A nationally-recognized film non-profit based in St. Paul will soon establish permanent headquarters in a historic building on University Avenue, bringing new brick-and-mortar prominence to the film community in the Midwest.
FilmNorth, an organization providing an array of educational and professional services to filmmakers and other artists, will settle permanently next year into a four-story, art deco building at 2441 University Avenue.
FilmNorth Executive Director Andrew Peterson told Bring Me The News he hopes the new space will raise the visibility of filmmaking in Minnesota and inspire more artists to pick up a camera and tell their stories.
“When we talk about the arts community here, I do oftentimes feel like film is the forgotten jewel," Peterson said.
And while the film community may seem under the local radar at times, Minnesota filmmakers are changing the culture of the filmmaking industry nationwide, he explained.
Prominent filmmaker Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is one example.
Corbine Jr. received support from FilmNorth while developing and producing his first feature film, Wild Indian. Last year, Wild Indian premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received four Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations, including a nomination for best feature film.
Screenwriter Wenonah Wilms, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is another Minnesota artist boosting the prominence of the region's film scene.
Wilms worked with FilmNorth while a McKnight Foundation Fellow in 2018 and was later hired to co-write a Netflix pilot.
“There’s New York and there’s LA and there’s 300 million people in between," Peterson said, adding FilmNorth's new headquarters will help expand the organization's reach and mission to uplift artists from all backgrounds.
In turn, he said, they hope to fix the "broken pipeline" leading artists into the film industry.
“If you look at filmmaking as a pipeline for talent, that’s the end of the pipeline," he said. "The beginning of the pipeline is kids.”
Internships, after-school filmmaking, summer camp and an annual film academy are some of FilmNorth's youth outreach programs.
A host of fellowships, awards, screenings and educational programs support artists of all ages.
“We work with filmmakers throughout their entire careers," Peterson said. “There is so much talent here — a lot of artists just really need to know that somebody has got their back.”
The new space
Peterson said FilmNorth will leave its space on Vandalia Street once the new headquarters open next summer.
The organization will co-own its new building in partnership with the architectural firm behind the renovation, D/O Architects.
FilmNorth's headquarters will span roughly two floors and D/O Architects will be housed on the third floor. Rental income generated from leases of the building's remaining space will be shared equally between the two partners.
A combination of tax-credits — designed to support private investment in low-income communities and historic reuse projects — will cover nearly 60% of the $10.6 million project, according to FilmNorth.
The new space will feature state-of-the-art editing suites, classrooms and a 52-seat cinema.
Peterson said the new headquarters will be a place for all artists to be supported.
"Media binds all art forms together," he said. "Our space is a space for artists."