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Lifestyle & Going Out Trendsetter: Greg Carlson

Greg Carlson is a professor in the Communication Studies and Theatre Art department at Concordia College in Moorhead, where he currently serves as the director of the multimedia journalism and film studies programs.

Photo by Josiah Kopp

Greg Carlson is a professor in the Communication Studies and Theatre Art department at Concordia College in Moorhead, where he currently serves as the director of the multimedia journalism and film studies programs. Carlson has built a following as the Film Editor of the High Plains Reader, where his reviews, interviews, essays, and features have appeared in print and online since 1997.

Carlson is also the Projects Producer of the Fargo Film Festival and has volunteered since the inaugural year of the event in 2001. Every March, among other things, he programs the festival’s popular 2-Minute Movie Contest, one of the longest-running showcases of its kind. Carlson loves attending film festivals large and small, and often brings students to Park City, Utah to experience the excitement of world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

An accomplished filmmaker, Carlson is a four-time finalist in the Fusion/International Documentary Challenge and has produced and directed movies that have screened at Slamdance, Hot Docs, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, the South Dakota Film Festival, the Free Range Film Festival, the Orlando Film Festival, the Honolulu International Film Festival, and many others.

With Scottie Knollin, Carlson cofounded the North Dakota Film Society in 2019. He also serves on the board of directors of the Fargo Theatre, his favorite place in the world to see movies.

Carlson lives in Fargo with his wife Katie Smith, their children Forrest and Violet, and pet guinea pigs, Pluto and Galaxy.

An Accomplished Resume

Greg Carlson has had films screened at:

  • Fusion/International Documentary Challenge
  • Slamdance
  • Hot Docs
  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival
  • South Dakota Film Festival
  • Free Range Film Festival
  • Orlando Film Festival,
  • Honolulu International Film Festival
  • And many others.

Greg’s Favorite Annual Events & Activities

Fargo Film Festival

“Every March, under the leadership of Fargo Theatre Executive Director Emily Beck, the FFF programs more than 100 movies in five days. From local to international productions, the features and short subjects represent a variety of budgets, genres, and techniques. One of the best experiences of my life was hosting visual effects wizard, founding Industrial Light & Magic member, ‘Star Wars’ Oscar-winner, and Fargo native Richard Edlund.”

This year’s Fargo Film Festival took place March 21-25 and “JessZilla” won Best Picture.

Fargo Record Fair

“My friend Dean Sime has been running the Fargo Record Fair for years, where music fans catch up with other record collectors and dig through the crates in search of the perfect album. I won’t be parting with my Breeders ‘Head to Toe’ 10-inch or my Pickwick ‘Sounds of Terror!’ LP anytime soon, but I am still on the lookout for a reasonably priced copy of the Rauschenberg edition of ‘Speaking in Tongues’ by Talking Heads.”

This year’s Fargo Record Fair will be taking place on October 21!

Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra: A Night at the Oscars

“Jane Linde Capistran has inspired so many students and musicians over the years that it is hard to bear the thought of her (well-deserved) retirement. I hope the FM Symphony Orchestra will continue its annual Oscars concert, a fantastic program of perfectly curated selections from Academy Award winners and nominees past and present. The trio of Elmer Bernstein themes this year, which included ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ just knocked me out.”

Bluestem Concert Series

“Our community is fortunate to have a promoter like Jade Nielson and a world-class amphitheater-like Bluestem. Winter is always coming, and the summer months fly by, so I take advantage of outdoor shows as often as possible. Robert Plant, Ween, Dinosaur Jr., and Violent Femmes are just a few special memories at this incredible venue. Since Missy Elliott at the Fargodome was canceled back in 2003, can we try again at Bluestem?”

Some upcoming shows include: Train with Better Than Erza (August 5), Natalie Rateliff & The Night Sweats with Thee Sacred Souls (August 15), Lindsey Stirling with Walk Off The Earth (August 23), Thrivefest featuring Jeremy Camp (August 26)

Greg’s Restaurant Recommendations

1. Cafe Aladdin

“Closing in on three decades, Aladdin is as magical as the lamp of its namesake. I hope Ahmad and Younis never stop. Lucky for me, Aladdin happens to be my daughter’s favorite restaurant. The stuffed vine leaves are hard to beat.”

2. Great Wall

“Only the ‘regular’ version of chicken broccoli appears on the menu. Ask to have it prepared with their signature garlic sauce and you will be back for more. And speaking of garlic sauce, the eggplant at Lucy’s is spectacular.”

