HECTOR – Kathryn Dahlstrom has been a professional writer for more than 30 years, winning numerous awards for the children’s books she’s authored.
Given her history, you’d think she’d be almost bored with success.
But Dahlstrom, who's lived in rural Hector since 2013, is downright giddy while talking about her role as co-writer of a feature family comedy film, “Magic Max,” that stars veteran actors and has racked up 13 awards at film festivals prior to its premier later this month.
“I am delirious,” said Dahlstrom, in a phone interview from her century-old home that she and her husband, Tim, are renovating while she prepares for the release of “Magic Max” and continues to work on new screenplays and film projects.
“Magic Max” debuts Jan. 26 on video on demand streaming platforms, such as iTunes.
Tentative plans are also in the works for the movie to be shown at special screenings in February at several Minnesota theaters, including the one in Hutchinson.
This is the first “big break” into the film industry for Dahlstrom, who calls herself a “small-town Minnesota writer.”
It’s a career based on hard work, training, faith and “a steady flow of miracles,” she said.
Born and raised in Thief River Falls, with a degree in vocal music education from Bemidji State University, Dahlstrom switched careers from teaching to writing in 1990.
When her husband took a two-year work assignment in Los Angeles as an aircraft engineer, the couple participated in major musical productions at the large church they attended. Another person in the church production was a friend named Mark Cramer, who had a solid history of screenwriting success and knew a lot of other people in the movie industry.
Those connections, and a grueling screenwriting course she took after returning to Minnesota, led to Dahlstrom’s work with Silver Lining Pictures on the “Magic Max” screenplay.
“It’s absolutely staggering to be part of it,” said Dahlstrom, who said her skills in creating dialogue, meaningful themes and laugh-out-loud humor helped her land the job as screenwriter, as well as assisting with production of “Magic Max.”
In the original story, which Dahlstrom co-wrote with Wayne Mitchell and Cramer, a two-bit magician, named Max Hart, is faced with raising his 10-year-old nephew Tim, whose parents were killed in a plane crash.
When Tim “balks at living with his flaky uncle, Max must grow up to become the father figure Tim needs and, perhaps, find love while he’s at it,” according to the movie’s promotional material.
The film stars TV veteran Ivan Sergei as Max and Parker Bates at Tim.
Bates, 13, had regular roles in the TV series “This is Us” and did voice-over for Disney’s “Tangled.”
The cast also includes Jud Tylor, known for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Barry Corbin of “No Country for Old Men,” Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland and another 13-year-old actor, Lotus Blossom, in her debut.
Never give up
Having connections in the industry is vital, Dahlstrom said, but that won’t get a writer anywhere if they don’t have skills.
Hollywood isn’t “cruel” but people are busy and don’t have time to deal with writers who don’t know what they’re doing, she said.
With two million people claiming to be screenwriters, the competition is stiff.
“You can’t just write well. You’ve got to write better than anybody else,” she said. “And you’ve got to make connections.”
Breaking into the film industry is like “the Red Sea parting,” according to Dahlstrom, who said her faith continues to be the bedrock of her career.
After proving herself with “Magic Max,” Dahlstrom ’s now in a “stable of writers” with Silver Lining Pictures, which is leading to additional work as a screenwriter on future movies.
Dahlstrom, who gives writing seminars and workshops, said she wants to encourage unproduced writers who dream of “making the big time” to have faith, perseverance and constantly work to hone their skills.
“You can never, never, never give up,” she said. “No matter how long it takes.”
“Magic Max” was filmed in 2019 in Simi Valley, California.
Dahlstrom was able to be on the set to meet the actors and see the filming. “I was watching in absolute awe,” she said.
She hopes that’s the reaction people have when they see the film for themselves.
“Magic Max” has won acclaim in various film festivals with 13 wins including Best Family Film in the Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival.
Dahlstrom is the author of a six-book fiction series called The Good News Club, which has sold over 50,000 copies.
She’s also written an award-winning juvenile fantasy novel called "Children of Angels," and co-wrote a children’s fantasy called "The Land of Beyond Belief," with Mark Cramer that is also in the works to be turned into a movie. Filming on that begins next year.