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S.D. Film Debuts East River
Linn Twins Offer Preview of their S.D. Film

A five-year project of brothers Michael and Marc Linn of Rapid City is a movie about how a family copes with the kidnapping of a child.
S.D. Film Debuts East River
  By Jill Callison

    A South Dakota film that look at the struggle to hold onto faith in the midst of tragedy makes its East River debut Friday.

    Into His Arms will be shown in Brookings, Dell Rapids and Mitchell, then expanded to other communities later in the month.

    The film, originally intended to go straight to video, was a five-year project of twin brothers Michael and Marc Linn of Rapid City.

One of the Linn brothers shoots from a boom truck as a car is rolled over and off a rural Rapid City road for a car-chase scene in the movie. The Film was shot in September 1997 in the Black Hills.

    "I actually wrote the synopsis to it when I was 19 years old," says Michael, now 25. "That's how long I played with this story."

    At 19, the Linns already were aspiring film-makers. When they were 12 years old, they started using the family camcorder to make movies.

    The Linns had moved to Rapid City as high school students, when their father was transferred to Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Michael                       Marc    
    They involved classmates in an early movie, a takeoff on the popular Indiana Jones movies.

    "We crashed a car over a 200-foot cliff," Marc recalls. "Almost all of Stevens High School was involved. Then, when they watched the movie and they were cheering, we sat down and said, "We can do this. This is what we want to do for a living."

    After graduation, they spent a year at the University of Southern California.

    Early plans had been to enroll in the USC School of Cinema and Television, but after a year they returned home.

    "You can't get into that until your junior year," Michael says. "We didn't want to wait that long. And we decided with the money we were spending, it would be more fun to make a movie with it. So we came back to Rapid City and this is the movie we made."

    Michael wrote a synopsis for Into His Arms after reading the story of Adam Walsh, a Florida child who was kidnapped while shopping with his parents. Eventually, only his head was found.

    The abduction of his child galvanized the missing boy's father, John Walsh, who now hosts TV's America's Most Wanted.

    "The story really grabbed me and compelled me," Michael says. "I didn't know how anyone could go through something like that and remain strong. I thought it would be interesting to explore something similar to that, not the same story, and mixed with faith and that, faith in God. What does that do to somebody's faith when they've been in horrible circumstances?"

    Marc, the father of two children, says no matter how strong a person's faith may be, even if it's only for an hour, doubt can creep in.

    "We didn't make this movie to get rich," he says. "But we wanted to show an average Christian family that has to deal with a terrible, terrible thing that has happened in the family, and how they deal with it from a religious perspective."

    The movie opens with a party celebrating a child's seventh birthday. The perfect life is shattered when the girl, named Jennifer, disappears while on a shopping trip with her mother, Sharla. Sharla first responds with denial, then feels betrayed when her prayers yield no results.

    The movie opened June 4 in Rapid City, and ran for 25 days.

    "This is a real strong word-of-mouth movie," says the Linn's mother, Carolyn, who works for their business, Linn Productions.

    "We're working now with independent theatre owners. If we get good numbers out of this, then we'll look into limited national release."

    It's no an unlikely dream, says Chris Hull, coordinator for the South Dakota Film Office, a division of the state Department of Tourism.

    "I think Mike and Marc have done a great job," he says. "People think that in South Dakota we're so removed from stuff like that, but we're pretty mainstream in knowing what's good. If we like it here, they're going to like it anywhere."

    Hull keeps a list of films shot primarily or partially in South Dakota. Some are Oscar Winners, such as "Dances with Wolves." Others, such as the Casey Tibbs films "Born to Buck" and "Young Rounders," have fallen into obscurity.

    And the Linns aren't the stat's first film makers, Hull points out. Black homesteader Oscar Micheauz shot one of the first movies in South Dakota in the early part of this century.

    Hull also expects the number of film makers in the state to grow, especially in the wake of new equipment such as digital video and the popularity of "The Blair Witch Project," shot on a shoestring. It has made millions.

    "It's not so expensive to make movies any more and it's not so daunting," Hull says. "I've had a couple requests from young film makers who want help. We're starting to see more and more small-budget movies, and especially with all the film festivals, the good stuff is going to get picked up and get run and the movers and shakers in the business are going to see it."

    The film business has never daunted the Linns, no matter which aspect they're facing. Marc ended up with a role in Into His Arms. He plays a young detective who makes fun of God. His older partner is a religious man.

    It was a reversal of their real beliefs. "The actor who played the senior detective in real life doesn’t believe in God," Marc says.

