Pipestone's small-town feel fits well for short film setting
PIPESTONE -- Producer and film maker Jennifer Kramer stumbled upon Pipestone during a Google search, but from what she could see online, she said she knew she had found the location to film the short film "The Sand Box." On Monday, Kramer will be in Pipestone to share more about the project and for the screening of her other short film, "Looking Past You."
Kramer said she is naturally drawn to stories of the people whom society has forgotten or left behind.
"I like to work on films and tell stories about parts of society that are marginalized and typically over looked," she said.
"Looking Past You" is no different and tells the story of an 85-year old military widow who "is tired of how society treats her and decides to take the law into her own hands. ... This story, it looks at ageism and how our society treats the elderly and women in particular," Kramer explained.
The idea for the film was inspired by a comment actress Diane Keaton made about how there comes a point in every woman's life when she isn't looked at any more but is looked past.
"And so someone is in their 80s who has this life and is constantly being overlooked. The film also has underlying tones about how we treat the military, and how once the war is over, they are also forgotten," she added.
The short film is 20 minutes long and has recently been picked up by the Pentagon Channel.
"It's airing worldwide, on every military base and in over 35 million American homes. It's really touching," Kramer said.
While Kramer said she didn't intend to become a film maker who focused on military topics, her next film, "The Sand Box" will continue with the same theme, this time told through the eyes of a 10 year-old boy whose father is a veteran recently returned from the Iraq war.
"It looks at the residual or ripple effects of war," Kramer said of the film, "and how the war affects not only the solider and the homecoming period, but how the war keeps on impacting the family and, in particular, the children of military families.
While drawing obvious references to childhood and the main character, the phrase, "sand box" is also often used as slang in the military for Iraq.
To research the film, Kramer has been working with veterans through the Rock County Veterans Office.
"I've been doing research for about eight months and have been helping to tell the vets' stories," she said.
When Kramer started looking for filming locations, she said had an idea of what she was looking for and knew she wanted to stay in Minnesota.
"I was looking for that Midwest, small-town, sort of Mayberry feel, and wanted to stay in the state of Minnesota for transportation reasons and to give business to the State of Minnesota. I saw Pipestone and Luverne and saw that they really have this strong, small-town feel," she said.
For Kramer, finding the right filming location was just as important as casting the right actors.
"In a lot of ways, a town has a character in the film too. It's not just the actors. The audience can take a lot of feeling and emotion from the location and Pipestone fit the bill," she said.
It wasn't until she became more familiar with Pipestone and Luverne that she realized the communities also have a strong military presence.
"It's been very fortuitous," she said of the whole process.
Kramer will begin shooting the film on June 22, during Pipestone's Watertower Festival Parade. The remainder of the film will be shot throughout the summer.
"I will use Main Street, definitely, and there is the water tower -- my dream shot is of the 10 year-old boy going up the steps of the water tower. I'll use some of the store fronts too. There is a bridge outside of Pipestone that I'll be interested in filming with railroad tracks and a couple of bars that I've been looking at that I may use as well," she said.
Mick Myers, executive director of the Pipestone Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the project will be beneficial to Pipestone and the surrounding area.
"When she decided she wanted to do "The Sand Box" story in southwest Minnesota and Pipestone, in particular, we were very excited because, number one, the subject is going to be very interesting, but it's also nice to see southwest Minnesota and Pipestone, as a community, featured. This type of exposure is good and something we're always looking for," he said.
In addition to benefiting the tourism of the area, Myers said having a film project in Pipestone will be good for the youth of Pipestone.
"It will give the kids in our community a look into the film industry. It isn't something that is often in our area, and it's something that will be of interest to the community and how you do a project like this," he said.
So far, Kramer has had a positive experience with Pipestone and said she is looking forward to working with the community in the future.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity to be able to work in that area. I've found the people to be so welcoming and supportive and I am looking forward to generating interest in that part of the state," she said.
"Looking Past You" will be shown at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center. Jennifer Kramer will also be present to answer questions about the film and her upcoming project, "The Sand Box."
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.