An inanimate object such as a bridge can be used as a light-hearted setting for intimate moments or as a dangerous structure high above the water.
Conveying the right emotion is the job of a director, and when director Michael Linn saw Yankton’s Meridian Bridge for the first time, he knew it was the right structure for his current film.
The city’s bridge was used in key scenes from an upcoming independent film called “Until Forever.”
It is based on the true story of Michael Boyum, a young man from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who was diagnosed with leukemia. While Michael struggles to live, his brother Matt is battling depression and tries to end his own life. The movie is also a love story between Michael and his childhood sweetheart, Michelle, who are seeking answers to questions of faith, life and love.
Linn Productions has organized a free showing of “Until Forever” at Trinity Lutheran Church in Yankton on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.
“I always knew I wanted to have screenings in Hot Springs and Yankton to say thank you to those two communities,” said Carolyn Linn, one of the producers of the film. “It’s a tear jerker, but it is also uplifting which is what we try to do.”
This will be the first time the film will be open to the public. The company has only had small, closed showings for the Boyums’ close family and Rapid City’s local Christian radio station KSLT. After seeing the completed film, Bonnie Boyum takes comfort in being able to relive that time in her son’s life.
“When I watch the movie now, I feel like I’m back 16 years and I’m going through that year,” she said. “I feel like I am back with (my son) and it makes me feel better.”
After a yearlong battle, Michael Boyum passed away in the fall of 1999. Just a few months after his death, Michael’s mother Bonnie Boyum visited Mahoney Media in Minneapolis and told a room full of strangers about a beautiful love story that needed to be made into a movie.
“Mr. Mahoney (president of Mahoney Media) said, ‘I want you to get a hold of Michael Linn. He likes to do true stories, true Christian stories. This is his e-mail, e-mail him,’ Bonnie said. “And I did.”
Linn is a director for Linn Productions, a family-based company out of Rapid City. Bonnie continued to contact him and tell her son’s story, determined not to give up.
“I worked on Michael Linn for 16 years,” Bonnie told the Press & Dakotan. “I knew it would be made because God said it. Michael Linn always said ‘In God’s timing, Bonnie.’ So I had to be patient.”
Linn spent years interviewing close family and friends from Inver Grove Heights and gaining background. He admits this story was always in the back of his mind, despite working on other projects.
“Her story was intriguing to me, but I wasn’t sure how to turn it into a film,” he said. “It sort of lingered for a while. It was one of those stories that just wouldn’t go away for me.”
After researching for years and questioning whether or not the story would make for a good movie, Linn noticed the particular success of author John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars” book and later film, which touched on a similar subject.
“I was just convinced that no one would want to see a film about cancer and young love,” Linn said. “You’ve got to lead with your best (films) a lot of times, especially in the independent film world where you don’t have a lot of resources available. Once that movie was made, it was like, ‘OK, there is an audience here.’ Let’s move forward and see what we can do with this story.”
Things moved forward quickly after that. Linn Productions filmed the movie in 2014, spending three weeks utilizing locations in Minneapolis, Hot Springs and the majority in the Boyums’ hometown of Inver Grove Heights. The film used the Boyums’ home and several locations within the town to add to the authenticity of the film’s storyline.
Boyum and her family were involved in making revisions of the screenplay and even choosing the actor, Stephen Bailey, to play Michael Boyum.
“They made me a producer,” Bonnie Boyum said. “I know nothing about producing a movie. No one told me what a producer does. But I thought, ‘Well, they probably want to film where they went and what they did.’”
While talking with the Boyums about their son’s story, one particular incident provided an unusual, unanswered question several years in the making for Linn.
“People who know me know that I am pretty cynical about visions and premonitions and stuff,” he said. “That doesn’t change the fact that this story is very strange and unusual.”
Approximately four years before Linn even met the Boyums, he had a vivid dream of two guys on a bridge in the rain. There was no sound, he said, but it looked like it had been edited for a movie with changing perspectives and the variety of shots. Although Linn couldn’t hear anything, it was clear that the two men were arguing. One was about to jump off the bridge and the other attempted to talk him down. One of the men eventually did talk the other one into coming down off the bridge.
