Film shot in South Dakota opens tonight

March 8, 2019

An independent movie shot in South Dakota with a multitude of ties to the state opens tonight for a three-day run at the Washington Pavilion.

“Tater Tot & Patton” was written and directed by Andrew Kightlinger, who grew up in Pierre and graduated from Augustana University before attending film school at Boston University. The producers are South Dakotans, and 80 percent of the funding to make the film was raised in South Dakota, Kightlinger said.

“It was all done sort of grass roots — bankers, doctors, dentists, the Augustana alum network,” he said. “It was sort of like the classical entrepreneurial story. I built these connections over time and decided I’m going to start using them.”

Kightlinger said the fundraising stage involved “a lot of driving and going to people and making my case.” He told potential investors: “This is a piece of art. This probably won’t make you money; you are investing in me as an artist.” For every 10 ‘no’es, he got one ‘yes.’

He found enough support and was able to put the microbudget film of less than $500,000 into production.

Andrew Kightlinger works with actress Jessica Rothe while filming.

The actors and crew shot in the Pierre area for 20 days, based mostly on a ranch owned by the grandparents of his junior prom date. After unsuccessfully scouting 52 ranch locations, including some in other states, he put out a Facebook request, and another personal connection paid off. Businesses in Pierre and Fort Pierre helped out with other location shoots, and Fernson Brewing Co. ended up with several cameo appearances for its beer. In another tie to South Dakota, the film was edited at Labyrinth Films in Aberdeen.

“Tater Tot & Patton” is the story of a struggling millennial from Los Angeles who escapes to her alcoholic uncle’s ranch in South Dakota. It has spent several months on the film festival circuit and, after being shown in several South Dakota cities in the coming week, is headed into full release with distribution plans through steaming services such as Amazon. A GoFundMe page has been started to raise money for marketing “to get more eyeballs to see it when it hits streaming services,” Kightlinger said.

While South Dakotans supported Kightlinger’s movie-making efforts, the state doesn’t offer tax incentives for films and that will keep multimillion-dollar movies like “The Revenant” from being shot here even when that’s where the story is set, he said. The South Dakota Arts Council, of which he’s a board member, does offer grants for nonprofit films. He received one to shoot a short film, which was helpful.

“I could show people I could do this on a larger scale. … They helped me take another step up the ladder.”

Kightlinger will share more about filmmaking after Saturday night’s showing of “Tater Tot & Patton.” Fernson’s main brewery is hosting an after-party and Q&A.

He’s living in Los Angeles now and writing another script. While it might end up being filmed in another state, he vows to keep making movies in South Dakota

“We hope we can make money on it,” he said of “Tater Tot & Patton.” “It’s meant to be a steppingstone to becoming a bigger project.”

“Tater Tot & Patton”

When: 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Where: Washington Pavilion CineDome

Tickets: $10.90 online or at the box office

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Film shot in South Dakota opens tonight

An independent movie shot in South Dakota with a multitude of ties to the state opens tonight for a three-day run at the Washington Pavilion.

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