -- Wooly Boys didn't get it right. Fargo didn't get it right, but NoDak Films will get it right with your help.

Our goal is not to break box-office numbers, it's to reinvent what they mean. In the last census North Dakota's population was 642,000 people. We need 2.94% of our population to contribute to NoDak Films.

2.94% of $612,692,448 (the figure at the top of this message) = $1,801,315.79
or based on current theatre ticket prices; 275, 010 people will watch our first film, will watch you and your name appear on screen, and will watch a great 2-hour movie filmed in North Dakota and about North Dakota.

And we're talking about 2.94%.

Spread out over an entire country full of Independent theatres, savvy home entertainment equipment, the Digital Revolution and a new generation of entertainment outlets -- there is no reason North Dakota can't be cast in the role of great films, great NoDak Films, where great films live.

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My father-in-law is a photoshop/illustrator wiz, which is impressive considering he started using the program at 50 (he's now 54) and he's not a computer guy, he's a landscape architect.

His new hobby is ironing on obscure, usually jazz oriented images onto t-shirts. He and my mother-in-law visited recently and he surprised me with a few NoDak Films t-shirts for my son, daughter and myself.

Seeing the shirts on my kids gives me all the more reason to stay motivated and believe, as I do, that NoDak Films is a really great thing, but we need your contribution in order to bring that greatness to fruition.

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