“Strange Nature” Premieres in Duluth

Film was directed by Duluth native Jim Ojala and was shot on the Iron Range and in Duluth

DULUTH, Minn. – A feature film shot in the Northland had its local premiere on Sunday at the Zinema in Downtown Duluth.

The movie “Strange Nature” was written and directed by Duluth native Jim Ojala.

The thriller already played theatrically in Los Angeles. It had its Minnesota premiere on Friday at the Twin Cities Film Festival.

Sunday’s local premiere was a great chance for Duluthians who worked on the movie to see the finished product.

“I just think it’s really fun to see our town up on the big screen and I didn’t have to travel to do a professional gig and it just kind of popped up and I got to do my one scene and here we go. And I’m not alone, there’s lots of great Duluth cameos in the show,” said Kate Horvath, a Duluthian who plays “Sandy” in “Strange Nature.”

“Strange Nature” is playing at the Zinema through Thursday, October 25th.

The film was a first for many people. It was Jim Ojala’s directorial debut but it also gave a new opportunity for up and coming filmmakers in the Northland.

“Strange Nature’s an ecological thriller based around the real-life unsolved deformed frog wildlife discoveries that were made in the 90s in Minnesota and we examine how a small town in the Midwest might react when these deadly mutations move beyond the ponds,” explained Ojala.

Ojala is a Duluth native now based in Los Angeles where he works as an effects and makeup artist.

He has worked for years to make his first feature film a reality.

“I was like wow, well I’ve got to be the guy that tells this story because somebody’s going to eventually,” said Ojala.

He shot “Strange Nature” in 2014 on location in Northern Minnesota.

“Almost all of the crew was from Minnesota whether it was Duluth, Grand Rapids, Bovey, I mean it was across the board,” said Ojala.

The production employed some California based actors and effects artists but it also gave local crew members their start in the industry.

“This experience in every way is responsible for paving my career,” said Brandon Cole, who worked as a production assistant on the movie.

Cole owns Duluth based Death Calm Studios.

“It was kind of that realization moment of I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, I never thought I was actually going to be doing it, and then all of a sudden I was doing it,” said Cole.

Since then, Cole has made a dozen of his own short films and has worked on seven or eight other features.

“More and more filmmakers not only are coming here to make their movies but there’s several different local factions of filmmakers that are springing up that want to make their movies in the Northland here,” said Cole.

Jim Ojala encourages anyone who aspires to a career in film to make as much as they can on their own before they try to make it in New York or Los Angeles.

“With your cell phone or whatever shoot something,” said Ojala. “If you think it’s genuinely good or entertaining or funny or whatever, do it. And if the rest of the world agrees with you to any extent, you may have a future in this.”

Cole and other local filmmakers are following that advice.

“Film in Duluth is definitely something that’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Cole.

“Strange Nature” is available at Walmart and Redbox and on Amazon.

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