On Location

Getting your business on the big screen

By Kevyn Burger
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Do you have an interesting lobby in your office? A conference room with a view? Or do you run a hardware store, a barber shop, an assembly plant or a hip ad agency?

The Minnesota Film and TV Board would like to take a look, and it might land your space on the big — or little — screen.

The state’s nonprofit commission that promotes Minnesota as a place to produce movies, television shows, commercials and videos is building a database of intriguing locations in the state, and finding business backdrops is part of the effort.

“We’re trying to get the word out to facilities that would be interested in posting photos of their locations,” says Lucinda Winter, the board’s executive director.

Filmmakers like shooting in Minnesota because of the diversity of visual settings here — there are urban and rural neighborhoods, plus an arresting array of forests, lakes and bluffs that create beauty shots for backdrops.

“But we also get calls from filmmakers who are looking for something that could look like a call center or a collection agency, or maybe a bank office where the actors are signing papers in a scene,” explains Winter. “Just recently we had someone who wanted to shoot in a shoe store.”

Why should you let the lights, camera and action invade your work space?

“There are location fees attached to the project, and production companies come with location insurance,” Winter says. “It’s disruptive but it can be worth it. We’ve gone into offices full of cubicles that had been vacated and were sitting empty. It was a way to turn some income on that space.”

The Minnesota Film and TV website recently added a submissions portal where businesses and other property owners can upload pictures of their space for scouts to scrutinize as they make their first pass at picking a location. The site comes complete with a tutorial on how to photograph space to make the best impression in the showcase.

“By posting photos, you don’t commit to anything, but it can put you in the running and you can negotiate a deal,” Winter says.

With imagination, many locations can be transformed into the backdrop of what a director is seeking.

“There’s demand for medical space but it’s very difficult to get into a real hospital. Just recently, we had someone looking for an emergency room setting and we found one of the technical colleges that has a nurses training area set up like mini ER,” she adds. “The producer loved it and for the school it was found money.”

The film industry is on the upswing in Minnesota, jump started by the so-called Snowbate bill passed in 2013; it gives film and production companies a 20 to 25% reimbursement for production costs incurred in the state. Since the legislature approved the incentive, 189 projects — movies, television shows, web series, commercials and more — have been certified to receive the money back.

Winter says those projects have created more than 4,000 production jobs and pumped an estimated $80 million into the local economy.