A group of Twin Cities filmmakers has made Banning State Park in Pine County the backdrop for their fantasy web series called Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls pulls its influence from the Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and The Witcher. The series is set in the Kingdom of Lorn and follows Prince Fordwin, who with the help of his childhood friends, must rescue his wife, who was kidnapped by an evil sorcerer.
What should be a cut and dry rescue mission is muddied by the fact that Fordwin's friends, a thief named Mirelle and Edelle the Lord of Bodvarr, absolutely hate each other.
"It's a journey of how do we heal past traumas in relationships, and how do they solve relationships while also being on one of the most epic adventures of their lives," Producer Falicia Nichole tells WCMP.
Hidden Falls began as a challenge between Executive Producer Abby Day and the lead actor Dawson Ehlke. The pair were wandering around Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul when they thought it'd be fun to make a movie, so Day and Ehlke decided that whoever wrote the better script would then turn it into a movie.
Day then included Falicia Nichole. The pair brought on Pine City graduate Josh Zapata-Palmer as director and Josh Cisewski as an assistant director and editor to round out the team. The project then grew from a single episode to an eight-part series.
"Originally, it was just one episode that we were going to do," Palmer told WCMP. "But the script kept getting bigger and better. It was actually really timely because it's about reconciliation between people groups, and what better time to talk about that than now."
The group set out during the summer of 2020 to shoot the pilot episode. Funding the initial episode themselves, the pilot was filmed with a shoe-string budget of less than $4,000.
In the early spring of 2021, the group launched a Kickstarter to fund the production of the remaining episodes. They were able to raise around $36,000 to produce the remaining seven episodes in the series.
The team has had a summer as they work to shoot the first group of exterior scenes. Many of which will look familiar to Pine County residents as Banning State Park serves as a backdrop for the Kingdom of Lorn.
"Ultimately, there were two reasons we wanted to do it here," Palmer said. "The people who work there [Banning State Park] are really, really great... the workers just made it worth doing there, and it has become an iconic part of the story."
The other reason was the beauty they found in Banning State Park.
"The main location is Big Spring Falls, which is in the lower part of the park. We really loved that area because you could walk out on the river when it was low and still see the falls... it really called to us."
With production for the bulk of the series still underway, a full release probably won't happen for at least another year or so. However, the pilot episode is expected to be released to the public in mid-September.
You can listen to the full interview with Josh Palmer and Falicia Nichole below.