A nationally acclaimed St. Paul-based film nonprofit will soon establish its permanent headquarters in a historic building on University Avenue, bringing new physical prominence to the Midwestern film community.
FilmNorth, an organization providing a range of educational and professional services to filmmakers and other artists, will move into a permanent four-story art deco building at 2441 University Avenue next year.
FilmNorth executive director Andrew Peterson told Bring Me The News he hopes the new space will increase the visibility of cinema in Minnesota and inspire more artists to pick up a camera and tell their stories.
“When we talk about the arts community here, I often feel like cinema is the forgotten gem,” Peterson said.
And while the film community can sometimes seem under the local radar, Minnesota filmmakers are changing the culture of the film 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 during the development and production of his first feature film, wild indian. Last year, wild indian premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received four Film Independent Spirit Award nominations, including a nomination for Best Feature.
Screenwriter Wenonah Wilms, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is another Minnesota artist boosting awareness of the area’s film scene.
Wilms worked with FilmNorth while a 2018 McKnight Foundation Fellow 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,” said Peterson, adding that FilmNorth’s new headquarters will help expand the organization’s reach and mission to elevate artists from all walks of life.
In turn, he said, they hope to fix the “broken pipeline” of major artists in the film industry.
“If you think of filmmaking as a talent pipeline, that’s the end of the pipeline,” he said. “The beginning of the pipeline is the children.”
Internships, after-school filmmaking, summer camp and an annual film academy are some of FilmNorth’s youth outreach programs.
A multitude of scholarships, awards, screenings and educational programs support artists of all ages.
“We work with filmmakers throughout their careers,” Peterson said. “There’s so much talent here – a lot of artists just really need to know someone’s behind them.”
The new space
Peterson said FilmNorth will vacate its space on Vandalia Street once the new headquarters opens 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 approximately two floors and D/O Architects will be located on the third floor. The rental income generated by the leases of the remaining space in the building 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 include state-of-the-art editing rooms, classrooms and a 52-seat cinema.
Peterson said the new headquarters will be a place where all artists are supported.
“Media connects all forms of art,” he said. “Our space is a space for artists.”