End of the Rope: A True North Dakota Story

End of the Rope will be in theaters this spring

Producer and founder of Canticle Productions, Daniel Bielinski, speaks on the upcoming film and more

Daniel Bielinski, a graduate of Columbia University in New York City with an MFA in Acting, moved to North Dakota in 2015 to direct the theater program at the University of Mary in Bismarck but found that North Dakota had more to offer than he’d realized. 

In 2018, he created Canticle Productions, a company that now has 3 feature films and counting that revolve around the rich history of North Dakota. “The company built its brand around telling North Dakota stories, especially true stories from North Dakota history,” explained Bielinski. 

His third film, End of the Rope, is a true story about the Charles Bannon case that took place in 1931 in Schafer, ND, where a family mysteriously disappeared with the only explanation being that of the farmhand who the entire town blamed. It follows the town sheriff who tries to uncover the truth behind the family’s disappearance while also keeping the town at hand. 

Bielinski got the idea for this film from Dennis Johnson, a lawyer and historian in Watford City who wrote the book End of the Rope. Johnson had expressed interest in making the book into a film, and soon after Bielinski and Johnson’s meeting in the fall of 2019, the idea started to become a reality. 

With a team made up of director Charlie Griak of Minneapolis, coproducer D&M Cinematics, forty crew on set, twenty speaking roles, and hundreds of extras, the film was off to a great start. The film was shot in a variety of locations in the Watford City and Bismarck area including Fairview Bridge and Tunnel, Buckstop Junction, Heritage Park, Camp Hancock Church, and the middle of an alfalfa field where they built a town. 

“It really showcases, I think, some of the great historical sites and landscapes of North Dakota,” Bielinski noted. 

When asked what elements he thought made End of the Rope stand out, Bielinski replied, “I think the scale of it is just very large.” He elaborated on how the two and half hour film features horses and guns along with the real kicker: burning an actual building down. 

Bielinski detailed how they found an old granary that they filled with wood and lit on fire. The quickness by which the building went up required 3 cameras rolling and an extreme amount of shots. “The entire building went up in 20 minutes and was completely collapsed. It was a fast and furious evening.” 

Bielinski had some words of wisdom in reference to the question of what this film meant to him: “All films become personal after you spend so much time and put so much love and care into them. It’s a practice of letting go. They have that phrase: films aren’t done, they’re just abandoned.” 

End of the Rope is a film that started with a book and an idea that has now become something so much bigger. “It may have started with my company and steps I was taking to bring it to life, [but] in the end it was a massive collaborative experience,” stated Bielinski.

Bielinski has many more ideas in the making for the “amazing true stories from North Dakota.” Coming up next is a film on the Marquis de Mores and his rise and fall in the Badlands of Medora, ND, and another on Hazel Minor, a 16-year-old farm girl who saved her younger brother and sister in an extreme blizzard.

Bielinski couldn’t be more proud of this film and is so grateful for all the great people he had the privilege to work with. He hopes you all love it just as much as he does. 

“I am most excited to show it to North Dakota audiences. It’s been so long in the cooker, so to have it out and being able to show it to people here in North Dakota.”

End of the Rope is just one of Bielinski and Canticle Production’s 3 feature films so far. Canticle Production’s first film, A Heart Like Water, told the story of early Dakota pioneers while their second, Sanctified, is the story of a nun and outlaw and their adventures in North Dakota’s Badlands.

End of the Rope will be released in theaters this spring and is expected to be available on streaming platforms this fall. 

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