Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Amy Madigan is working on a new movie that has Minnesota written all over it.
"Rebel Girl," an independent feature set in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is written and directed by the Minnesota-connected husband-and-wife team of Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based couple co-wrote such notable plays as "The Exonerated," and "Coal Country." Jensen grew up in Detroit Lakes and Apple Valley. Blank, who was born in New Haven, Conn., attended Macalester College and the University of Minnesota.
"I became an adult and an artist here," Blank said. "I've always felt a deep sense of creative loyalty to the Twin Cities. It's an incredible place to make art and this film is a sort of love letter to Minnesota."
A coming-of-age family dramedy, "Girl" blends "Little Miss Sunshine" with "On Golden Pond." The narrative orbits Maisie, a spunky 14-year-old who lives in Brooklyn with her graphic novelist dad, a widower. Before Maisie's mom died, she made her husband promise never to bring the child around his alcoholic family based in Minnesota.
That promise is however broken when Masie's grandfather dies.
The Oscar-nominated ("Twice in a Lifetime") and Golden Globe-winning ("Roe vs. Wade") Madigan, who played Kevin Costner's wife in "Field of Dreams," stars as the comforting grandmother.
Sadie Jensen-Blank, the filmmakers' 13-year-old daughter, stars as Maisie while Jensen plays her dad. This is the first time all the members of the Jensen-Blank clan are working together on a feature.
"Sadie's a natural," Blank said.
"She's been sitting and watching rehearsals forever," Jensen added, recalling how their daughter helped him run lines. "We just weren't aware that we were actually bringing her to acting school."
The cast also includes Cullen Moss ("One Tree Hill," "Outer Banks") and Jacob Moran ("The Black Phone").
Shooting has been taking place at locales in Victoria, Deephaven, Excelsior and other spots in the state. On Wednesday, the team is hunkered down at Zoar Moravian Church in Waconia where they are shooting Maisie's grandfather's funeral and a big climactic scene.
"We're shooting it with all-Minnesota crews," Blank said.
The film also is a toast to Jensen's health. He suffered a near-fatal aneurysm a year-and-a-half ago. After recovering, the family went on vacation to Italy with co-writer and -producer Han Shan, a close friend, and that's when the idea for filming "Girl" in Minnesota was born.
"We were talking about loving the Twin Cities and how we wish we could come back to work," Blank said.
That's when Shan mentioned that his best friends own a Twin Cities production company, Rikshaw Films. A lightbulb went off. And the team crafted a script in six weeks. (Rikshaw is a co-producer.)
For the actors and creative team, "Girl" hits close to home.
"Healing old family stuff is what this film is about," Jensen said, referencing his own close shave with death. "Love and forgiveness are difficult things but they're worthwhile."