High Five Productions
High Five Productions was founded in Minneapolis in early 2004 by current members Thora Jansson, Terry “Munch” Spellman and Joanna Burne, as well as former members Ofer Mizrachi and Derek Lundberg. The original purpose of the group was to develop PSAs for the decriminalization of marijuana in Minnesota. While the group never aired their original 15-minute PSA, America’s Secret Harvest, they received acclaim for the quality of Jansson’s interviews and overall cinematic craftsmanship. When Jansson and Spellman nudged the group towards documentary filmmaking and away from specific attention to drug legalization issues, Lundberg departed the group to continue his political advocacy work elsewhere.
Golden Years and Decline
Between 2005 and 2007, HFP self-produced three documentary features: Title Was Never There, The Wicked Yeomen and Blink and You’ll Miss It, the second of which is widely accepted (both within HFP and without) to be the group’s best, winning second place at the 2006 Twin Cities Documentary Film Festival. However after Blink, sound technician Mizrachi departed the group for work in New York City, and the group made the critical error of starting work on their fourth feature, From the Horse’s Mouth without a gaffer. The results were disastrous and caused the remaining members of the group to disband and pursue solo work.
Between 2007 and 2009, former members of HFP created work that was met with mixed acclaim, at best, including Jansson’s documentary Jack in the Concrete Box and Spellman’s experimental film, Cerius (whose critical failure many attribute to a review by Larry Fishwick, entitled Seriously Unclear). However Burne, who had gone into private business after the group’s breakup, began a torrential relationship with tech guru Aaron Choat in 2008 that led to his introduction to the group. Greatly impressed by Choat’s gaffing work and broad skill set, Jansson and Spellman pushed to resurrect HFP beginning in early 2009. Lack of direction and group in-fighting (stemming mostly from the breakup of Burne and Choat) almost stopped the reunion short, but the Church of Satan scandal drew the interest of long-time group contact, Hollywood-experienced Ken LeFleurve, who offered to come work with the group in Minneapolis on condition of choosing the Satanist scandal as the group’s first new subject.
The 19th Avenue Studio
The physical workspace of High Five Productions has changed more than once since the group’s inception. Initially operating out of founder Derek Lundberg’s basement hydroponics lab in Roseville, HFP moved its equipment to a studio loft in Uptown in late 2004, where it stayed until the group’s breakup. HFP’s newest space was selected by Aaron Choat. It is a small room attached to the back of an acupuncture studio at the corner of 19th and Riverside Avenues. The space has notable amenities including operational electric outlets and being conveniently close to Choat’s place of employment. It is sadly lacking any kind of kitchen or bathroom facilities, however, making the all-night diner across the street a favorite destination for the group when working late in the throes of creativity.