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Q&A with Alan Forbes, location manager for “Carol”
Cincinnati is known for its distinctive historic architecture, and director Todd Haynes takes advantage of that quality by using our city as the location for his film Carol.
An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s acclaimed novel The Price of Salt, the story is one of romance and self-discovery set in 1950s New York. It follows the daily struggles of Therese Belevit (played by Rooney Mara), a lost, unhappy soul who finds what she believes to be love in a mysterious woman—the titular Carol (Cate Blanchett). The novel is far ahead of its time in its tackling of such a sensitive social topic as homosexuality, but the film is a period piece. So…why choose Cincinnati over New York or a soundstage set?
Location choice for a film is one of the most important aspects of pre-production, and the person ultimately responsible for choosing where the movie is shot is the location manager. For Carol, that person is Alan Forbes. No amateur in the world of film, Forbes’s credits include The Insider, Batman Forever, Kicking and Screaming, and The Ides of March, the last of which was also shot in Cincinnati. Forbes talked to us about time travel, budget constraints, and hanging out in Kentucky.
Why choose Cincinnati for a film set in New York?
You can’t shoot 1950s New York in New York anymore. And what remains is too costly to secure for filming.
How closely do you work with Todd Haynes? Has he made any directorial choices as a result of Cincinnati’s atmosphere?
Todd is very approachable. We discuss location choices very openly. Finding preserved locations in the 21st century is challenging, but Cincinnati has a great deal of streets that don’t take much work to take them back in time. It’s easy for a director to “see the story” here.
How does Cincinnati compare to other areas you have worked in?
I have worked in Los Angeles, and most Midwestern cities. Cincinnati is about as accommodating as you will get.
What other cities were considered?
Cleveland. [But it was] no contest. In addition to Over-the-Rhine, the central business district still has plenty of century-old buildings with beautiful interiors. Other cities don't have OTR, which adds a real depth and scope visually. You don’t have to “shoot into a wall” here; you can look blocks down the road and see period streetscapes.
How would you best describe your position as location manager?
It can be tough. It’s as much securing the locations and creating a "backlot environment" as it is community relations.
Did the budget for the film influence the choice?
Of course. Period films are costly and you can do them on a budget here.
Have the cast and crew been exploring the city?
Very much. On Mondays we hear stories of their excursions into Kentucky and upstate. When we work long hours, filming late on Friday and coming back early Monday, it’s hard to fly home for the weekend.