Independent film shot in Minnesota has 'Fargo' tiesArea News
-- The Zellner brothers nearly retraced some of the Coen brothers’ famed filmmaking footsteps in Minnesota.
By: Scott Wente , Pierce County Herald
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- The Zellner brothers nearly retraced some of the Coen brothers’ famed filmmaking footsteps in Minnesota.
A crew led by Austin, Texas, filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner spent several days recently shooting in local communities for an independent film whose plot plays off a scene from the 1996 Joel and Ethan Coen hit movie “Fargo.”
Filming for the modest-budget indie film “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” quietly brought a roughly 30-person crew to a number of local areas including Afton Alps ski resort.
They also shot at Newport Drug and the North Pole Restaurant, both just across the highway from Tinucci’s Restaurant, where a scene from “Fargo” was filmed nearly 18 years earlier.
Crew members released few details about “Kumiko,” saying recent shooting involved a cast member whose name might generate unwanted buzz during filming. However, some plot details trickled out as the crew made its way through south Washington County.
The film is based on a scene in the fictional “Fargo,” in which a bumbling crook played by actor Steve Buscemi hides nearly $1 million of ransom money near a fence in a snowy Minnesota field.
The ransom money is never found in “Fargo,” which sets up the plot for “Kumiko.” In the independent film, Kumiko is a young Japanese woman who travels to Minnesota convinced the money-stashing scene from “Fargo” is in fact real and searches for the unclaimed loot.
The few plot details that were released are similar to an actual incident in 2001. A Japanese woman had traveled to Minnesota and North Dakota late that year and died near Detroit Lakes, Minn. Circumstances around her visit and death led to a theory that she had been searching for the fictional “Fargo” ransom money, a tale later debunked.
“Kumiko” officials were coy when asked about the similarities.
“It’s based on an urban myth,” Thompson, the production staffer, only would say of the new film.
Production is expected to be complete in late 2013, with the goal of premiering it at an international film festival in early 2014, Thompson said.
Minnesota-based film location manager Anne Healy estimated the film’s budget at around $1 million.
Years in the making
Healy said “Kumiko” is a few years in the making. Healy said the Zellner brothers were in Minnesota about two years ago scouting locations for their film.
The brothers passed through Newport and on a whim decided to stop for coffee at North Pole Restaurant in the Newport Center shopping mall.
“We walked into the diner and they were like, ‘this is perfect,’” Healy recalled.
The Zellners, who write and direct independent films, liked the vintage 1960s-looking diner and adjoining drug store, both owned by the North family, and added them to the list for shooting.
Shooting in Newport started late last month. The crew shot at the North Pole and the adjacent drug store late on a Sunday afternoon and packing up before the diner’s Monday morning breakfast rush.
“It was neat to see how much work goes into a movie,” said Brian North, who negotiated the crew’s use of his family’s businesses and was on scene during the filming.
The crew also shot scenes in Cottage Grove and two weeks ago rented out the United Church of Christ in Old Cottage Grove.
Last week, they wrapped up shooting a scene near a section of barbed-wire fencing in a snowy field — a scene resembling the fictional location of the ransom money in “Fargo.” The crew also used snow-making machines to create a blizzard in the area.
The crew did use some of the North Pole’s regular diners as extras in a scene. North said that in the scenes shot at their location, Kumiko walks through the restaurant and into the adjacent drug store, where she looks at a postcard rack and buys cigarettes.
“It was great to have something outside of the mundane wintertime here in Minnesota,” he said.