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'Twilight' star Spencer back in Minnesota for Twin Cities Film Fest

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Chaske Spencer, who starred as Wolf Pack leader Sam Uley in "The Twilight Saga," says he's excited to be back in the Minnesota this weekend to show his latest film at the Twin Cities Film Festival.

Spencer, who was in town last year to promote the first part of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," came back in Thursday for the opening night of the TCFF, and will participate in the screening and panel discussion Saturday of his latest film, the drama "Winter in the Blood."

"It's an art house movie -- I don't want to say it's dark, but it should impact an audience," Spencer told me in an interview Friday. "I filmed it in between the 'Twilight' movies."

"Winter in the Blood" will screen at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and organizers added a second screening at 11 p.m. The festival is being held at the ShowPlace ICON Theatre in St. Louis Park.

Directed by twins Alex and Andrew J. Smith, the film tells the story of Virgil First Raise (Spencer), a man who tries to make sense of his life after waking up in a ditch on the hardscrabble plains of Montana, hung over and badly beaten. After having vision of his dead father lying frozen at his feet, he returns home to find his wife has left him along with his beloved rifle -- the mere beginning of an odyssey of experiencing people and events that may be real or not.

Spencer says there was a stark contrast between "Twilight" and "Winter in the Blood," not only in tone, but in dollars. After all, he says, his latest film is an independent production.

"The budget was definitely a big difference, but that was cool," Spencer said, smiling. "That way we had to be creative, but that's the great thing about independent film, you get to hold on to your integrity as an artist."

Julia Jones -- who starred opposite Spencer in "The Twilight Saga" -- also stars in the film as Virgil's wife.

Spencer knows that he's still attracting attention for playing Sam in the "Twilight" films, and he's definitely OK with fans of the series checking out his new work because of his participation in the blockbuster films. That's because while any artist never wants to be associated with one film or film series, Spencer says you have to embrace whatever notoriety you get because it ultimately helps get other projects made.

"I'm always grateful for being involved in a franchise like 'Twilight,' because without that, I wouldn't be here," Spencer says. "It's allowed me to do a lot of independent films. I have another one coming up called 'Desert Cathedral' that should be on the film festival circuit soon, and another one called 'Shouting Secrets.' I've been very fortunate that it's given me a career."

With any luck, Spencer will be returning to the Twin Cities Film Festival next year with the drama "The Jingle Dress," a Minnesota-made film that's still in production.

"I spent about three weeks here, and we filmed all around Nicollet Island, in Minneapolis and the outskirts of Minnesota," Spencer says.

Directed by Bill Eigen, "The Jingle Dress" tells the story of an Ojibwe family's new cultural experiences as they move from the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota to Minneapolis' Phillips neighborhood.

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