Action film in the making turns Soudan Mine into Serbian battle zone

By KBJR News 1

July 28, 2014 Updated Jul 28, 2014 at 12:03 AM CDT

Soudan, MN (NNCNOW.com) - When aiming for a setting that mirror's Serbia in the early 90's, Sdanka's War Producer and Co–Writer Dan Gagliasso says you can't get better than Northern Minnesota.

"In California, we'd have to have stuff built. It would be way beyond our budget," said Gagliasso, standing in the midst of a state park-turned Serbian battlefield. "Here we've got an incredible state park that has so much production value."

By Sunday, crews had been filming for the past four days throughout the region. During that time, Gagliasso says their surroundings have continued to reward them—from the extras coming out of the woodwork, to the ample Iron Range resident–owned military vehicles.

"In some cases, we'd just see them driving down the road and said, 'follow that person! We need to get that vehicle,'" laughed Gagliasso

Professional wrestlers Joel Klander and Trevor Leseman were two Northlanders chosen to take part in the film.

"But this weekend I'm Vladimir," said Klander, "and Oleg," he added, pointing to Leseman by his side.

"We're the bad guys," chimed in Leseman.

The duo says wrestling has made it an easy transition into the world of action films.

"We did a lot of stunts, and some fight scenes this morning, and it's just a lot of choreography and taking some lumps," laughed Klander, sporting fresh bruises.

"I think everybody has, kind of, an interest growing up and watching movies," said Leseman, "and luckily we just ended up getting cast in roles."

Film Director Tino Struckmann says you don't have to be in the film to play a helping role, either.

"See, there's, there's some of your local, wonderful people here... from Eastern Europe," laughed Struckmann, pulling into camera a smiling area local named Bronia Westerlund, originally from Latvia. "She was painting Russian oil drums before I even got here, without even asking for it. That's what I love about being in Minnesota—everybody comes out to help," said Struckmann, also covered in his fair share of dirt and bruises.

The film itself deals with serious subject matter: the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women. And while the crew goes above and beyond to ensure that's captured, being on–set isn't all serious all the time.

"I play the evil Mr. Smith," said one gentleman described by others as the main baddie's right hand man in the film, "and this is Sergei," he added, pointing to another crew member with fake, bulging eyes.

"I am soldier from Russia," said the crew member, in a heavy Russian accent.

But for Gagliasso, the IRRRB and Minnesota Film and TV Board incentives that provide 45 percent of their total economic development spending back to the film team is a serious attractor.

"We've tried to spend as much money with the locals here as possible," said Gagliasso.

...incentives that Struckmann says will help him reach his goal of at least one film a year in Minnesota.

Filming for Sdanka's War will continue this week in Embarrass, and Gilbert.

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Billy Wagness
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