This is a big week for Minnesota film, with two major movies filmed here in the past year premiering: “A Serious Man” by the Coen brothers, and “nobody,” a film written and directed by Hollywood screenwriter Rob Perez. Lately, given Governor Tim Pawlenty’s apparent lack of interest in using greater incentives to draw film crews to the state, anyone who films a major motion picture in Minnesota has either sentimental or other extenuating circumstances for doing so. It ain’t the cost. And other locally scripted movies, such as “Juno” and “Gran Torino,” have been filmed elsewhere (Canada and Michigan, respectively) for just that reason.
I talked with Perez about “nobody,” which opens tonight in a red-carpet premiere at the Historic State Theatre in Minneapolis, and about his hopes for local film. We caught up at the cast-and-crew screening held last week at the Riverview theater, a much less formal experience, in which the audience shouts and whistles their appreciation when a friend appears onscreen. Perez, looking just a little more California than Minnesota in an open-necked, untucked shirt and mile-high hair, gushed about shooting here: “This town looks gorgeous,” he said. “Try shooting a good-looking movie in Cleveland.”
His directorial debut is smartly edited and very well-acted by the largely local cast. Perez cautions thirty-something reviewers like myself, however, that it’s aimed at the 18 to 25-year-old market. There’s more zaniness and scenes that read as non-sequiturs than you’d expect in a more “adult” feature. And at points, in this story of a young sculptor trying to find his muse at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, I indeed wondered if I would appreciate it more if I were popping Adderall to combat ADHD. Compared to Perez’s biggest success, the Harnett vehicle “40 Days and 40 Nights,” this film lacks some of the narrative pull—there isn’t as much at stake from scene to scene, and little suspense is generated. It’s quiet, that way, and best appreciated as an insight into youth culture.
I asked Perez if the runaway success of “Juno” would mean wider doors for indie films like “nobody.” “It’s got to compete in a market, and if it’s good it will be seen,” he declared, suggesting the door was always open to anything of quality. “No amount of marketing will make you go see a movie you don’t want to see.” He also dismissed the idea that “Juno” appeared to come from nowhere, with low expectations. “I think they knew what they had all along, don’t you?” he said.
Perez has said, in the pages of this magazine, that he would continue to work in Minnesota if it seemed viable, so I asked him what he had concluded. Nothing yet, as it turns out. “We’re in the process of answering that right now,” he said, sweeping his hand across the lobby. If the movie does well, in other words, we may have Perez hauling his camera around town for some time to come.
Pictured: (Top) Co-writer-Director Rob Perez evaluates a set-up from behind the camera on the set of ‘nobody,’ the story of one man’s bumbling search for inspiration. Photo by Mark Higashino c 2009 Cider Mills Pictures. (Below) Zach (Ryan Lundberg), Fiona (Bonnie Somerville), Lindeman (Sam Rosen), Alec (Tyler Jensen) and Edie (Beth Riesgraf) judge their fellow students art work in ‘nobody.’ Photo by Mark Higashino c 2009 Cider Mills Pictures.