Land of the giants; film highlights world's largest statuesFrazee, Vergas and other cities are about to become recognized for their biggest attractions.
By: Pippi Mayfield , Detroit Lakes Tribune
Frazee, Vergas and other cities are about to become recognized for their biggest attractions.
Documentary filmmakers Amy Elliott and Liz Donius are premiering their film “World’s Largest,” which includes Frazee’s turkey and Vergas’ loon.
“Minnesota, you guys are ground zero for these items,” she said with a laugh. “We ended up spending a lot more time in Minnesota than we planned.”
The original idea came about when Elliott, a professional photographer based in New York who does a lot of traveling for work, decided to document the world’s largest statues throughout the United States.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for these kinds of roadside attractions.”
Elliott and her partner Liz Donius were looking for their next documentary film, and it was an idea that clicked. She said one of the best parts of their job is going to places they wouldn’t normally, so this was the perfect opportunity.
Traveling to 60 places for the documentary, Minnesota took top honors with the most “world’s largest,” with 20 of them in the film.
“We didn’t know that was going to happen when we started,” she said. “It just turned out that we found out there was a really big concentration of them in your state. We ended up spending a lot of time there.”
Touching on many states from coast to coast, north to south, Soap Lake, Wash., is profiled in the film because of the town’s struggle to build the world’s largest lava lamp.
Although they hit all four corners of the nation, Elliott said majority of the statues were in the Midwest. North Dakota wasn’t far behind Minnesota in things to see.
“Every couple of hours we hit, obviously the buffalo in Jamestown, Steele the crane … and Salem Sue the cow in New Salem and Williston and some wheat stalks. Oh yeah, North Dakota was up there as well,” she said laughing.
The locations the two women stopped in can be seen on their Web site www.worldslargestdoc.com. (Alexandria's "Big Ole" Viking statue isn't on the list.)
The project took over six years from start to finish.
“It was a real labor of love,” she said. “It was an independent production, so Liz and I both had day jobs. And just the sheer number of places we went, the travel itself … cause we wanted to spend time in all of these places.”
Locally, the two women spent time in Frazee with the largest turkey and Vergas with the largest loon. They came for Turkey Days and Looney Days and spent time getting to know the community as well. They interviewed the local historians, residents and, if possible, the person who came up with the idea for the monument.
In Frazee, they had a little fun with the infamous burning turkey as well.
“Not only did we get the story, we interviewed the culprits — Ross Mickelson and Kenny Fett. They were great,” she said with a laugh. “They were very entertaining.”
Elliott and Donius interviewed the two men together and “they both kind of blamed each other. They were great. We had a lot of fun with them. They both made the cut.”
They obviously weren’t around to film the actual burning— “we’re sorry we missed this burning. That would have made good footage” — but they did use still photos from the fire for the documentary film.
Frazee, Vergas and the rest of the world’s largest statues will make their premiere at the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, March 12-20.
“It’s one of the most exciting film festivals in the country, and we’re really excited about it. It’s a really good fit for the film, style wise.”
After that premiere, the women will take the film to other festivals.
Although they have done other shorter pieces for television, this is the first feature length piece — 75 minutes long. They have ideas for future documentaries, but nothing “we’re ready to announce to the world yet.”
Until then, turkeys, loons, pelicans, otters and cows can bask in their documentary fame.
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