Minnesota filmmakers reflect on 'Purple Haze' ahead of Walker Art Center screening

-  Before Minnesota became a mecca for making movies in the mid-'80s and '90s, a pair of local filmmakers made a splash in Hollywood with their independent films.

Next week, one of their best-known works - a cult classic of independent cinema - will be screened once again at the Walker in Minneapolis.

Just two years before “Purple Rain,” there was another purple movie filming right here in Minnesota.

"The films we shot here in town. ‘Loose Ends’ was first then we did ‘Purple Haze,’ then we did “Patti Rocks,’” filmmaker David Morris said.

Of all the movies David Burton Morris and Victoria Wozniak have made over the years, one holds a special place in their hearts.

"It’s been a cult film and fan favorite for many years because of all the music, the 22 classic rock songs. It will be fun to see it on the big screen," Morris said.

The couple wrote and directed the independent film "Purple Haze" in 1982, a film about a young man who bums around the Twin Cities with a friend during the Summer of Love in 1968.

"It was an exciting time to be alive. Music was changing, women's liberation was coming in. There's a scene where the guys discuss that, but it was also a scary time because of the draft," Wozniak said.

Even though Morris and Wozniak lived in Los Angeles, they shot the film in Minnesota. The movie even features several recognizable locations from the Ford Bridge to the West Bank.

"It was just an excuse to come back. We loved it, but we just couldn't work here," Morris said.

"Also, we knew people here so we would be able to get locations because it was unusual to shoot a feature film. They would say yes and we would arrive with a huge film crew. They'd go, ‘whoa.’ Most of it was free, which was great," Wozniak added.

The movie went on to win the Grand Jury prize at what became known as the Sundance Film Festival, and its wall-to-wall soundtrack of classic rock songs from Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Jefferson Airplane – a rarity at the time - earned it an enduring legacy with fans.

Wozniak had to get clearance for each of the 22 classic rock songs featured on the soundtrack. 

"Then, it cost a quarter of a million dollars. Now, it would cost millions and millions. We were one of the early ones to do it. They hadn't done it that much. People didn't know, it was new to them," Morris said.

After 20 years in Hollywood, Morris and Wozniak moved back to Minnesota. Today, they are pleased their passion project continues to attract an audience more than three decades after it debuted.

"You put it out there in the world and hope it has legs and people like it," Wozniak said.

The Walker will have screenings of “Purple Haze on Aug. 1 and 3 with a Q&A with its creators afterward. 

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