FARGO — A fresh-faced redhead stands up near the graffiti-covered wall and nervously starts telling a story to a handful of people sitting in folding chairs in front of him.
"My buddy visited North Dakota last week and was surprised by the weather. I said, 'What did you expect. It's got 'coat' written in its name?' "
His joke falls flat. But as he continues to talk, the laughter starts to build. A blonde woman leaning up against the wall whispers to herself, "Looks like somebody found his niche."
"Cut!" yells a dark-haired woman a few feet away. "Moving on to scene 28 now."
The scene playing out in the old Goodyear building in downtown Fargo featuring Luke Spencer Roberts and Tara Holt (the dark-haired woman is assistant director Melinda Mascayano) was part of the first day of filming for "Tankhouse", a comedy produced by Los Angeles-based Momentum Studios and Click Content Studios, a Forum Communications production company. The film tells the story of two New York theater actors who come to Fargo to start a theatrical revolution and features big-name stars like Richard Kind and Christopher Lloyd.
The film has been in the works for more than a year, but Monday, Sept. 16, was the first time cameras started to roll.
"I got chills when the first scene was being shot. It was unreal," said Executive Producer Jim Manney, who works for Click Content Studio and has been working closely with the L.A.-based crew since April.
"I don't think people realize all of the details that go into something like this — all of the paperwork, page after page of it, so it's rewarding to see it all come together today."
The film's writers Chelsea Frei and Noam Tomaschoff, producer Matt Cooper and set designers have been in Fargo for days helping turn the old Goodyear building at Broadway and Fourth Avenue North into the staging area for the production including a space inside to shoot a majority of scenes for the next few days as well as an area for crew to work and eat. The old tire bay has been transformed into an abandoned distillery (complete with prop liquor bottles labeled "Norsk Gods Aquavit Likor,") the setting where the two characters are holding auditions for their new Tankhouse theatre company.
"Everything is going really well so far," Cooper said. "It's an ambitious film and there is a lot of work to be done."
Some of that work is being done by production assistants from Minnesota State University Moorhead along with other L.A.-based crew members who have flown in to spend the next few weeks in Fargo.
Galaxy San Juan is one of them. San Juan is the key makeup artist for the film and works alongside makeup department head Donna Sexton. Both women are veterans in the industry. San Juan said she wrapped up work on the Brad Pitt film "Ad Astra" and had about a month off before starting work on a television show when she was presented with a script for "Tankhouse."
"It's so funny. I didn't even read the script. I just saw that it was shooting in Fargo, and I wanted to come here," she said with a big laugh. She eventually read the script and said "yes" to the project. So far she's loved the experience of filming here because it is so different from the movie "Fargo."
"My first two days here were poppin!" she said. "I went to the drag queen show on Saturday night and Lewis Black last night. Everyone has been so nice. I've been loving it here."
Filming will continue at Goodyear most of this week, with other locations on tap for the next couple of weeks. Those locations include the Sons of Norway, Fargo Theatre and The Forum building.
Calls will continue to go out for people interested in being extras in the film. Cooper said no matter how "Tankhouse" turns out, they've had a vision about shooting here.
"It's always been the goal all along to really collaborate with the residents here," he said. "We hope to give some people in the area a great experience."
Look for exclusive daily updates on "Tankhouse" and all that is going into making this movie here in Fargo on WDAY, The Forum and InForum.com, and for more on the project go to the movie's official site.