Victoria Schaffer is a rags-to-fewer-rags business owner who accepts a loan from the kind of people who might chop off a debtor’s finger in lieu of payments in Wesley Ellenwood’s first feature-length film.
The murder-mystery opens with the protagonist, reeking of beer and gasoline, sneaking through the night from Williston, N.D., to Duluth where she plans to wrangle a deal with her wealthy, albeit estranged, father.
Cue the view: A North Shore landscape in the early hours.
“No Blood of Mine” was filmed entirely in Duluth in the summer of 2015 — with a handful of local actors — and gets its first local screening at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Marcus Lakes Cinema. Ellenwood, an assistant professor of film at Augsburg College in Minneapolis will be available for a Q&A following the movie. Few tickets remain.
The movie won Best Narrative Feature at the Frozen Film Festival in St. Paul and is now on a small city-to-city tour that includes stops in Hudson, Wis.; La Crosse, Wis., and Moorhead, Minn.
There is a lippy southerner gangster on Victoria’s trail. The good news: She’s gained an audience with her father, the tycoon Arthur Borglund. The bad news: He is smothered in his sleep after he offers her a job but before it comes to fruition. Veteran police officer Rennie Dupree (Larry Yazzie) investigates — while simultaneously schooling rookie Mark Sorenson (Noah Gillett).
Ellenwood began writing the self-funded project three years ago in his home office. Through the process, Duluth was always his backdrop.
“Duluth is like the best place in the world that I know of to shoot,” he said in a phone interview. “The city is beautiful, the people are warm and inviting. It’s an undiscovered gem in filmmaking.”
The movie includes grand sweeping views of the city and the shoreline in addition to familiar locations like the loading dock behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, The Breeze Inn, the sidewalk in front of Erberts & Gerbert’s on West First Street, and Mayor Emily Larson’s office (though it was Don Ness’s at the time of filming) at City Hall.
A warehouse scene — one of Ellenwood’s favorite of the filming process — was shot at Russell Steel. And the century-old brownstone that belongs to Arthur Borglund is actually the home of Clyde and Jean Olson, on the corner of Superior Street and 21st Ave. E.
Olson has done plenty of theater work, but this was the first time she had watched the making of a film, she said.
“We were just taken by it,” she said. “We’re interested in the arts — and the chance to watch something like that really happening up close.”
Some of the faces, too, are local. Dale Botten — the Lake Nebagamon screenwriter behind “Hate Storm,” about the lynchings in Duluth — plays Arthur Borglund.
“The film process was pretty much I died and went to heaven,” said Botten, who also has a speaking role in Alexander Gutterman’s “In Winter,” which was filmed in Duluth and Cloquet in 2013 and is currently on the festival circuit. “This was a great director, a great cast and a super duper crew.”
Ellenwood has opted for DIY distribution. He’s taking the movie from theater to theater in hopes that one will pick it up for an extended run, he said. Meanwhile, he has begun writing another film — a sequel that stars the character from “No Blood of Mine” who has turned out to be an audience-favorite. No spoilers.
If you go
•What: Screening of “No Blood of Mine”
•When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
•Where: Marcus Lakes Cinema, Hermantown
•Tickets: Available at tugg.com, few remaining