Greg Kinnear

(credit: ATO Pictures)

When Greg Kinnear was shooting his new movie Thin Ice in the Twin Cities two years ago, the production went under the title The Convincer.

The Jill Sprecher-directed film shot a number of scenes around the metro area, including right in WCCO-TV’s own backyard.

The movie, which also stars Billy Crudup and Alan Arkin, is described as a twisty neo-noir not far removed from the Coen Brothers’ classic Fargo.

The movie opens this weekend at the Lagoon Theater.

Below is Mark Rosen and producer Paula Engelking’s story about the making of the film, which originally ran on March 2, 2010.


Minnesotans are familiar with the Coen Brothers, but there’s another pair of filmmaking siblings in town making a movie. Jill and Karen Sprecher, sisters who grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote the screenplay for The Convincer. Jill Sprecher is directing the film this month in the Twin Cities.

The Convincer stars Greg Kinnear as a corrupt insurance man who wants to get his hands on his client’s violin. Most of the film is set in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Filmmakers shot a scene Tuesday behind WCCO-TV outside Dahl Violin Shop. In the film, Dahl Violin shop is located in Chicago. In one of the scenes shot today, Greg Kinnear’s character stops to count an envelope full of money before getting into his car.

Owner Bob Black said location scouts visited his shop several times before the shooting began. He is taking a break from violin repair while the film is being made. Black remembers sharing the big news that a movie was being made at his business. “You say, ‘Hey, there’s a movie being, a scene of a movie, being played here,’ I think I called my mother right away.”

Minnesota wasn’t a shoo-in for the production, despite the fact that film producers Christine Walker and Elizabeth Redleaf live in town. Under Minnesota’s Snowbate rebate program, the filmmakers get 15 percent of their Minnesota spending back. That’s far less than Michigan, which gives back 42 percent; or Georgia or Illinois, which offer 30 percent rebates.

“It would be nice if there were better incentives,” said Walker. “I don’t think…if we didn’t need the snow, we would not be shooting here.”

Walker says the production will pump about five million dollars into Minnesota’s economy. “We’ve hired 95 people here on this crew, and they’re full-time people,” said Walker.

They’re people like makeup artist Mary Flaa, who also worked on the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. “We try to make handsome men look more handsome, if you can believe that,” said Flaa. In addition to Kinnear, the film also features Alan Arkin and Billy Crudup.

Dan Carroll is an out-of-work printer. He heard about a cattle call for extras on WCCO-TV. He showed up and landed the part of Kinnear’s stand-in. His qualifications? “5’10”, 175 pounds and kind of a jaw line that was kind of similar,” said Carroll. He’s determined to keep the job as long as the shooting continues. “As long as you show up on time and you work hard, pay close attention because you have to be Johnny on the spot, then you keep getting the part,” said Carroll.

Makeup artist Carroll said, “It feels great to have another movie in town, we hope to have more.” That’s not very likely given Governor Pawlenty’s plans to eliminate the Minnesota Film and TV Board along with its Snowbate program.

Walker testified at the Legislature last week. She wants Minnesota to give more support to filmmakers, not less. “Minnesota would be wise to look at the arts and entertainment industry as one that could help grow the economy here in Minnesota,” said Walker.


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