3. Bernbaum’s

“I am always ready for Nordic lamb meatloaf with lingonberries and pickled onions followed by a slice of chocolate cake! In November, my wife and I attended the Native Heritage Dinner prepared by Candace Stock and Edward Rodriguez. We haven’t been the same since. I still dream about that night.”

4. Thai Orchid

“I will miss the Moorhead location, but won’t stop regular visits when it moves to West Fargo. The red curry is the most comforting dish on a frozen January day and I urge you to make friends with the shiitake mushroom spring rolls if you have not already had the pleasure.”

5. Moorhead Freez

“When I was young, my grandfather introduced me to the joy of the hot fudge malt. I graduated from nearby Moorhead High School. An open campus meant lots of lunchtimes spent at what was then known as the TF.”

Photo by Josiah Kopp

.Q&A with Greg Carlson

If Greg Carlson were to create the perfect array of movie snacks, what would he include?

I have been working on the design and building of a home theater that includes a concession stand. I tend to stick with a classic line-up: hot buttered popcorn, ice-cold soda, and a box of Junior Mints.

What local film creators and professionals should people be aware of in the area and why? Are there any particular pieces that people should make sure they watch?

There is so much talent here. Toby Jones and Tucker Lucas are currently working on an ambitious comedy (full disclosure: I play the main character’s dad). I love everything that my colleague Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson makes. Whenever she goes to Iceland, she always returns with a gorgeous movie.

Mike Scholtz, who lives in Wrenshall, Minnesota, is one of my oldest and closest friends. His documentary shorts and features explode with humor, life, and color. Mike makes learning fun. He is also a workhorse who just keeps getting better and better with each new project.

What should the beginning filmmaker’s starter kit include?

While it is a thrill to play with expensive gear, I tell students of all ages that you don’t need to spend a fortune on equipment to make movies. In 2006, David Lynch shot “Inland Empire” in standard definition on the Sony PD-150—the same prosumer-grade camcorder model we were using in production classes at the time. I remember when Monte Hellman’s final feature “Road to Nowhere” played at the Fargo Theatre in 2011. That movie was captured on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a very affordable camera. A light bulb blinked on for independent, do-it-yourself storytellers.

Before the digital revolution, cost was a much bigger barrier to entry for aspiring moviemakers. Today, the smartphones in so many of our pockets capture high-quality images and sounds that can be edited in apps/programs like iMovie, Adobe Premiere Pro, PowerDirector 365, and Sony Vegas. Vimeo even offers an easy video editor.

Technology changes so rapidly and there is such a huge price range that it is impossible to suggest an ideal camera. I like the plucky charm and revolutionary spirit of the GoPro line as well as the versatility of the Panasonic HC-X1. My friends Tucker, Lucas, and Toby Jones are using the Blackmagic Pocket 6K on a project right now. Duncan Williamson, senior film producer at Tellwell, favors the Sony FX6. He notes the camera’s “perfect balance between image quality and nimble size” for documentary production.

Everyone likes to talk with cameras, but a decent handheld audio recorder is also a must. The Zoom H4N and the Tascam DR-100MKIII are good places to start for beginners. I have no idea whether the upcoming TP-7 field recorder by Teenage Engineering will deliver, but I am intrigued by the promise of its audio transcription feature. I will be elated if it works as advertised.

What is your involvement in the Fargo Film Festival?

I was not a member of the group that started the Fargo Film Festival, but I have been a volunteer since the beginning. The great film professor, my mentor Ted Larson of Minnesota State University Moorhead, died a few months before the original event. Even though my life had been turned upside down, Rusty Casselton asked me to participate. I made dubs of submitted movies for jurors to screen, helped set up the second venue, and edited the video of Leonard Maltin accepting the inaugural Ted M. Larson Award, the Fargo Film Festival’s highest honor.

I am so glad that then-Executive Director Margie Bailly and a talented group of friends had the vision to do so following the March 2000 visit of Janet Leigh as part of the Library of Congress Film Preservation Tour. Ted Larson had previously hosted cinema luminaries Lillian Gish and Colleen Moore in addition to producing Silent Movie Night and Summer Cinema at MSUM. He also regularly took students to Cinefest and Cinecon in New York and Los Angeles. I know he would be thrilled to see the growth and evolution of the festival.

Connect With Greg!

Facebook: /greg.carlson.927
Email: [email protected]


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