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By Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., Published February 22 2010

North Dakota missile site offering film contest

Do you have a cool idea for a Cold War-era movie?

The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site near Cooperstown, N.D., is offering the Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility as a film location.

The historic site and the Friends of Oscar-Zero are sponsoring a Cold War Film Contest. Selected independent film crews will be allowed special access to the Oscar-Zero facility, four miles north of Cooperstown, from Sept. 15 to Feb. 28, 2011.

“One goal of the project is to link creative, independent filmmakers in the region to one of the state’s most unique Cold War historic sites to help bring attention to the richness of North Dakota’s Cold War history,” said Mark Sundlov, historic site manager.

The contest will allow – and require – regional, independent filmmakers to use the historic, underground facility as a background for independently produced short-length films, Sundlov said. Oscar-Zero must be part of the finished product.

No restrictions are set on the film genre, be it documentary, suspense, science fiction, thriller, romance or something else.

“The produced films will enrich the interpretation of the site by cinematically presenting aspects of the tense and complex interplay of military preparedness, politics, culture and social life during the Cold War period,” Sundlov said.

Another goal is to help area students develop a deeper interest in the region’s Cold War history, as well as in creative filmmaking projects, he said.

The project grew from an idea submitted by Friends of Oscar-Zero, a regional group that raised money to preserve the facility. The group, now focusing on promoting the site, is working with Chris Jacobs, a senior lecturer at the University of North Dakota and an independent filmmaker.

The Cold War began in 1945 as a post-World War II confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over many issues, most importantly, the shape of the postwar world.

A massive arms race ensued, although the super-powers never fought each other directly because of the potential of nuclear weapons to destroy both nations.

Oscar-Zero was one of 15 facilities in northeastern North Dakota that was part of the 321st Missile Wing, a cluster of intercontinental ballistic missile launch sites spread over a 6,500-square-mile area around Grand Forks Air Force Base, stretching from near the U.S.-Canadian border to Interstate 94. Each launch site controlled 10 ballistic missiles.

Minot Air Force Base operated another missile field in north-central North Dakota. Sundlov served as a missileer in Minot.

Oscar-Zero was completed in 1965, with Minuteman II missiles installed at the 10 area missile sites shortly after completion.

The sites were modified in the 1970s to accommodate Minuteman III missiles. For more than a quarter-century, Oscar-Zero and its missile facilities were on continuous alert.

A treaty between the Soviet Union and the U.S. in 1991 limited strategic weapons on both sides, eventually resulting in the closing of the 321st Wing at Grand Forks and the removal of all Minuteman missiles from the base.

The film contest is supported by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the Friends of Oscar-Zero and the Griggs County Historical Society.

Films will be judged by a multidisciplinary team for their cinematic and historical merits, and prizes will be awarded.

A small fee is required to participate. Filmmakers must provide their own equipment and supplies.

Contest deadlines are:

  • Aug. 15: Deadline to submit proposal.

  • Sept. 1: Winning proposals announced.

  • Sept. 15 to Feb. 28, 2011: On-site shooting appointments available.

  • June 30, 2011: All competing films must be submitted.

  • July 31, 2011: Finalists announced.

    For more information and contest details, or to visit the site, call Sundlov at (701) 797-3691 or e-mail msundlov@nd.gov.

    Kevin Bonham is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.