The Twin Cities has experienced a vibrant autumn. A year from now, the rest of the world may see it, too.
"Days When the Rains Came," which has been shooting in the west metro area since Oct. 10, raced to get shots that required fall color before finishing this week with indoor scenes. They feature Deephaven native Marisa Coughlan, who wrote the screenplay, as a woman re-examining her life and Beau Bridges as her ailing father. Filming is scheduled to conclude Thursday and "Days" is slated to debut next fall.
"The script really reflects my own past: going out to L.A. and then coming back," said Coughlan, who made a splash in 1999 opposite Helen Mirren in "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" and co-starred in the series "Boston Legal." She and husband Stephen Wallack returned several years ago to raise their kids — all four are in "Days" — around the time her writing career was gathering steam.
"I was hitting 40 and feeling like the stories being told in Hollywood were not reflecting my life at all," said Coughlan, between shots near Christmas Lake in Shorewood. "You're someone's mom or the librarian who's in the background of a bunch of scenes when, in reality, women are at their most interesting and complex at this age. We're reinventing ourselves constantly. So I was feeling a bit lost and having an easier time as a writer than an actor."
The family moved back about the time reporters began to expose the abuse of producer Harvey Weinstein, whom Coughlan had worked for. She didn't leave Hollywood because of him but Coughlan said, "I was one of the Harvey Weinstein women. I think it was because of my Minnesota upbringing, really, that my response [when propositioned] was, 'What? No. I'm not going to do any of that.' "
Back in Minnesota, Coughlan found herself thinking about the past: "I lost my dad years ago but when we moved back here, memories were triggered by everything we'd see."
She began writing about those memories, not imagining she'd end up filming the story in places where she grew up, with Bridges — whose "Acting: The First Six Lessons" was at the Twin Cities Film Festival last week — playing a part inspired by her father, Dan Coughlan.
"The first actor we cast was Beau Bridges. I wrote him a letter and said, 'I can't picture anyone else in this.' He even looks a little like my dad and he has such a similar spirit that it's crazy," Coughlan said.
In "Days When the Rains Came" (the title comes from Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl"), art imitates life and then life imitates art. Coughlan describes it as a movie about "falling in love with your own life," something she realized she's doing, too.
"Looking at this character, I started to feel actualized," said Coughlan. "Like, I'm not done writing or acting."
She has ideas for more films, partly inspired by her home state.
"I wrote this because I love it here. I wanted to show off Minnesota and already everyone who has come here to shoot is absolutely in love with it," Coughlan said.
The autumn leaves help.
"I'd never seen fall in my life. It has taken my breath away," said Conroy Kanter, one of the film's producers.
Director Mills Goodloe, between sharing photos of sunsets on Lake Minnetonka, has been using an app to make sure he gets the best color — something he believes "Days When the Rains Came" will be the first film to capture at its peak.
Goodloe said he's rooting for a resurgence in Minnesota filmmaking, taking advantage of local crews and talent. The stars, including Freddy Rodriguez, Eliza Coupe and LisaGay Hamilton, were brought in, but many crew members and extras are Minnesotans.
So are locations such as Bull & Wren pub in Excelsior, a castle-like house in Orono, the Kam Talebi home in Greenwood and the Hotel Excelsior. Kanter said she, Coughlan and Goodloe are among those deferring salaries to make the low-budget feature possible. It's because of the script, according to Goodloe.
"I'm not doing this because I love Marisa and want to help her out. Or because I'm bored and have nothing else to do. It's that the material is so good," said Goodloe. "Just like some of the actors, it had to be something pretty special to uproot my life for a couple months."
Kanter — who ended up buying a new car from Park Chrysler Jeep, which supplied vehicles for the film — suspects "Days" won't be the last uprooting.
"The ending is very open-ended," she said. "There could be a sequel."