NODAK FILMS WANTS YOU, AND YOUR MONEY by Robert Morast
From Friday November 20 edition of the Fargo Forum
If you’re from North Dakota and give $100 to NoDak Films, Nathan Anderson says he will put you in a movie.
Some people will read that and instantly think “this sounds like a scam.”
It kind of does.
But Anderson isn’t a Nigerian e-mailer with alien grammar asking to get into your bank account. And he’s not trying to sell his “clout” with movie stars to star-struck Prairie people.
Anderson’s just a North Dakota native trying to make a movie about, in and featuring the state’s people without the help of Hollywood.
His business model is simple. He’s asking for 1,889 people (get it, North Dakota was founded in 1889) to donate $100 toward the production of his movie, “Last Summer for Boys.”
In return, every person who contributes a C-note to his movie will be featured in the film about a guy who returns to the small town of his youth after leaving big-city life.
Businesses and small towns (population of 5,000 or less) can also contribute and be seen in a scene.
But whether you’re a civilian or a city, you have to be from North Dakota. Anderson says there won’t be any Minnesotans, South Dakotans or Canadians sneaking into his movie – unless, they were originally from NoDak.
It’s going to be all North Dakota all the time. And, despite the fact that our state feels like it’s a million miles from Hollywood, that’s exactly the way Anderson wants it.
Anderson knows California. After earning a degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, the Plaza, N.D., native who graduated from Minot High School in 1997 moved to Cali to teach high school English.
But rather than realize his movie dreams in the Golden State, Anderson returned home (kind of like his movie’s main character) to make a film that reflects the state where he grew up. He wanted the essence of the film to be “North Dakota,” down to the characters and the set locations.
“If you sell your screenplay to Hollywood you can really lose the integrity of what this was,” Anderson says. “The integrity was and is a North Dakota vision.”
That’s why he’s going with the homegrown grass- roots approach for funding. But even if he raises enough money (he says he’s about
10 percent there) before the scheduled start date of next summer, there’s the question of whether anyone who paid to be in the film will ever see themselves on the big screen.
Because, talking to some friends in the Los Angeles film scene, I was told the hard part isn’t making or fundraising for a film, it’s getting a movie studio interested in distributing it. And my friends say without big-name stars, Hollywood won’t care about “Last Summer for Boys.”
Anderson isn’t too worried about that mindset.
“No, that’s one of the problems with independent movie makers. They will make a movie and rely on Hollywood to sell it,” Anderson says. “We’re actually including (film) distribution into our funding.”
He says the plan is to release the movie in North Dakota first – with a spring 2011 target date, then grow it into other markets before releasing it on DVD. Assuming it goes well, sells tickets and DVDs, Anderson will use the profits to fund another film that will probably be made in North Dakota.
“We just want to make movies that are inspired by and have North Dakotans in them,” Anderson says.
Anyone interested in being part of Anderson’s Dakota pride can contribute through the NoDak Films Web site,
North Dakota Young Professional (YP interview) Member Profile
Friday, October 23, 2009, 04:13 PM
I was randomly chosen from the network of North Dakota Young Professionals, but it was fun answering the questions...
Name: Nathan Anderson Marital status/kids: Married / 3 kids (Son 5, Daughter 3 1/2 and Son 16 months)
Where did you go to college and what did you graduate with? Moorhead State University - BA English 2002
Where are you working and what is your job there? I am the founder and owner of NoDak Films. (www.nodakfilms.com)
What other organizations and/or clubs are you involved with? Each of my kids feels like an organization, so three.
What is your NDYP network involvement? I’m a member.
What relationships have you built through your membership in NDYP? I want to build relationships around my company NoDak Films -- we need NDYPs to embrace a 21st century business/industry for North Dakota.
What is your biggest dream/goal? Make movies set in and inspired by North Dakota and meet Lance Armstrong on a mutual level.
