MCTC alum returns to Minneapolis for film premiere

It was the first day of school and Alan Miller’s new students couldn’t muster much excitement for the syllabus. Sure, film history sounded like an entertaining enough alternative, but building up enthusiasm for a community college film program wasn’t proving to be an easy sell to the incoming class.

Until Professor Miller mentioned the upcoming film premiere.

“The film is called Into Temptation and it was written and directed by a former student of mine,” Miller told the suddenly roused students. “A graduate of this very program. Patrick Coyle is his name. I make my acting debut in his film.”

Miller’s appearance is just one of many hometown touches that mark Coyle’s second feature film, Into Temptation. Shot entirely in Minneapolis in 2008, the film focuses on Catholic priest John Buerlein as he struggles to rescue a suicidal prostitute and his shaken faith. Hollywood hotshots Jeremy Sisto (Law and Order, Clueless) and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies, Glee) play the leads, but just about every other speaking role is populated by local actors.

Playing “dying man” in a deathbed scene opposite lead actor Jeremy Sisto was a thrill for the longtime film professor, even if his brief scene took longer to shoot than he expected. “Jeremy Sisto, who plays a priest in the film, couldn’t remember his lines while giving me my last rites,” Miller said. “He would kiss my forehead and begin the benediction, flubbing the ritual about five times. After the fifth take I told him ‘if you kiss me one more time you’re gonna have to buy me a drink.'”

The film proved to be a truly local affair, down to the locations and extras. At the screening I attended, a woman stood up during the opening scene and snapped a photograph, flash and all. “That’s my daughter, sorry,” the proud mother beamed as a young blonde girl on screen received communion. Elsewhere in the cast you’ll find local theater staple Greta Oglesby (star of the Guthrie’s hit musical Caroline of Change), Minneapolis mainstay Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from The Office), and even Coyle himself as a “client” of Chenoweth’s high-class call girl.

While you won’t catch the MCTC campus in the background of any of the film’s many forays into downtown, you will see the best (and worst) Hennepin Avenue has to offer. The Hennepin Avenue Bridge figures prominently in the film’s climax, as does Sex World, Augie’s nightclub, and the Stone Arch Bridge. The city infuses the film, grounding Father Buerlein’s quest in a Midwestern metropolis recognizable both for its seedy and blue collar sides.

Coyle’s film premiered Thursday, August 27 as part of the Edina Landmark Theater’s seventy-fifth anniversary celebration. Free to the public, the film kicked off the venerable theater’s weekend long festivities. Following its initial debut, the film will run for a one-week engagement at the Lagoon cinema in Uptown, August 28 through September 3.

It’s a tribute to the talent of Coyle that this movie was even made. Financing alone can take years for an independently produced film, especially in this recession. And convincing movie and television stars to fly to Minnesota for wages a fraction the size of what they’re used to seeing in New York or Hollywood is almost unheard of in the industry (unless you’re the Coen brothers or Robert Altman).

“The Industry” is a phrase often thrown around film programs, referring to the Hollywood/Independent movie world. It seems like an almost mystical destination. A multi-billion dollar dream world occupied by a select few far from fly-over country.

“There are many students who have come through this program now working in the industry,” Miller told his now rapt students. “We have a program here that is respected all over the country.”

As Intro to Film History began its first day on a hot August afternoon, the “Industry” seemed a little closer to reality for a group of hopeful film students.