When the crew of A Serious Man, the latest Coen brothers film, asked Jean Sabre if they could shoot a scene at Uptown Vision, she had no idea what to expect. On the corner of 36th and Hennepin, Jean Sabre and husband Dr. Mark Sabre have been co-owners of Uptown Vision for 19 years. During the setup process she admits that the film crew was very considerate, organized and generous. They coordinated with her client schedule, landscaped and they even agreed to install a new sign after the shoot. The old “Uptown Vision Clinic” sign was temporarily replaced by a “Great Bear Dental” sign for the shoot. Sabre said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the whole process. The Coen’s wrapped up the film and left town for the next step in production.
Although making a last-minute production change to shoot here in Uptown required days to okay and hours to setup, this brief shot with 1960’s era vintage automobiles will be measured in mere minutes. But Uptown’s experience with film is much broader than that. It has a history of being a bubbling pot of rising talent. In the CARAG neighborhood alone the UNN has spoken with four artists actively involved in film and other entertainment media.
In 2000 Rech became one of the producers for TC Muzique, the oldest running live music show in the world. Once a week on Minneapolis cable channel 17 every Thursday at 8p.m. the live rock ‘n’ roll music show has filmed episodes with bands such as Filthy Divine, Dillinger Four and Michael Bland of Soul Asylum. It’s an all volunteer staff and although he does computer graphics and tech for the show, as producer he says his primary role is “more cow bell.” See more at www.tcmuzique.org.
In 2010 he’s releasing a project called “A World of Tears”. It’s a half hour format with 13 episodes and features stories of children who have lived in drug related family environments. The stories, 39 of them in all, are to be transformed into a narrated cartoon format with old school illustration styles. The series is primarily aimed at the 7-16 year olds but has something for any age. His history has connected him to this part of the community and his anthem is “Every day we lose another child to drug addicts, and they’re getting younger all the time.”
Rech says he made a lot of mistakes in the past and he’s trying to set some things right. This might explain his most recent, some say “suicidal” project. “The Great Depression Tour” is a full-throttle comedy tour. Fifty days, 50 towns, one car, five comedians, no pay, just gas and car sponsors. There are no hotels so a shower or bed will come only with a handout from a generous patron. The motive behind the tour is re-creating a little bit of hell that a child with cancer has to endure. The comedians’ suffering helps make it real for potential donors. Rech’s family experienced cancer and the entire event is a fund-raiser for a children’s cancer charity soon to be announced.
Erika Backberg & Eric Nigg
Erika Backberg and Eric Nigg have been working on media projects that have been awarded national attention. Their most recent piece, called “Birthmarked for Death” won Best Picture at the MN 48 Hour Film Competition back in June (out of 91 teams in the state, the second largest state competition in the world). This piece also screened at South Dakota Film Fest where they won best Juried Screenplay, and it will also be screened in the South by Southwest Film Fest and San Antonio Film Fest. Watch it for yourself at BirthmarkedforDeath.com.
Erika Backberg, fiance of Eric Nigg and Production Manager for the film, has many talents. Working in the Twin Cities, her passion is to empower, educate, and bring color to people’s lives which comes to light in both her visual and media art. She is an active, local community organizer, an educator for all ages, an accomplished fashion eco-jewelry designer (see her art at the Urban Earth Artisan Fair, pg.7) and a longtime producer for The Label Productions and SPNN Youth media. Her production works include What Would My President Do Film Festival, short films such as THE BIO. PIECE and THE STALKER as seen on FUSE TV, and the international award winning CD ROM: Waters to the Sea-Chattahoochee River. See www.TeaTreeDesigns.com.
Eric Nigg, actor, and co-writer of the film maintains “The village is full of idiots, and I’m one of ‘em.” Eric has used this all inclusive philosophy to find his voice as a comedic writer and performer. He’s had the opportunity as a stand up comedian to perform with the likes of Doug Stanhope, Emo Philips, Paul F. Tompkins and Gilbert Gottfried. Eric has worked as a producer, head writer and performer for more than 20 original, multi-media sketch shows. Currently, he is a contributing writer on the Emmy Nominated Flak Radio podcast. Eric is always on the look out for new collaborative opportunities with artists of any discipline and strives to create original performance pieces and uniquely funny films. See him at www.ericnigg.com.
Reeder has been writing and producing film and video documentaries for the last 25 years. One for which he’s particularly proud was a short film done for The Nature Conservancy as part of an effort to preserve the Yunnan Province of China. Funds generated from the promotion of that film have been used to build an eco-tourism center near the Yunnan Great River Area. Last year Reeder’s film for The Saint John’s Bible Project was part of a major international art exhibit that toured in England and the U.S. That exhibit, featuring the first hand-drawn Bible in 700 years, drew one of the largest crowds to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. That film won a Cine Golden Eagle award.
When Reeder isn’t involved in his documentary work, he works as an actor in films and television commercials. This past summer he had the opportunity for two small roles in the Michael Mann film “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard. Reeder played both a convict at a prison in Joliett and a guard for J. Edgar Hoover (played by Billy Crudup) in Chicago. The film, focusing on the most-wanted gangsters of the 20’s, will be released in July of next year.
Last year Reeder had the unique challenge of trying to get a cow to jump through a hoop of fire. This was a spot for DeJobe Casino where Midwesterners were trying to ‘Go Vegas’ with their unique talents.
Next up for Reeder is a TV promotion for the Minnesota Twins new ball park which airs on Super Bowl Sunday.
Bruce Cochran is Art Director in charge of production for the Uptown Neighborhood News, lives in CARAG and is writing a life about his film.