You may have seen Christine Clayburg on the small screen as a meteorologist on Fox 9 and other stations, but now she has her sights set on the big screen with a movie called Minneapolis.
Clayburg is the lead screenwriter of the story, which is set in its eponymous city. It revolves around a pair of ill-matched news anchors, desperate for ratings, who get roped into mentoring a young girl. The project, which is in the development stage, seeks to crowdfund $8,000 on Seed and Spark to pay for the filming of a scene to send to investors. So far they have raised $5,000.
Clayburg came to filmmaking like many of her previous careers: unexpectedly. The geology major and theater lover made her on-camera debut as a weekend weather reporter in Missoula, Montana. One successful gig led to another in cities like Spokane, Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. Roles on television shows like Desperate Housewives, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Mindy Project followed.
Then the sexist reality of Hollywood intervened. “I slowly learned that there’s an expectation that you will sleep with somebody for a job and I was like, ‘I’m just not comfortable with that. I don’t want it that bad,’” she says.
Clayburg, who hails from a veteran lineage, was nearing her 35th birthday and decided to enlist in the Air National Guard. As a combat airlift loadmaster, she was responsible for loading, balancing, fueling, and rigging C-130 Hercules aircraft that dropped heavy equipment or army rangers around the world.
“I have never loved a job more in my life than combat airlift. I was in my element. I probably would have never come out of the back of that airplane,” she says.
But she did. Clayburg’s service was cut short after she survived an assault. “It’s an incredibly prevalent issue in our world, in and out of the military. It’s a little more devastating in the military because it’s kind of like incest. It really knocked me over. It really took a toll on my health,” she says. “A lot of veterans deal with PTSD, and they don’t want to talk about it and it’s pretty common. And it’s extremely common if you’ve survived assault with someone you worked with for two years.”
Clayburg came home to Minnesota to heal and to receive health care at the VA, but because of bureaucracy, it’s not the care she needs to be able to return to duty. As for going back to a 9-to-5 job, “I wouldn’t be able to do that right now,” she says. Clayburg can’t handle crowds, and she doesn’t have the same amount of energy that she used to. She also suffers from a back issue from her last deployment.
The assault and subsequent health problems were a tipping point, and forced her to ask herself: “What else can I do?”
The answer: filmmaking.
She had started writing Minneapolis in 2008, but put the project on hold during her deployments. Now she had the perfect moment to immerse herself in it. “I’ve always been a storyteller. I’ve always been a writer. Even weather is telling a story, too. I think that’s why I was very successful at it; it’s not just science,” she says. “It’s really an engineering feat to get a good screenplay.”
Following the precept of “write what you know,” she formed her story around two news anchors. Clayburg compressed 15 years of hilarious incidents from newsrooms into the script. She recalls, for example, when WCCO brought in consultants from Texas who told everyone to remove the liners from their winter coats. “We’re all looking at each other like, ‘Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how cold it gets here?’” she says.
From the outside, egos may seem to be a major part of a newsroom, but Clayburg didn’t focus on that. “It takes a tremendous amount of commitment to your personal brand to succeed in this field. I didn’t go after egos, I went more after what an idiot you look like trying to jump through all these hoops that are thrown at you,” she says. “It’s not mean-spirited. It’s fun all the way through. We also worked really hard to grab your heart.”
Naturally, weather plays a role in the film as well. Clayburg made the narrative span four seasons; the weather often reflects the characters’ experiences. “I know the moods of weather. I know how weather moves. I know that world. And I’ve never seen weather done right on film,” she says. “People love weather. And, of course, it’s what Minnesota is known for.”
After a table read in Los Angeles, a producer expressed interest in Minneapolis... but wanted to film in Vancouver. Clayburg couldn’t get on board with that. She wants authentic Minnesotan weather -- and the skyways Minnesotans use to avoid the elements -- in the film.
Hence, crowdfunding. The Minneapolis campaign is currently 60 percent paid for with less than two weeks to go. If it's successful, shooting could start next summer, and that’s when the grunt work begins. Luckily, Clayburg’s combat airlift skills are transferable. “There’s a reason they call it ‘the theater of war,’” she says. “People get very excited about shooting a movie, but it’s all pre-production and post-production, and the shooting of the movie is like the air drop. As long as you do your job right, everything will go out of the plane the way it’s supposed to.”
Even if the movie takes longer than expected to hit theaters, the filmmaking process has been beneficial for Clayburg. When working on the film, her PTSD symptoms abate, though only temporarily. “I’m not quite sure how that’s all going to resolve yet,” she says regarding her status with the Air National Guard and her health care struggles. “The future is a bit uncertain.”
What she is sure of: Minnesotans will want to see Minneapolis. “I think we need to laugh more,” she says. “In laughing and connecting with each other, that inspires change much more than yelling and screaming and being snarky.”
For more information on Minneapolis, visit the movie’s Seed and Spark campaign page.