On the upper story of the 129-year-old Town Hall in Marine on St. Croix—a floor above the city offices and the library—more than 100 fold-out chairs sit before a 9-by-16-foot screen. Soon, people will crowd the vaulted auditorium for a documentary selected by the Marine Film Society. Yes, Marine has a film society.
It’s made up of two people: Paul Creager and Gayle Knutson. Documentary filmmakers themselves, they connected through Creager’s Square Lake Film Festival, discovered they both live in Marine and asked themselves: Have you noticed how many artists and filmmakers live in the St. Croix Valley? For starters, think Shawn Otto of Mystery Science Theater 3000. “It’s an inspiring environment, but still close to the arts and culture of the Twin Cities,” Creager says.
Before they teamed up, the nearest art movies showed an hour away at Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis. Creager had equipment from Square Lake Film Festival; Knutson had connections with area filmmakers after nearly 30 years in the business. The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council funded them through Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment three years ago so they could establish the next annual film series for nonfiction in the Twin Cities area.
This year, the Marine Film Society will show five documentaries—one a month October 2017 through February 2018, most of them made in Minnesota. If the feature wasn’t made in the area, trailers advertise films that were. Knutson and Creager bring filmmakers to each screening—via Skype, if necessary.