What fictional or cinematic character would you most like to have dinner with, and why? Paul Maclean from 'A River Runs Through It' -- See the movie to find out why!
What music is most on your playlist lately? Nate West (www.nabruralfolk.com)
What is your "must-see" or "must-do" thing in North Dakota? My brother-in-law and sister's farm in Plaza, ND.
NoDak Films first Town Contribution (and what a town)....
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 10:23 AM
Backstory: I grew up in a small farming town called Plaza (50 miles SW of Minot). The population now is listed at 155 people, I know most of them and they know me and they know NoDak Films.
The other day I received a deposit receipt from Edward Jones where NoDak Films has the Business Bank Account. I assumed it was from one of the contributors I sent a contribution packet out to:
See, if someone wants to contribute, whether through there own inspections of NoDak Films or through a call from me, they receive a contribution packet that includes a cover letter, my business card, a sticker, A CONTRACT, and a STAMPED AND ADDRESSED ENVELOPE TO EDWARD JONES. An individual or business signs the contract, slips a check made out to NoDak Films into the envelope along with the signed contract and drops the envelope into the mail. Edward Jones receives the contribution and I receive a Deposit Receipt.
I opened the letter and looked toward the "description" to see who contributed:
PLAZA COMMUNITY CLUB
It was like a shot of adrenaline to the arm. The town where I grew up. Where I spent my imaginative years. Where my sister and brother-in-law and two of my nephews and niece still live. In the words of Norman MacLean from 'A River Runs Through It,' a place with dew still on it. The town of Plaza, North Dakota contributed to NoDak Films.
The picture below is the front yard of my sister's place just outside town in Plaza -- NoDak Films first town contribution and a place where the dew stuck to my sneakers.
Time has passed, but the message remains as strong as ever...
Friday, October 13, 2006 (Three years ago)
Welcome To NoDak Films -- an interview with founder Nathan Anderson (from lonelyprairie.net)
Q: Why is it important to have movies of high caliber associated with North Dakota? Do you think this has happened yet?
A: I would call the movies I wish to make necessary for our state - a creative way to illuminate others to the interesting and often over-looked dynamics of North Dakota under the guise of a great pseudo-fictional film, while simultaneously sparking economic growth, creative growth, and a positive external/internal image of our state. Whether these films will be considered high-caliber is not up to me, but I'm going to make the best damn film(s) I can. To answer the second part of your question: 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. I use adult language and adult situations, more specifically 20something situations.
Q: You sent out an email via the North Dakota Council on the Arts. In this email, you mentioned that you were trying to redraw North Dakota conciousness. Can you explain that a little bit?
A: By redrawing the North Dakota consciousness, in affect, I am isolating everything I know about North Dakota and redistributing it on film. My brother-in-law is a farmer in Plaza, my sister works at a bank in Parshall, my dad is a Lutheran pastor in Western North Dakota and my mom works at Minot State. I want my 10-year-old nephew to take over the farm. I want my father to continue preaching in Western North Dakota. I want my brother-in-law to continue farming. I want North Dakota to be recognized as a viable artist retreat and creative resource by using topics recognizable to every North Dakotan and interesting/intriguing to those who only think North Dakota is below Canada, near Montana and Minnesota, somehow connected to South Dakota, cold, barren, flat and utterly hopeless. North Dakota's consciousness is really my way to change how others consciously view our state.
Q: Do you think the value of positive film experiences for the state would bring in more revenue than other art forms? Would it draw in a wider interest area?
A: I had a great conversation with Sten Iverson who is the manager of the Montana Film Office. He sent me a report produced by the Montana Commerce Department, Montana Film Commission and in conjunction with Arts Market, Inc. The report outlines the positive impacts of the film industry on Montana's economy. The report is very detailed and shows that Montana has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars of revenue as a result of the films made there. I believe North Dakota could also be the beneficiary of substantial revenue with positive film experiences. My kind of film would draw wider interest because again, my films would illuminate our strengths as a state and not isolate the stereotypes.