    But that's OK with the Linns. In fact, if only the deeply committed come to Into His Arms, they'll be disappointed.

    "It is not just for religious people," Michael says. "If that's all that come to see it, the message will be lost. This movie kind of plants a seed and gives you room to grow."
Linn Twins Offer Preview of their S.D. Film
  By Paula Urban

    A diverse group enjoyed the preview at the State Theatre last Wednesday, of a South Dakota made 75-minute film set in Rapid City. State Theatre owners Jeff and Donna Buche invited local people to review the film prior to its release Dec. 2 in Chamberlain. Representatives from many area churches attended, and response seemed to be favorable, overall.

    Tapping into an as yet unrecognized industry in the Midwest, the Linn brothers of Rapid City have produced what one film critic lauds as "a first class production presented by first-class people... a pleasant surprise to find an honest-to-goodness winner." So says James St. James.

    Twins marc and Michael Linn, 25 have been making movies for years, but this is their first professional production. Into His Arms, hits theatres across the state this week.

    The movie probes the issue of faith and what follows when tragedy strikes a family whose spirituality, previously impervious to doubt, is severed by the kidnapping of seven-year old Jennifer Richards.

    The cinematography in this amateur opus is unparalleled. The camera descends upon the opening birthday scene and the camerawork is consistently professional quality with close-ups capturing an exquisite agony, reckless confidence or gentle serenity imposed on a character's face. The essence of the film is equally plot, acting ability and technical maneuvering.

    Attention to detail yields black and white images when Sharla, the mother, is rehashing steps in her mind. The camera weaves with her stilted and increasingly frantic steps when she cannot locate Jennifer in the store.

    Owning your own video company (Linn Productions, formerly West River Video Production) allows for perks, such as needed footage of a helicopter view in search scenes. The scenes were shot in conjunction with business videos.

    Cast into the low-budget arena, the film's actual cost is difficult to assess as no one involved was paid. It was a purely voluntary four-year endeavor. The professional musical score was spendy at $12,500, as was the $15,000 price tag for conversion to film. But an estimated $5,000 price for feeding the cast, odds and ends was cheap.

    Marc and Michael consider this their "school." The two graduated from high school in Rapid City and attended a year at University of Southern California before accepting jobs at KOTA News in Rapid City.

    Their zany antics seduced many community members to participate in their previous completions, Indiana Jed and Escape Through Time, which achieved honors at a New Your film festival for high school film.

    Their mother Carolyn Linn and executive producer of Into His Arms elaborates how undeterred her sons were, even before she and her husband Dennis bought them a camcorder when they were 12.

    "Making movies is all they ever wanted to do. They were always directing the neighbors and friends. I tried to bring balance to their lives. I was unsuccessful," she deadpans.

    The entire community knows the twins, because, they usually involved the community in their endeavors. Like the time they were shooting a rooftop scene with guys in trench coats and fake guns.

    Carolyn had already called the police department, savvy now from previous misunderstandings when people did not realize a movie was being shot, and got the chief's okay. Unfortunately, the first shift failed to inform the second, and a concerned party though that there was a gang fight and called the police, who arrived in screeching numbers.

    "Luckily they were between takes and nobody was moving. It was a running scene, and someone could have gotten hurt," laughs Carolyn.

    Into His Arms is a somber piece when contrasted with adrenaline-rush of the action packed scenes of the previous films. Their latest movie does, however, retain a portion of that punch with a car chase near the end.

    "They always believed that you could have fun, engaging, dramatic movies without the sex and swearing; movies the entire family could watch. We are Christian, and Michael was interested in how a family so greatly tested could hang onto it's faith," explains Carolyn.

    Her other three children are an important part of the business as well. Eric, 21, serves as th graphic artist full-time and attends South Dakota School of Mines & Technology part-time, occupied with Web site design and animation.

    The other set of twins, Nick and Carrie, are still in high school, but love to help out on the lower-end stuff.

    Their father, Dennis, in the Air Force, os also a visual artist painter/sculptor. Carolyn has mastered virtually all types of writing: technical, journalistic, script, contributing magazine, and literature instructor. The family oozes creativity.

    "The boys always say that they could count on me and their dad for honest criticism. And we did what we could to nurture what they had innately," she says.

    The Linns always have something in the works, and between jobs at the production company, they are currently engaged in creating a western.

    The movie shows in the following cities: Nov. 12-18 -- Brookings, Dell Rapids and Mitchell; Nov. 19-23 -- Huron and Pierre; Nov. 26-Dec. 2 -- Chamberlain, Gregory and Winner.