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First, hotel restoration. Now, a movie. It's how Cook Group rolls

filming of so cold the river
A medical device company involved in making of a movie? Yep, it’s just what Cook Group does.

French Lick Resort’s parent company, Cook Group, collaborated with another Bloomington, Indiana-based company — Pigasus Pictures — on the making of So Cold the River, set to debut soon on March 29. From Cook’s perspective, getting involved in the project wasn’t just about making a movie, but impacting the communities around them. It’s a road they’ve certainly been down before, as Cook was the driving force behind the restoration of West Baden Springs Hotel and French Lick Resort in the mid-2000s.

More from Pete Yonkman, Cook Group’s President who doubled as an executive producer for the movie:

film crew of so cold the river


On how the timing came together:

“We’re very fortunate to live in a place like Bloomington where we had Michael Koryta, the author who had a bestselling book based in the hotels. We have the hotels available to us with these amazing places. And then all of a sudden in the last few years, we now have this film company like Pigasus that’s making movies way beyond their means, who can make good quality movies and tell a great story. And then to have Paul Shoulberg, writer and the director, it's just somehow the stars aligned. It's always hard to say yes to something like this, but when you have those things together for this kind of a project, it made everything work.”

behind the scenes of so cold the river


On taking the plunge into the movie business:

“I guess it might seem odd for a medical device company to be involved with making movies. But when you think about interconnectedness with the communities where we work, our purpose as a company talks about being a family of ethical and entrepreneurial companies that exist to help people and communities reach their full potential. It's a very unique idea for a company. And that really comes from the Cook family and their beliefs, their ethos. If you follow your passion and you follow what people are interested in your community, what a great way to tell the story of all the work and effort that's gone to make these resorts unlike anything else in the world. You can do it in a documentary, you could do it in a commercial, but movies allow people to inhabit a place in a way that's unlike any other medium. They can feel it. They can understand what it's like to be there. They can sort of sense it. There's really almost no other way to describe what these hotels are, unless you see them and you experience them. And a movie can do that unlike any other product.

filming of so cold the river
These hotels have been here for 120 years and the people of this community, French Lick and West Baden, have really been stewards of these hotels. They've seen them through the glory years. They've seen them through hard times. They've seen them through almost these places falling down. If you're going to make a movie in a place like this, you have to really be sure that you are doing it in a way that pays homage and respect to the generations of people who have kept this place going.”


On Cook’s late founder, who always had movie aspirations:

“Bill Cook had talked about making this movie for years. He had seen Michael Koryta’s book and said, ‘Hey, let's make this thing a movie.’ At the time it wasn't available to be made; the rights were owned by somebody else. So it's always been kind of in the background. But, you know, what we do with Cook is make medical devices. We don't make movies. So we needed somebody who could really shepherd this thing through. And we started seeing the quality of the product that Pigasus was putting out. And that made us feel really comfortable that, ‘Okay, the story of these hotels and the story of Michael's book are going to be in good hands and it’s going to make something we're all going to be proud of.’”

filming of so cold the river


On the partnership with another community-minded company, Pigasus Pictures:

Pigasus runs a contest every year to help aspiring high school screenwriters make a movie, and then they make it for them. Those are the kind of things that I think a lot of companies don’t do, but they should. And it's also the way we operate our business, right? We, we understand that we have to be active members of a community, and it's a two-way street you have to give and take. Those Pigasus guys really understand that and they’ve built their business around that. And it’s why it’s such a natural partnership, I think, between the two organizations.”

filming of so cold the river


On watching the Hollywood process for the first time:

“I had no idea how many people it takes to put a movie together. When I got the opportunity to meet the crew for the first time I was stunned just how many people and the backgrounds they bring and the talents they bring and the expertise, but then to realize that for the next six weeks, these folks have to unite and work as a cohesive team to put together a massive project. And I’ve just been incredibly impressed. There's a crew from all over — we have crew from Indiana, we have crew from California, New York, Nashville. To see those people figure out how to work together, they're speaking art and they're speaking technical and they're speaking electrical, and making it work seamlessly. That's what movie business is, but being new to it, it's really something special to watch.”

behind the scenes of so cold the river


On how he’ll define success with the movie:

“I think a lot of people go into the movie business because they want to make a lot of money or they want to be famous or whatever. For this movie in particular, it's such a unique project. I think our hopes are a little bit different. I feel like the definition of success for this movie will be if it's a product that the people of West Baden and French Lick are proud of, that all the people associated with Cook are proud of, the people who work here can say, “Wow, we built this thing and we helped built this resort. And we built this place that people want to see and they want to come to because they've seen it in a movie. And that's the definition of success. If we can get people to understand what exists here in the middle of Indiana and we can get people to understand the history and the care with which these buildings have been restored, that's when we would say, ‘Yeah, we've accomplished what we would set out to do.’”

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