And then Linn woke up. But what he remembered were the details of the bridge.
“It made me start thinking about maybe it was a scene I would love to see in a film,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what it was all about, so I dismissed it. But it stuck with me because it was such an unusual dream.”
Ironically, when Linn sat down with the Boyums and heard their story, there was an event that they shared with him that became very familiar.
Michael Boyum’s brother, Matt, donated bone marrow for a transplant that ended up being unsuccessful. That rainy night, Matt, struggling with depression, disappeared and no one could find him. Michael eventually found Matt on a nearby bridge, where the brothers visited often. He saw that Matt was standing on this bridge, ready to jump. Michael ran out and talked him down.
“I got goosebumps,” Linn said. “It was just like the dream I had several years ago.”
But, when Linn scouted the actual bridge to prepare for filming, it wasn’t what he expected.
“It looked nothing like my dream, not a thing,” he said. “It was small, it didn’t go all the way across and it was a reddish color.”
So Linn dismissed his dream and planned to use the bridge in Inver Grove Heights where the particular event took place.
But fate had another plan.
Carolyn Linn had all the arrangements made to start filming on that bridge. But three weeks before filming began, she got a call saying further construction on that bridge would make it impossible to use in the movie.
“If we hadn’t gotten the call, it would be a different film,” Michael said. “I believe it wouldn’t have been as good of a film. I don’t think we would have been able to pull off some of the stuff we were able to pull off with that location.”
Because the filming schedule was already planned, filmmakers had to find a bridge that they could utilize between Rapid City and Minneapolis. After some online research, Linn stumbled upon Yankton’s Meridian Bridge — and it was something out of his dream.
“I looked at the images of the bridge in Yankton and thought this is it,” he said. “Where we could put our equipment and our lights — everything was perfect.”
The crew arrived in Yankton on Sept. 3, 2014. Within 24 hours, filmmakers had captured three crucial scenes for the movie.
“It is a low-budget film, but it looks like a much higher budget,” Carolyn Linn said. “One of the reasons for that is because of those bridge scenes. People see it and they go ‘Wow! Where did they find that thing?’”
SETTING THE SCENE
The first scene is at sunset, depicting a sharing moment between the two brothers before Michael Boyum’s bone marrow transplant. At night, the crew filmed the rain scene on the bridge where Linn finally saw his dream realized.
“The night I was shooting, I wasn’t even worried,” he said. “I had a peace about me. I figured if I dreamed it, I convinced myself it would all be fine and it was. It was amazing.”
The team contacted Yankton city manager Amy Nelson to get permission to use the bridge, the water hook-up to create the rain and a “genie boom” lift from Clark’s Rental.
The fact that the bridge had a top was an extra convenience for filming, Linn said. Instead of having to rent a rain machine, the crew hooked up hoses on the top deck of the bridge to simulate the rain.
“That is the most cinematic bridge,” Linn said. “It is such a solid, large structure. It has a very big screen presence that translates well in the film. It almost has its own character. You notice it right away. It gives it a sense of place that a smaller bridge wouldn’t.”
They shot into the wee hours, completing that scene before returning to their hotel for some much needed rest. The next morning the crew returned to the bridge to film some additional day scenes involving main characters Michael and Michelle walking and Michael and Matt tossing around a football.
“When we shot in the Twin Cities, we had to get special permission to shoot in the park and it was just a lot of work,” Michael said. “In Yankton, it all went very smooth. It was really nice to have everyone be so accommodating and allow us to get these very important scenes without that stress.”
Linn Productions plans to show the film in select areas in February and see if it progresses from there. Regardless of the film’s future, Linn is excited for the Yankton premiere to see how a big crowd will respond to it. This will allow him to make some important notes in finalizing the picture before its release.
“There is certainly a rush in being out there, cameras rolling and trying to capture these big moments,” Linn said. “You always hope for the best, but you don’t know if it will work out. If I get the opportunity to shoot in Yankton again, I would. It was just a great experience.”
The trailer for the movie can be viewed at the website: www.untilforeverthemovie.com or the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/UntilForeverTheMovie?ref=bookmarks.
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