Home Grown Talent

Published October 20, 2007 in the Hill and Lake Press
By Jean Deatrick

According to Michael Mason, Shadow Creek Studios, is selling excitement…excitement in films that is. Many of you must remember the B movies from the 50s such as “Them” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” I remember, but I sometimes had nightmares after viewing them. According to Chris Mihm, creative force behind Shadow Creek Studios, they were tame affairs although often not suitable for children. Shadow Creek is raising the standard for independent films with their movie, “It Came From Another World!” which premiered in May. This flick follows the enviable success of “The Monster of Phantom Lake.” And the films are family friendly.

Josh Craig and Michael Mason grew up as friends in the Hill & Lake Press neighborhood. In 2005 Josh joined with another friend from South High, Chris Mihm, and they started production on “The Monster of Phantom Lake.” Chris’ “dogged determination” hitting web discussion groups, chat rooms and blogs, resulted in 1300 emails sent to film festivals and theaters in the United States and Canada found on the internet and elsewhere. Soon, Tim Braun of Braun Media Services in Maple Grove responded inviting Chris and Josh to bring their film aspirations into a real company.

The real company is Shadow Creek Studios. Chris is writer, director and creator and Josh is his sounding board, master prop guy, and actor. On August 1, Mike Mason joined his friends as new business development director and an actor, as well. Mike related that Josh helps “makes Chris’ ideas real.” All agree that to be successful they must use every resource available: internet, contacts, parents, friends, and newspapers. Word of mouth and a collaborative effort counts! All have experience in theatre, computers, sound, films, and writing.

I asked why they chose to keep their film company in Minneapolis when so much movie making takes place in California and elsewhere. I learned that the Twin Cities has more theatre seats per capita than anywhere else except New York City. Chris emphasized that Shadow Creek Studios is a truly independent film company; their films cost under $10,000 to produce. Often independent films are financed by a large commercial film studio and are not really independent. Mike emphasized, “We can create what we want without studio influence.” Josh added that the playing field has been leveled through the use of computers and digital video, making it easier to be independent. Accordingly, they can do it all: public relations, procurement of local talent, production, and technical tools used to market the films.

An interesting discovery was that independent film makers weren’t making science fiction films and, as a result, Chris saw niche potential from this underserved market. The films have been receiving several awards, including Best Feature for “It Came From Another World!” this year, following last year’s Director’s Choice award for “The Monster of Phantom Lake” from the Shocker Fest International Film Festival in Modesto, California. Shadow Creek Studios makes family friendly horror and science fiction without making the films specifically for children. “An honest tribute to the 50s in black and white” is what these film makers describe as their genre. Their films appeal to nostalgia and old movie buffs, but their science fiction take is more ‘irreverent hipster’ with references to Star Trek, Star Wars, Ghostbusters and other films.

The Shadow Creek website includes information on screenings and information about their next film. Items for sale include a vintage pinup calendar of beautiful actresses who have appeared in the films. Films are available at various outlets including Electric Fetus, Nicollet Village Video, Cinema Revolution, Box Office Video, and many comic book stores. Visit websites: monsterofphantomlake.com and shadowcreekstudios.com for history, information, posters, apparel, and films.