Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 17, 2001

'Herman USA' movie has many local connections

By Ryan Gueningsman

Filmed in New Germany four summers ago, the motion picture Herman USA is finally being released to theaters across the midwest.

With production being done so close to home, many local people answered ads seen in newspapers to be "extras" or "stand-ins."

Burt and Leona DeMaris of Lester Prairie, Diana Thompson, Rosie Hertel, and Corrina Hagen, all of Winsted, went over to New Germany to apply for jobs as extras.

"I really wanted to know how they make a movie, and to see how things work on the set. I thought it was very interesting. I found out everything I wanted to know," said Thompson about her experience.

Hertel, Hagen, and the DeMaris decided to try out for extras for many of the same reasons as Thompson. All wanted to see how a movie was made and what went in to the production side of a movie.

"We went over to New Germany and signed up one night," said Burt. "We saw all the people and thought, 'We'll never get a call to come back.'"

That wasn't quite the case. The producers called them the next day to come for several days of filming different scenes. However, they could only do about four days of filming because Leona was having heart problems at the time.

There were quite a few different scenes shot in New Germany and the surrounding area.

Some of these included a town meeting, a camping scene, a bar scene, a street dance, a wedding, a softball game, and several traffic scenes ­ people or cars going in or out of town.

Some of the traffic scenes were moved to Waconia and by Mayer to appear as if they were entering New Germany.

"I think my car will actually be in the movie more than I will be," said Hertel laughing. "They used it about three times, and used different license plates on it too. When they did the street dance scene, I believe my car was the first car on the right, and it had a New York license plate on it. Then, one other time, they parked it on the other side of the street, going the other way, and they put a Pennsylvania license plate on it."

"I did one scene where we were coming in on the train," said Hagen. "I remember doing that so many times . . . on the train, off the train, on the train . . . it was pretty hard too because they had a pretty beat up train on the inside."

"I was there the night they did that, too," said Hertel. "I wasn't on the train, I was one of those running to the train. The funny part was it had rained that day, so there were puddles everywhere, and everyone was trying to miss them . . . it got so muddy."

Burt recalls another scene in which he met a man on the corner of the street, bummed a cigarette from him, lit it up, and walked down the street with him.

One of the main reasons the producers chose New Germany for filming was the fact that it is located right near railroad tracks, and because the layout of the streets is so similar to the actual town of Herman, Minn., where the movie was set.

"I've even worked in Herman before, a long time ago. I know a lot of people there," said Burt. "There are girls there, too," he said laughing. "I even roller skated with some of them."

"New Germany is so much the same as Herman, that's why they picked it. All the businesses are located on one side of the street, and the train tracks on the other," said Burt.

"They would have filmed it in Herman, but it was so far from the Twin Cities area, that the actors and actresses wouldn't go there. It was too far from the cities, and too far from an airport," said Hertel.

Thompson and Hertel just found out about the movie's completion several weeks ago when both happened to attend movies on the same weekend. Each saw the preview for it, and were excited to see it's finally being released.

"See, we don't even know the plot," said Thompson. "Other than it was about women coming in for the weekend for this big dance."

"It's fantastic," said Leona, who, with her husband, went to the premier of the movie in Minneapolis. "It's a very good story, and you laugh a lot," said her husband. "It's also a very clean story, too."

"I found out how much it really takes to make a movie," Hertel said about the experience. "They'd have to do the same thing so many times because something wasn't just right. The star would mess up a lot, too.

"They also had to do a lot of remodeling. They fixed a building that was ready to fall down . . . right across from T-Road Tavern . . . they painted some of the walls, and made it halfway decent. They painted the water tower, too."

"What really surprised me was the number of these young people applying for jobs as extras who brought managers or agents with them," said Thompson.

"They just wanted the opportunity to be in a film, but we got paid just as much as they did," said Hertel.

There were several major actors in New Germany for the filming of Herman USA. Michael O'Keefe, Enid Graham, and Kevin Chamberlin are listed as the stars for the film.

However, the 'star' probably most recognized around the area just might be Burt. He is pictured on the poster that has been sent out to movie theaters across the midwest, and can be seen in about five or six different scenes in the final movie. Just don't call him a 'star' though.

"I don't think I get excited about it," said Burt. "My kids do, though. My daughter talked to the producer of this, and they will send five posters to us. One for each of my kids, and one for us."

Herman USA opened to the public Friday, and can be seen at the theaters in Waconia, Monticello, Hutchinson, Delano, Buffalo, Chanhassen, and Shakopee.

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