It's become the "Star Wars" of the time. "Everyone is talking about it, and if they dont know the intimate details they at least know the name," Gustafson said.
The small feature will premier on May 4, 7 p.m. at Minnehaha Academy, followed by a discussion exploring Potter, Putter and the film. In high school, "Harry Potter" mania consistently subjected Gustafson to strangers pointing out his striking resemblance to Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. People incessantly commented, Do you know you look like Harry Potter? It was annoying, Gustafson said. The similarity even prompted a young child to request Gustafsons autograph when he was in ninth grade.
As a teenager the likeness genuinely frustrated Gustafson, but he embraced the role as it helped him consider the merit of the Harry Potter series beyond its imaginative story. I really think there are a lot more deep metaphors in [the books] than people give them credit for, he sad. Intentional or not, there is an underlying morality woven into the pages of the text, he said. That sentiment characterized Gustafson's approach to authoring and directing the film. "The purpose in Putter is simply to be funny, but in a family-friendly and appropriate way. One of the things I became known for saying, or yelling, on set was, G rating! After all, we figured a lot of the real Potter fans are in their younger years, and we wanted our film to appeal to them, too," Gustafson said.
In the summer of 2004, Gustafson joined a "Wazoo!Show" script reading led by eventual best friend and "Sorcerer's Phone" producer Matthew Feeney. At the session, several noted Gustafsons and Radcliffe's likeness, which led to the group brainstorming "Harry Potter" spoofs such as an ineffective invisible blanky and Harrys mode of transportation being a vacuum instead of broom.
Gustafson continued working through December 2004, when he let the script lie for about a year before resuming work in December 2005, The script changed tremendously between my initial final draft and the rewrite I did sophomore year of college, he said. It became much more fluent, more cohesive as a story and we added a lot more jokes to make it funny for not only Potter fans. He resumed writing because he decided to follow through with the project. "Harry Putter" is a stepping stone for me to bigger and better projects. I knew if I ever hoped to get those projects Id need to get started on "Putter," he said. Auditions, held for two days in May and June 2006, attracted about 60 Hermione hopefuls and many Putter and Ron potentials. Most of the selected actors were from the Twin Cities area but Christina Holaday (who played Hermione) drove from Des Moines, Iowa to the metropolitan area each of the nine days of filming in the summer.
Gustafson believes the movie created a special outlet for all involved.
"A lot of our younger actors had not done much or anything on camera before," he said. "Some had never even acted before. For me it was amazing to be able to offer them their first real role. It meant so much that we could bring people on board who shared a similar passion and now we'd given them the chance to act in, or at least audition for, our own Harry film in Minnesota."