DULUTH – A feature film will be shot on the North Shore next month as the region's efforts to attract productions appear to be paying off.
The movie, a psychological thriller about a Korean couple vacationing in northern Minnesota, will shoot for about three weeks starting in May at locations in Duluth and along the shore all the way to Grand Marais.
"I've always been shocked at how this is a totally untapped frontier for production," said Maximilian Selim, one of the movie's producers and a St. Paul native. "I've been coming to the North Shore since I was a kid, and I've always had the feeling this is a ripe location for stories."
The production, titled "Abroad," has been approved for Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) support, Selim said, and filmmakers applied for St. Louis County's new rebate program.
"That's not the reason we came up here — I hadn't even heard about those rebates," he said. "But it is putting us in a position to succeed with what's otherwise a very low-budget and fairly ambitious project."
The incentives are meant to make the area compete with other states — and Canada — that offer major financial incentives for productions.
St. Louis County has committed up to $1 million for rebates on film and TV projects this year, the first county-based program of its kind in Minnesota.
"This rebate is definitely going to put the region on the map," Selim said. "As more productions come up, I think more people will see this as a viable industry. ... The whole situation snowballs itself."
Another feature-length film, "Way of the Warriors," started shooting on the Iron Range this winter with a $350,000 IRRRB grant.
"We try to provide a sweetener — if we can convince them to film in Minnesota, then maybe we can convince them to film in northeastern Minnesota because we offer a little extra," said IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips.
A proposal before the state Legislature would add $500,000 to statewide production incentives, and another bill would provide tax credits, something the Duluth-based Catalyst Story Institute says is "important to our future economic growth."
"This isn't a 'if we build it they will come' scenario. This is a 'they've already been here and we haven't built it yet' situation," the nonprofit, which runs an indie TV festival in Duluth, wrote in an e-mail to supporters this month.
Twin Cities-based actor Paul Cram has a role in "Abroad" and was excited to see the region expand its production incentives.
"To be able to be working up there and supporting local businesses feels good to me," he said. "It's exciting to see the North Shore and Iron Range take the lead and say: 'This is something we're going to do,' and not wait for the state. I predict this is the first of many projects that will come from the incentive."
Giovanni Fumu will direct the movie, and Kimbo Kim is a producer.
The two have worked together on short films in the past, including 2016's "Good News" and 2020's "Shots in the Dark with David Godlis."
Selim said "Abroad" will be shown on the festival circuit with the hopes of picking up a developer.
"Best-case scenario, I hope it's playing in Duluth in a year and everyone can go check it out."
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496