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Movie plans causing conflict

A Minneapolis filmmaker wants to make a movie in Fergus Falls, Minn., but backers of a proposed college for Chinese studies worry it could jeopardize their project.

Dav Kaufman will ask the Fergus Falls City Council today to let him film in the Kirkbride building of the Regional Treatment Center.

Kaufman wants to bring a crew of about 70 people to Fergus Falls in October to film a psychological thriller he wrote specifically for the historic building that once was the centerpiece of the state hospital.

The movie, "The Psychosis of Ghosts," would be a low-budget production that would go straight to DVD.

But Rick Anderson, president of the Campus Development Group that's working to establish a new college at that location, thinks the movie will give the campus a bad reputation.

The Fergus Falls businessman fears potential students and parents will learn about the movie and be deterred from attending the college.

"There's nothing positive that this movie would bring to our project. There's nothing positive that this movie would bring to Fergus Falls," Anderson said.

The movie, which Kaufman compares to the blockbuster "The Sixth Sense," involves a psychology student who takes a job as a night guard at an abandoned state hospital.

The student finds ghosts lingering at the hospital, and uses his knowledge of psychology to cure them.

A synopsis of the movie says the main character finds the decaying arm of a decomposing girl crawling in the hallway.

That, along with the fact that Kaufman's last movie was a horror film, is what Anderson points to as the basis for his concern.

Kaufman said unlike his last movie, "13 Hours in a Warehouse," the movie he plans for Fergus Falls is a drama, not a horror film.

"They (Anderson and his group) are jumping to conclusions and they're using those erroneous conclusions to terrify the city and the city council," Kaufman said.

There's no plan to pay the city to film in the building. Kaufman said he will bring a proposal to City Council members today.

Fergus Falls would get a spike of business that month while crew members stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants and purchase supplies from hardware stores, Kaufman said. He also plans to hire area residents for the crew and set construction.

The only alterations to the Kirkbride would be to temporarily board up windows to film night scenes during the day, Kaufman said.

City Councilman Rick Wilson said the movie proposal is exciting, but he doesn't want to hurt plans for a college.

The proposal is for the Regional Treatment Center to host up to 1,000 students from the United States and China. It has backing from Fargo entrepreneurs Jeff Schlossman and Doug Burgum.

"We want to give the Campus Development Group every opportunity to make this idea that they have really flourish," Wilson said.

Jean Bowman, executive director of the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there's no reason both projects can't happen.

Kaufman learned about the building after Bowman invited a representative from the Minnesota Film and TV Board to Fergus Falls to promote the city as a site for potential films.

Bowman said members of the public support the movie proposal because the college is far from a done deal.

Campus Development Group has spent several months working on the project, including traveling to China and bringing a delegation from China to the area. Anderson plans to return to China on Sept. 5 to continue negotiations.

But there are no formal commitments from the group or with any colleges in the United States or China.

Kaufman said two other Minnesota cities are interested in his movie, but Fergus Falls is the ideal location.

"This can only do good for a community," Kaufman said. "Other communities in Minnesota have already seen that opportunity and are begging for us to come and film in their towns."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590