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The LAKE RUNS RED Interviews, Pt. II: Stephanie Riesgraf, Executive Producer (and so much more) by Vincent Daemon

For Part I Click Here

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer)Photo Credit: Jeff Fuller

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer)Photo Credit: Jeff Fuller

T.I.F. — Greetings Stephanie, and thank you for choosing THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE within which to help promote your upcoming feature length film LAKE RUNS RED. Now, how exactly did the decision to Executive Produce (plus the many other duties you have) LAKE RUNS RED come about?

S.R. — Thank you so much for featuring us! THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE is such a remarkable publication. This is a really special opportunity. First off, full disclosure, I’m actually married to the LAKE RUNS RED director Jason Riesgraf! That’s kind of how I got involved with producing and funding this project. We’ve been talking about making our own independent film since Jason was in film school. Movies and horror have been Jason’s lifeblood since he was a little kid. LAKE RUNS RED is a passion project, not only for my husband, but also myself, our fellow producers, and our entire cast and crew.

T.I.F. — As mentioned, your jobs on this film are actually far more than just Executive Producer. What are those other duties, and how do you keep them all ordered and uncomplicated (or as little as they can be, anyway)?

S.R. — You know, “executive producer” is one of those weird, nebulous, all encompassing titles. I like to think of myself as the heart and spirit of this production. Each of the four main producers have taken the lead at different points during the production process where it made sense. I took charge during the pre­production process. J. Dan took charge during the principal photography phase. And Jeff and Jason have taken the lead during the post­production and marketing phases. My role is primarily behind the scenes with responsibilities focusing on the funding, business, legal, partnerships, and accounting aspects of the production. Creatively, during principal photography of LAKE RUNS RED, I was responsible for costume design, casting direction, and unit production management. The special thing about LAKE RUNS RED is that the role breakouts were very natural. There wasn’t any need to keep order or fiefdoms. We all, and by we all, I mean the entire cast and crew, pitched in where we were most suited in our skill sets. There wasn’t any overlap or territorial infighting. Everyone brought a unique contribution to the table during all phases of production.

T.I.F. — How has putting together a high quality, fully independent, visually visceral, and highly intelligent horror / crime­-noir film in the wilds of Minnesota been locally received?

S.R. — So far the reception has been remarkable. It’s heartwarming and emotionally overwhelming to know that the anticipation for this project is so positive, especially in the Minneapolis-­St. Paul film community. When you start a project like this, you of course have the biggest expectations, but in reality you just never know. So far, the traction we’ve been getting has been so positive. With every milestone we hit, every interview we give, and every fan we earn ­ I get choked up! It’s a little embarrassing, but I know there were a few video interviews and podcasts Jason did where I was beaming with pride and happiness for our entire team. It’s been a truly special experience. We’re a 100% Minnesota­-Made film and Minnesota plays such an important part in our story. We have our heart set on debuting here locally and expanding from there. We’ve already been approached by a few film festivals here in the Twin Cities for a potential red carpet debut next year in 2016. We’re pretty excited about what the future holds.

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer), Tim Pierson, Jason RiesgrafPhoto Credit: Jeff Fuller

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer), Tim Pierson, Jason RiesgrafPhoto Credit: Jeff Fuller

T.I.F. — How did you manage to cull together the talented, like minded crew working so hard to make LAKE RUNS RED the reality it is?

S.R. — I think gathering the right talent for LAKE RUNS RED has been our greatest success. It was a combination of people we knew, friends we had, and talented contributors we went out and recruited. The real secret to the sauce was having the good fortune of everyone being on the same page and having the same high passion that we did. When it’s special, you just know. Jason and I did a good job of creating an on­set culture that really brought out the best in everyone’s talents and created a family oriented sentiment among all participants.

T.I.F. — Were you involved in the casting process, and if so, how did you go about it? Besides Helene Donohue, it seems I’m seeing some oddly familiar faces from some unexpected places.

S.R. — I was very involved with the casting process. J. Dan Moores gets the screen credit for being casting director, but we really split those duties. J. Dan has a long and successful history with the performance arts. Together on LAKE RUNS RED, our casting approach was simple, yet detailed in our analysis. We spoke to a few actors we knew first, but they weren’t really right for the roles we had available. So, we held open auditions. We had a tremendous amount of actors/actresses interested in trying out for the film, which in retrospect I have to say was a good sign. J. Dan, Jason, and myself reviewed all of the candidates and had spirited debates on who would be best. Ultimately, we didn’t settle for just anyone. We took our time and cast the right individuals for the right roles. It goes without saying, but the entire LAKE RUNS RED cast is amazing. They all crushed it! We were lucky to book them when we did, because they’re all going places. Michael Hertenstein, who plays the secretive and mysterious father role of “Paul”, just finished a small role in a high profile production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” at the world famous Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. We’re all so proud and happy for him. You may also recognize him from a recent episode on the History Channel called the “Secrets of Einstein’s Brain,” where he played one of the Einstein’s. I think you’ve seen Helene Donohue in a few small roles in big budget Hollywood films like THE DOORS and THE ABYSS. She’s a pretty prolific actress, particularly with commercial work. In “Lake Runs Red,” she plays a minor, but pivotal role in our story. LAKE RUNS RED marks her triumphant return to feature films. Lauren Morris, on the other hand, is an unknown (at least in the film world). This was her first feature film, but she killed it. This past summer, she booked some work in Japan and is going to university for theater studies. She had the most challenging and emotionally exhausting role on set… and she nailed it. Me personally, I think you’re going to be really blown away by Kaci Wegleitner. She’s terrific in her lead role. Kaci delivered Jason’s complex dialogue in a really unique way. There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s going to be a mega­star in whatever career path she chooses. The awesome thing about Kaci is that she’s got a lot of options. She’s already an accomplished special effects makeup artist working in high profile television programs. She also moonlights as a teacher and brand ambassador. I also think you’ll be impressed with C.J. DeVaan. I wouldn’t say he plays the villain, necessarily, even if the marketing portrays him as such. There’s a lot going on with the mysterious nature of his character. He plays the duplicity well. The Twin Cities theater and film communities are going to take notice of his talents.