Q: Would these films be all genres, eventually? (documentaries, fiction, etc.)
A: In addition to the screenplay, I have two treatments about two films, which are completely different from one another and the former so right now I have 3 legitimate North Dakota films that touch on a myriad of North Dakota topics.
Q: Have you spoken with other artisans across the state who are struggling to make a living in their art form? Do you think North Dakota is open and arts-friendly at a people level (i.e. the citizens, not the universities or art groups)? Do you think film has a better chance than more traditional forms of art?
A: When I lived in Fargo, I was a part of that scene: I lived in the Gardner, hung out at Zandbroz and Atomic Coffee and Trentinos and Bosnian House and Luigis (when they had the open mike). I was a writer though and didn't spend a lot of time at Plains Art or the Moorhead art gallery, but I hung out with visual artists. North Dakota is arts-friendly because we have no reason to be pretentious and because there are so many traditional artists who are the only expert in the state so they want to share their talent with others. I feel strongly about film because that's what I'm dedicated to, along with writing. I don't have the knowledge to form a bias towards other genres, but that's why this process will not be individualistic, everyone will be accounted for.
I went to the grocery store today after I picked my kids up from daycare. I bought three bottles of wine and some Milk Chocolate bars. I wasn’t going to buy the milk chocolate bars, but I had been fasting all day because my friends were…
My wife is a graduate student at UC Berkeley (working on a PhD) and we live in Family Housing. I work on NoDak Films from home and I am mostly alone in our office (which I have taken over)…
The motto for Family Housing is “The World in one Village” and this statement is just as pure as when I sit at my brother-in-law and sister’s farm in Plaza and breathe it all in…
A few of my neighbors, who are now friends, are from Israel and they just celebrated Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Custom, among other things, includes a 24-hour period of fasting. According to my neighbor, Yom Kippur is the one-day out of the year she misses home the most because Israel is a ghost town (by law and custom) the entire day…
My wife and I decided to fast, not because we are Jewish or because Berkeley has made me a hippy, but because I respect these people like I respect my friends back in North Dakota. I maintained my level of involvement after 2 cups of coffee at 7:30am – nothing to drink, nothing to eat until supper. My wife maintained her level of involvement – she had to drink water because she was working, nothing to eat until supper.
My stomach did not grumble, which surprised me the most. I am working on a grant in the hopes the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission will see the value in NoDak Films, our first movie and our model as it pertains to the Agricultural sector of North Dakota. I mention this presently because the grant application is due in a few days and I have yet to overnight it…
I took the change from the grocer and packed the kids in the car again, drove home, gave a bottle of wine to my neighbors because the time to eat and drink was near. I couldn’t wait to eat and drink and was becoming giddy thinking about it.
The whole day I wore the pants my son picked out for Father’s Day; the same pants I wore everyday at this summer’s North Dakota State Fair. I made dinner (my wife was preparing for a training she’s giving soon and would get home just after supper). I drank wine, my body relaxed and I walked back and forth to the office to organize the (4) APUC grant application copies and supplements laying on the floor. The kids went to bed, I sat on the couch for a bit and watched the new Ken Burns documentary about National Parks and John Muir’s last few years and his letters to Teddy Roosevelt.
At around that time, sitting at one end of the couch, the change from my pocket slipped comfortably out of my pocket. One quarter and one dime. I picked up the quarter first because we still use coin laundry and turned it over…
There it was:
TWO BISON GRAZING IN FRONT OF A RISING SUN AS THE BADLANDS LEVELED OUT THE HORIZON.
I wasn’t as excited as I might have been two years ago, but I understood the symbolism and tried to capture it with an old digital camera whose batteries were so worn I greased the ends with my saliva – to no avail. I didn’t capture the image, but the quarter is next to me as I try to find the meaning of a dime made in 1967.
todd holdman Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 09:41 AM Great story.
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