Filmmaking in the Northland: Lost 40 Studios Wraps Up Production of Canusa Street

CHISHOLM, Minn. – “It has been an incredible process. Filmmaking should not be this smooth, I have kept waiting, when is the second shoe gonna drop, when is some like chaos moment going to happen. But, it’s been an incredible shooting experience,” Canusa Street Writer and Director, Zack Morrison says.

Canusa Street is a half hour TV comedy pilot about twin sisters. One being a US Border Patrol Agent and the other a Canadian Mounty, who live in a town cut in half by the Canadian and US border.

The story won best comedy screen play at the 2021 Catalyst Story Institute. And there a connection was made between writer Zack Morrison and Co-Founder of Lost 40 Studios Matt Roy.

“I’ve loved this entire shoot, everybody that we’ve got here working on it has been fantastic. It is a grind though, you know, you’re working long hours, you’re working within a very tight budget, you’re trying to make everybody’s accommodations work, so there is a lot of moving pieces to all of this,” said Matt Roy, Head of Physical Production at Lost 40 Studios.

After six years of trying to get more film production in northern Minnesota, Lost 40 studios came to life in the fall of 2021. The company partnered with the city of Chisholm and signed the lease on the studio placed right under city hall. With a 50 thousand square foot main stage and a 20 thousand square foot space under the catwalk, it is the largest scaled studio in the state.

“What’s nice about the area is it’s sort of a blank canvas and as you can see the studio is in it’s infancy right now and we look at it as a blank canvas and an opportunity to create more content up here, not just with the city being sort of available to us as like a, quote on quote, backlot in a way, but also in the physical space that we can build sets and shoot projects inside,” said Roy.

He goes on to say, “I feel this has sort of been an untouched area as far as the big screen is concerned and we have so much to offer up here between all the small towns, they’re all different in their own ways and then you’ve got the iron ore pits. And, it’s just the aesthetic beauty is what I’m attracted to. I always look around, what is the location and then the story comes in through that.”

After location scouting a few places, it only took about an hour for Zack Morrison and Carver Diserens to land on Chisholm as the place to shoot. They quickly realized the town coincided with both the setting in their scripts and their creative vision.

“It’s been a great place to shoot I am still a little bit in disbelief that we have found everything that we needed to make this TV pilot here,” Canusa Street Producer and First Assistant Director, Carver Diserens says.

“In a town like this, every location we have, everything we need is practically in walking distance of Lost 40 where we are kind of home basing out of and so sometimes when you’re doing a project in a big city where you have to do these hour long, two hour long moves from one place to another, you’ve got to drive 30 minutes that way, you’ve got to take a train an hour this way. Everything we’ve needed for this right here,” Morrison explains.

But, production wouldn’t be possible without film tax rebates paid by the state. These rebates are used to push production companies to put more money into the local economy while allowing them to spend more of their budget on production. And in order to continue to receive these rebates, Lost 40 Studios must continue to make projects.

“We’re looking at what we can do in this area and how we can utilize the rebates and also creating a workforce around that. So getting people on a local level trained in though some of our various workshops and you know actively hiring people for these projects,” Roy says.

And in Minnesota, these rebates were not even available until June of last year.

“The fact that these rebates exist, it’s very attractive for outside companies and internal companies trying to make projects up here. You look at independent films and they look at what rebates are available because that then becomes part of their budget too,” Roy explains.

“Well what Minnesota is doing really well, is there incentive program. The idea that you can shoot in the iron range or in Duluth and get up to 70 or 75 percent back on all expenses in a cash back rebate even, that’s a business model that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country,” Morrison says.

Pre-production of Canusa Street started at the end of March, and actual production kicked off on April 18th. Shooting then finished up on April 28th. The creators hope to take the show to film festivals as well as pitch it to Networks in Los Angeles.

“The feeling coming into something like this, it’s all the anticipation, it’s all the pre-game jitters you know and then you get into it and you start hitting a rhythm where it’s like going to work, you wake up, you do the shoot, you come home, you sleep, you do it the next day. But, being on a day like now where it’s our last day we’ve gone our whole journey, we’re just about to finish it, I mean it feels like we’re are hitting the finish line which is cool, it’s really exciting,” Morrison declares.

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