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Unlike the Coen brothers' movie, 'Tankhouse' will show 'the real Fargo,' filmmakers say

A private screening of the new film is set for Monday, May 9, at the Fargo Theatre, with a streaming release and another weeklong run at the theater starting May 13.

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Stephen Friedrich, Richard Kind and Tara Holt perform a scene during filming of "Tankhouse" at the Fargo Theatre in downtown Fargo.
Forum file photo
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FARGO — “Tankhouse,” the feature film shot in Fargo in 2019, got its world premiere in Hollywood last Tuesday, attracting cast, crew and industry insiders.

Jim Manney, one of the film’s executive producers, was there for the screening but said the day before that he was more anxious about the local debut at the Fargo Theatre this coming Monday, May 9. The movie will also start a weeklong run at the Fargo Theatre on May 13.

“I’m far more nervous for the Fargo premiere than the L.A. premiere,” Manney said from Los Angeles. “You hope that it’s everything and more than they expect from it.”

He’s referring to the audience for the invite-only screening. He estimates 140 local crew and background actors and even more community members were invited to the private screening.

“I’m excited about it. I hope we do Fargo proud,” he says.

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“It’s more about everyone from the production coming together,” says director and co-writer Noam Tomaschoff.

He and stars Tara Holt and Stephen Friedrich will be at the Fargo screening and host a Q&A after the movie.

Holt and Friedrich star as actors exiled from their avant-garde theater scene in New York by their guru, played by Hollywood veteran Christopher Lloyd, best known as Doc in the “Back to the Future” movies. They return to her hometown, Fargo, to start a new theater troupe, only to discover another troupe led by her former drama teacher, played by Richard Kind, isn’t keen on sharing the local spotlight. Theatrical and musical scrimmages play out around Fargo as the two troupes face off.

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Chelsea Frei and Noam Tomaschoff talk about filming their movie "The Tankhouse Theatre" and using different locations in Fargo.
Forum file photo

Tomaschoff says the idea started in 2017 when he and Chealse Frei created scenes based on their time in the New York theater scene.

“It was a loving satire of ourselves in New York at the time,” he says.

They created an eight-minute film that caught the attention of Matthew Cooper at a festival screening in Denver. While talking, Cooper suggested they reach out to Bill Marcil Jr., president and CEO of Forum Communications Co., which publishes The Forum, about creating a feature film in Fargo. Tomaschoff wrote a script based in Fargo. He first visited Fargo in July 2019 and returned shortly after to start shooting.

While it was his first visit to Fargo, Tomaschoff has some family ties to town. His father’s side is related to the Herbst family that had a department store downtown. Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre’s former Island Park site was named the Emma K. Herbst playhouse for years until being renamed The Stage at Island Park in 2011. It was announced last week that the building, where structural issues led to it being condemned, will be demolished to make way for an arts new feature. The director is happy he took photos there while filming in 2019, before the building was condemned later that year.

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Richard Kind, center left, does a scene with the cast and crew of "Tankhouse" in the alley behind The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead building in downtown Fargo on Sept. 27, 2019.
Forum file photo

Manney and Tomaschoff agree that audiences will appreciate seeing hometown sites on the big screen, like the graffiti alley next to The Forum, a farmer’s market in the former location of the Red River Market in a parking lot to the south of The Forum, and the Troll Lounge at the Sons of Norway.

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“That’s one of the most fun scenes in the film,” Manney says.

The bar plays a key part as the film’s title refers to the bootleg still running out of the fictional back of the bar, which was actually filmed in the former Schumacher Goodyear. That building, kitty-corner from the Fargo Theatre, was razed to make way for the new Mercantile complex.

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A still from the movie "Tankhouse" filmed inside the Sons of Norway's Troll Lounge.
Contributed / Special to The Forum

Still, it will be the host Fargo Theatre that will shine brightest, the filmmakers say.

“I’m very excited to see the movie in the Fargo Theatre. It will definitely be the biggest place to show the movie,” Tomaschoff says.

The film will be available on major streaming platforms on May 13, allowing everyone to see Fargo — the city and the theater — on the screen.

“It’s your friends and neighbors in the background,” Manney says.

Make that friends, neighbors and maybe even a local reporter. In full disclosure, I was in a scene shot in The Forum building. Manney was looking for someone to take a perp walk and apparently I looked like I was disorderly at my desk, so he cast me as an extra getting booked by Fargo police officers. I even got handcuffed. That was a first.

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The director of "Tankhouse," Noah Tomaschoff, stages a scene with Fargo Police Officer Dean Jordheim and Forum arts and entertainment reporter John Lamb (left).
Forum file photo

“I’m a little nervous because people in Fargo have a particular identity with the area and we’re outsiders,” the director says. “I know we did more justice to the town than the movie, ‘Fargo,’ which wasn’t even shot there.”

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“I was always a little ticked off that ‘Fargo’ wasn’t filmed here,” Manney echoes.

“There are some slight accents, but we’re not making fun of it too much,” he says. “For me, it’s showing off our hometown. You’ll be able to see the real Fargo.”

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