T.I.F. — When did pre­production finally come together, and actual shooting of LAKE RUNS RED begin?

S.R. — Well, Jason’s been incubating this story for several years. He had been writing this off and on since 2010. We were vacationing in Cancun, Mexico with some friends (including one of the other producers) when Jason finished the screenplay. I would say pre-­production began in February of 2014, with casting occurring at the end of May that same year. The production team was put in place in June and we began principal photography in July, with a wrap in November. I would say we rushed into filming as fast as we could because we had such terrific momentum at the time. The real heavy lifting has been in the post­production phase.

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer) with Kaci Wegleitner (Lauren)

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer) with Kaci Wegleitner (Lauren)

T.I.F. — Did the cast and crew have to work into a flow, or was something special there from the beginning, as it seems all parties involved were very carefully chosen?

S.R. — There was definitely something special there from the beginning. And yes, we did carefully choose our collaborators, however, I think there’s also an element of luck or serendipity when it comes to projects like this. Sometimes you never know if everyone’s going to integrate well, but when you do, you know you have something special. It very well might be the difference between a good movie and a bad movie. Or at the very least a positive experience vs. a negative one. That said, we clearly had a very positive experience.

T.I.F. — From what I understand, LAKE RUNS RED is a completely “grassroots” production, in every sense of the word, financially (and otherwise), as opposed to relying upon some fundraiser campaign. Have these aspects been difficult, or have you found this really the best way to go about a quality independent production?

S.R. — Well, we did do a small crowd funding campaign early on during the pre-­production, mostly with donations from close family and friends. Otherwise, the majority of LAKE RUNS RED was self­-financed by me with a few small ancillary contributions from the other producers. Of course, any independent film experiences cost constraints. We were no different. Lack of funding is always a challenge, however it’s also liberating in a two ways. 1) It allows us complete creative and business control of our content and story. One thing we feel strongly about is maintaining control of this project since it’s built on our passion. 2) It forced us to be more creative not only in the on­screen depictions, but also behind the scenes financially. No doubt about it, you hit the the nail on the head. The biggest challenge really has been fighting for exposure. When you’re completely grassroots, it takes quite a lot of time to build presence and awareness. Our marketing efforts have been exceptionally well executed and truly remarkable. Hats off to our marketing director Jeff Fuller; he built us a remarkably sturdy brand and marketing network completely from scratch. Ultimately, I think our grassroots efforts are really resonating with prospective audiences and we can monitor the response closely through social media, in real time.

T.I.F. — So far I’ve seen two trailers for LAKE RUNS RED, both intriguing and impressive. Who’s been your trailer cutter, as they’re doing a fantastic job?

S.R. — Thank you for the kind words! We’re really proud of our trailers so far. We’ve launched a unique trailer strategy where we did a character trailer for each main actor of the film, five in total. Our main trailer cutter is Jeff Fuller, our producer and marketing director. He cut the Bruce and Gwen trailers you’ve seen already, with a few more coming up. Jason, the director/writer, has also cut a few teaser trailers, as well as Lauren’s trailer. We hate seeing those 2 or 3 minute trailers that give away the entire plot of a film. Why bother even seeing the movie, right? We like that LAKE RUNS RED holds some big surprises and a bit of mystery. We want to preserve that as best as possible, even at the risk of being too coy. Our intention is for these character trailers to keep the imagination alive, while still giving you glimpses of who these characters might become.

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer), Tiffany Shaw (production assistant)

Pictured: Stephanie Riesgraf (producer), Tiffany Shaw (production assistant)

T.I.F. — Thank you again for taking the time to speak with THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE about LAKE RUNS RED. Any final words, anything not asked you wanted to mention, to our readers *(and eventual viewers) about LAKE RUNS RED? Also, when can we expect a release date?

S.R. — One of the things that I think sets us apart is our fan outreach, particularly on Twitter and Instagram. We do our best to connect with fans and involve them on this amazing journey. Just know that we appreciate everyone who’s supported us. Their enthusiasm is amazing. In terms of release time frame, LAKE RUNS RED is scheduled for a 2016 release, pending film festival acceptance. That said, following our festival run, we hope to expand the release in as robust a capacity as we can. We look forward to the day when the entire fanbase can see the finished film! In terms of the near future, please keep your eyes peeled for our final two character trailers (#4 – Melissa, and #5Paul), which are both set to drop in December. I think fans are really going to enjoy these last two. You’re going to see some subtle things that may change how you perceive the story.

And there you have it. Many thanks again to both JASON & STEPHANIE RIESGRAF for their insights into this intriguing upcoming film, and especially to JEFF FULLER for arranging this interview. Links will be posted below as to where you can follow any and all news on LAKE RUNS RED. Hopes for this are high, and I personally can’t wait to check this out. And neither should you. And keep an eye out for the final two upcoming trailers.






Key Art by: Jeff Fuller

Key Art by: Jeff Fuller


Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND of his music can be painfully experienced  at His email is vdaemon13@gmail.com1 

About vincentdaemon (109 Articles)
Writer of the weird and macabre; columnist for The Intestinal Fortitude; film and music critic and historian/buff; musician; visual artist; photographer; bibliophile/book collector; student of the bizarre, the occult, cryptozoology (and related topics); liver of life and the necessity of experience; loather of ignorance; seeker of knowledge; believer that we need to work together to achieve our common goals.

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