A Visit with MN Film Board Veteran Riki McManus

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Welcome to Minnesota. Photo courtesy John Heino Photography.

I met Riki McManus when she was casting extras for the 1993 Disney film Iron Will which was shot here in the Northland. Our paths have crossed numerous times over the years, most recently at a few Duluth Superior Film Festival events, of which she has played the role of Filmmaker Liaison. One of the many feathers in her extensive resume was being responsible for securing all the Minnesota speaking roles and extras casting for the feature film Purple Rain.

The list of films that have been shot here in Minnesota is extensive, in part due to the Minnesota Film Board and the work of people like McManus. Everyone knows that Fargo was filmed here, but did you know Airport, Slaughterhouse Five, Far North, Catch Me If You Can, Little Big League, and Grumpier Old Men. The is ten times this in length.

Riki, director of the Upper MN Film Office, has become involved with the Catalyst Festival devoted to “series television,” now making its headquarters in Duluth in its 14th season. At the Catalyst meeting that I wrote about here, she shared her perspective on why making movies in our region get her jazzed.

“I think that behind the scenes is the most interesting part. Did you know that the last 5 minutes of The Good Son was shot up the shore? In just one day they spent over $30,000 at the Beaver Bay Hardware Store. When you look around on a set you will see a lot of blue collar workers: carpenters, electricians, caterers, make-up artists, seamstresses etc… What I see when I am on a set is job creation. That is what I get excited about.”

It reminds me of the story of how different people look at a tree. One sees a poem, another sees a chair, a third sees a place to put up a swing for her grandson.

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EN: How did you get involved with ITV Fest which is now re-branded as Catalyst? What is the aim of Catalyst?

Riki McManus: I met the Executive Director of Catalyst, Philip Gilpin Jr. after he was the keynote speaker for WebFest which was held in the Twin Cities. The Executive Director of the MN Film TV Board, Melodie Bahan, was at the festival. When they were chatting, Philip mentioned that he was looking to move ITVFest. They were in Vermont and they had pretty much outgrown the area. When he told Melodie some of the specifics of what he was looking for she said he had just described Duluth.

Shortly after that we brought him up to Duluth to show him around, and it really was not a hard sales job at all. It was exactly what he was looking for: An area that supported the arts, a major airport, colorful foliage in October, and a state that had supported this industry. It’s just what he was looking for.

The aim of Catalyst is to bring the executives of HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Disney, etc. together with the creatives in a more intimate setting away from the hustle and bustle of either coast. As they meet and have the opportunity to hear about the projects, as well as seeing some on the big screen, it starts a relationship that helps the content makers to meet the people who may be interested in their shows or ideas. There will be around 500 meetings that will be set up at the event in October.

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Riki (R) with actress Keely Gelineau

EN: In addition to the current Catalyst Festival assembling a talent and resources guide of sorts for the Northland, can you elaborate on the Production Guide project?

RM: What we want to do in addition to showing the executives and content makers these amazing locations that we have to offer is that we also have the cast, crew and vendors here to support their productions. They do not have to bring everyone from either coast. We have people here that are very capable of doing those jobs. That is why we want to hand them a production guide that will show them the resources that we have here, from people to locations. There will be a produced piece that every attendee will receive as well as access to an online guide.

EN: How can we help get the word out and make this guide as complete as possible? What is the website and where people can find more information?

RM: Our team of Keely Gelineau, Katie Strand, Beth Austin, Lance Karasti and photographer JoAnn Jardine of Studio One and myself are actively going out and we are having Town Meetings in various cities in the Upper MN Region. We are also going through Visitor’s Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce to speak to the business people and share how they too can get their free listing. A link is being set up on www.catalystories.com to access the Production Guide and sign up. Or you can contact Keely at keely@catalystories.com or Katie at katie@catalystories.com.

RM: I think this is a game changer for our region and I am so excited to be a part of it!

EN: I believe it has that kind of potential, and I look forward to helping get the word out.

Written by

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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