- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Sightings of Hollywood stars are suddenly easy to come by in the Twin Cities, where Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern are filming the movie “Wilson” at area locations, including the Mall of America.

It’s the biggest movie to be made in Minnesota in several years, and came in part due to lawmakers restoring some funding to a program that gives rebates to film companies. “Wilson” will demonstrate what can happen when Minnesota provides those incentives to filmmakers and promises them that they’ll be able to find places to shoot their scenes, Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1I2irgb ) reported.

Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board, hopes “Wilson” will prove to state lawmakers that the “snowbate” program, which reimburses film companies for up to 25 percent of production costs, is worthwhile.

“This sort of marks to me, ‘We’re back,’” she said of securing the film.

Winter is banking on the success of “Wilson” after losing other movies to cities with more generous incentives. Over the years, movies that could’ve been shot in Minnesota went elsewhere due to a cut in funding to the state’s film rebate program.

For example, Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” went to Detroit and “Juno” to Vancouver, Canada.

“As I’m watching ‘Juno,’ this Minnesota story, and I see mountains in the background in Vancouver, seriously I wanted to stab myself with a fork,” Winter said. “It was just so disheartening.”

A couple of years ago, the program received its largest appropriation of $10 million after Minnesota lawmakers eventually restored funding. Winter still has more than $5 million of that funding to work with over the next two years.

Producer Mary Jane Skalski said she probably wouldn’t have chosen to film “Wilson” in Minnesota had it not been for the rebate program or scouting work done by the state’s film board.

About 70 percent of the crew hired to work on “Wilson” are local and many of the acting roles also went to Minnesota residents.

In addition to the Mall of America, scenes for the film also have been shot at Mancini’s Char House & Lounge, the Como Town amusement park and the downtown farmers market.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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