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From Construction To Film Production With Jon Wanzek

Jon Wanzek

PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY Bad Medicine Films

Formerly the president and owner of Wanzek Construction, Jon Wanzek has been pursuing other ventures, including the film industry. Wanzek established Bad Medicine Films in 2012, a North Dakota-based corporation to produce and finance independent films. In 2015, when one of his friends, a commercial paleontologist, discovered a valuable T-Rex in the Badlands, it gave him the inspiration for his newest film, Valley of Bones.

While most may consider a career in construction to film producing a major switch, Wanzek does not. “I had a lot of creative ideas and skills from managing construction projects that were useful in my role as a Film Producer. Coordination and building a film from a script and managing the team is like building a project from a blueprint.”

Jon Wanzek

He had never really thought about film producing, but he enjoyed making and exploring the development of films. He was also inspired by Western North Dakota and the ranch he owns out there. In 2009, he purchased Pitchfork Ranch, a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch near Amidon, in the North Dakota Badlands.

Wanzek’s newest film, Valley of Bones, was released nationwide in theatres in the fall of 2017 and was just recently released on DVD and Digital. “The movie was filmed on the Pitchfork Ranch and the idea was based on the real Tyrannosaurus Rex, that my friend discovered and a fictional story was built around it,” he said. Wanzek worked with two groups of writers and took the project into production.

Pitchfork Ranch

“Producing Valley of Bones was very interesting and a thrilling process,” Wanzek said. “I have met many people in the industry and have had the privilege to take part in all the steps of making a movie from the concept through production and then distribution. My distributor was Smith Global Media/Sony. I worked with Harry Smith and also got to meet his brother, Will Smith.”

The film was released nationwide on September 1, 2017, on 300 screens.

“The adventure in the badlands and producing this movie were a once in a lifetime experience.”

Other than producing Valley of Bones, Wanzek said, “Although there are no long-term goals, I’m always looking for more stories to produce and hoping to do something locally again.”

Being from the area, Wanzek is happy to stay local with his talents. “I’m from Fargo and have never thought about pursuing the film industry anywhere else,” he said. “I want to work on local projects and film in North Dakota.”

In relation to future plans, “I’m currently working on concepts and scripts that could be written and produced,” he said. “I also occasionally review scripts submitted to me by people in the industry or locally.”

Jon Wanzek

Wanzek also has his hand in many different business activities including real estate, venture capital and investing and supports several charitable organizations around the community, including Boys Scouts of America, Fargo Diocese Projects (St Mary’s, Sts Anne & Joachim, and St James Basilica), Real Presence Radio, YMCA, Theodore Roosevelt Foundation, Churches United, Dakota Medical Foundation and through Wanzek Family Foundation.

“Fargo is my hometown, and I’ve always been able to be active in the community and give back,” he said. “I like to work on projects that are local and help the community and people who live here.”

Valley of Bones

Anna (Autumn Reeser), a passionate but disgraced paleontologist, embarks on a journey through the badlands of western North Dakota in search of a potentially historic fossil. Word reaches Anna that Wes McCoy (Steven Molony), a recovering meth addict with unpaid cartel debts, has stumbled upon a large Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth. Determined to find the bones at any cost and undo her past mistakes, she teams up with McCoy, along with her late husband’s brother and her estranged son, and finds herself entangled in a dangerous game that tests whether she will move on from her past or be consumed by it.

Valley Of Bones

The film was written by Dan Glaser (Pinching Penny), Steven Molony (Efficiency) and Richard M. Lewis. It was produced by Jon Wanzek (10,000 Saints), Dan Glaser, Steven Molony, Luke Dylan Taylor (31, Little Men), Janek Ambros (Imminent Threat, 10,000 Saints) and Brandon Heitkamp (Bad Frank, Oxenfree). Executive producers are Jon Wanzek and Brenda Robinson. Story by Jon Wanzek.

Available: Amazon, Apple TV, Walmart, etc.
To learn more about Jon and his activities, visit Wanzek.us.

Kara Jeffers

Written by Kara Jeffers

Fargo Monthly Editor Kara Jeffers is from Garrison, North Dakota, a small town north of Bismarck, North Dakota, on Lake Sakakawea. She graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in theatre arts. In addition to working at Spotlight Media, Jeffers also works at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center, where she’s one of the first people (and, at times, the only person) visitors meet when they arrive in North Dakota—talk about pressure.

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