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Pequot grad comes home from LA to produce screenplay

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Actors with Restraining Hollywood do a scene for the independent film titled "Kill Me" at Anytime Fitness in Nisswa. Brandon Van Vliet, a 1996 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, owns the film label/production company. His crew spent most the month of August in the Brainerd lakes area filming. Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls 2 / 6
Brandon Van Vliet, a 1996 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, who now lives in Los Angeles, brought his crew involved in his film label/production company called Restraining Hollywood, to the Brainerd lakes area to film his next feature film titled “Kill Me.” Submitted Photo3 / 6
Brandon Van Vliet, a 1996 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, jumps off the bridge in Crosslake for a scene in “Kill Me.” Submitted Photo4 / 6
Brandon Van Vliet (center) with two actors in a scene in “Kill Me” at the Old Milwaukee Club Saloon and Eatery in rural Pequot Lakes. Submitted Photo5 / 6
Brandon Van Vliet, a 1996 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, points a gun in a scene filmed in the Brainerd lakes area for the screenplay “Kill Me.” Submitted Photo6 / 6

NISSWA—After shooting the independent feature "Seed of Doubt" featuring actors Sarah Utterback of "Grey's Anatomy" and Paul James of "Greek" and "The Last Ship"—actor and producer Brandon Van Vliet has come back to his hometown of Nisswa to shoot his next film.

Van Vliet, a 1996 Pequot Lakes High School graduate, along with a 30-35 crew involved in his film label/production company Restraining Hollywood, spent most the month of August in the Brainerd lakes area filming his next feature film titled "Kill Me." The short freelance film is about a retired hitman who moves back to his small hometown and falls in love with a girl from high school and decides to kill her cheating boyfriend. Scenes were shot from Nisswa, Crosslake and Ideal Township for the movie. The last scene was shot Aug. 20 at Psycho Suzi's in Minneapolis, and Van Vliet flies back home to Los Angeles Thursday, Aug. 30.

"It's an action, a dark comedy and a romance rolled all together in this independent film," Van Vliet said. "There is a lot of action. ... We don't sit around, we make movies we want to watch."

Van Vliet said he makes a point every summer to film in the Brainerd lakes area.

"I love coming back here to (shoot films)," Van Vliet said. "LA is great, but Minnesota is my home and it's fun to come here to film. ... Everyone thinks filming here is pretty cool."

He and his crew stay at the home of his parents, Wayne and Linda Van Vliet, in Nisswa while they film.

"My parents have always been supportive of the arts," Van Vliet said. "They are always helping us out and do a lot of work behind the scenes. They stay at my younger brother Shawn's (Van Vliet) house in Breezy Point when we crash at their house. They know it's a madhouse, a lot of overnights. We work crazy hours. One night we didn't wrap up until 5 a.m."

Van Vliet said in high school he wasn't in theater, but took some stage classes.

"I was in detention a lot," he said with a grin.

Van Vliet knew he wanted to be an actor in high school after watching "Saturday Night Live," a late-night comedy. Then as he got older he wanted to make films.

"I watched 'Boogie Nights' and after that I wanted to make films," Van Vliet said. "I was really intrigued by the whole process with editing, finding cool locations, coming up with scripts and characters."

Van Vliet started his film label/production company in 2004, working as an actor and a producer. He took a break from his company from 2014 to 2017, as at the time he didn't have the desire to produce and he was more interested in acting. He jumped back into the industry because he wanted to do more projects.

Van Vliet shot seven feature films, six short films and a dozen music videos before he took his break in 2014. When he got back into the industry he shot a feature film, two short films and the film he just finished filming in the lakes area. Some of his film titles include "Up North," "People Talk," "Trust Me" and "In Harm's Way" and a web series titled "One "Night Stand."

"I mainly act and produce," Van Vliet said. "I will help some with script development and help with music, but I don't edit or run a camera or lights, the boom mic."

The crew produced "Play Dirty," a short film released in June of 2017, which they are submitting to film festivals this year. This action/crime film was shot in Nisswa and Crosslake and is available online for streaming at

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month for "Kill Me," the crew shot about half the film in Nisswa, including a scene at Anytime Fitness, scenes at the Old Milwaukee Club Saloon and Eatery off of Crow Wing County Highway 39, one scene in Crosslake and four scenes in Minneapolis. Van Vliet said a New York multi-media company—Shami Media Group—wants the film and will distribute it world wide through Amazon in 2019.

"I absolutely love coming back to the Brainerd lakes area and filming and supporting businesses," Van Vliet said. "Being in the area I grew up in means so much to me. I spend 11 months out of the year looking forward to coming back in August. ... I love the old businesses and love the vibe. It's so much more relaxed here, more peaceful and fun."

Van Vliet said in "Kill Me" there is a big water scene. He said there is a boat chase and he jumps off a bridge in Crosslake.

"When I jumped off of the bridge it totally freaked out the directors," he said. "I told them "We did this as kids all the time.' ... I have so many ideas to do here for filming because I lived here for the first 20 years of my life. I know the area so well and I love it. I find so many locations we can use to put into a film."

So what's next? Van Vliet said there is nothing on board to film at this moment. He said there are some scripts he will look at, but otherwise he plans to take some acting classes and will "relax for a minute," he said.

"We may shoot something in Minnesota in December."

Van Vliet said working in the independent film industry still excites him.

"I really love the collaboration and creating art," Van Vliet said. "Sometimes it's very stressful to doing freelance work and not knowing when your next job is going to be. It has crazy hours and can be chaotic and a lot of people can't handle that and there was a time when I couldn't, but I have grown to love it. I'm addicted to the madness. I'm a glutton for punishment. I really enjoy it and my favorite place in the world to be is working on a set."