A wife and mom with secret dreams of being a stand-up comic uses a one night stand with a burned-out touring comedian to face the harsh but funny truths of her failing marriage, neglected aspirations, and individual identity.
Dee is a middle-aged wife and mother stuck in a boring job and a broken marriage in what feels like the frozen edge of the world: International Falls, Minnesota. A self-proclaimed comedy nerd with a secret dream of getting on stage, her only escape comes in the form of no-name touring comics performing weekly in the hotel bar where she works as a front desk clerk. This particular weekend brings Tim, a burned out headliner who is all too aware of his status as a low-level nobody telling the same hack jokes to small town slobbering drunks year after year. He’s come to International Falls with no intention of leaving.
When Dee invites herself to Tim’s room after his first night’s show, her walls begin to crumble as she’s forced to face the realities of a life that she’s become so adept at ignoring: a job she hates in a town she despises, a husband who’s been cheating for years, and a dream she’s never had the guts to pursue. Their one night stand stretches into the next day as each comfortably acknowledge that they’re using the other for momentary comfort. Tim confesses that he’s going through a divorce, has lost custody of his son and is miserable in his chosen profession. He tells Dee that that night’s show will be his last as a comedian, that he’s “sort of retiring,” which turns out to be a sadly ominous prediction.
The line between comedy and tragedy is blurred as Dee is forced to ask the inevitable, unavoidable question that all must face: Now what?
International Falls: it’s the name of a city in Minnesota that borders Canada. It’s also the name of our movie. Why? Well partly because International Falls, the self proclaimed “icebox of the nation”, is quite literally the end of the road.
In my experience, the best stories are the ones that draw from universal metaphors to pull us into a unique set of given circumstances with intriguing characters. The broad metaphor makes the specificity of the story more accessible to audiences. INTERNATIONAL FALLS does this in a simple but poignant way. Because all of us know what it feels like to be at the end of the road – to find ourselves in that place where we can either stop and give up, or choose to pave a new way.
That crisis point is where we find Dee and Tim at the beginning of this story. Now if we just left it at that, INTERNATIONAL FALLS could become a really cold, depressing drama. But luckily for us, the way Dee and Tim try to dig their way out of this crisis point is comedy. Like Jim Norton once said, “The funniest people I know seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that’s probably why they’re the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humor you need to dig yourself out of it.” I want to embrace that darkness because that’s where we need and find the most comedy.
INTERNATIONAL FALLS is a meditation on the deeply comedic and profoundly sad as they sit side by side in life. It’s funny because it’s just so damn real. That’s what I want to capture: a dynamic relationship between Dee and Tim where humor comes in that darkness and truth. As Tim says in the script, “If you want to tell jokes for a living. Tell the truth.”
That’s what I aim to do. That’s why we’re filming on location in Minnesota. That’s why we want to film in a real hotel instead of on a sound stage. That’s why I want the actors to improv throughout the scenes to find authentic moments of surprise and humor. As the director for INTERNATIONAL FALLS my goal will be to create situations where we tear down as many barriers to truth as possible and tell a story that feels so real you can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time.