Cincinnati has been a hot spot for filmmaking in recent years, but the announcement of a second major motion picture filming in the Queen City in just this summer alone has industry experts optimistic about the city’s future as a major filmmaking destination.
Within the past year the city’s hosted Gotti, a biopic starring John Travolta, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, starring everyone’s celebrity crush, Zac Efron. The latest film to choose Cincinnati as its setting is Netflix’s Point Blank, directed by Joe Lynch. It’s a remake of Fred Cavaye’s 2010 film À bout portant and will star two members of the Marvel Comics’ Captain America: Civil War, Anthony Mackie, who played Sam Wilson, and Frank Grillo, who played Crossbones.
Why has Cincinnati attracted the eye of so many members of Hollywood, you ask? Lynn Meyers, casting director of Point Blank, says a mix of the city’s unique architecture and welcoming spirit are to thank. “Cincinnati can be played not only as Cincinnati but as New York and many other cities, Meyers says, “and here we have so many talented actors that make Cincy their home.”
Kristen Schlotman says this trend is nothing new. She’s the executive director of Film Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization that recruits filmmakers and brings them to the Queen City. “Ten years ago movies were going on location because of creative decisions, whereas now movies are leaving L.A. or New York because of the business side of the industry,” Schlotman says. “If they can make a higher quality product for less in different markets, that’s what’s drawing the business.”
How is Cincinnati able to provide such an opportunity for filmmakers? In 2009, Ohio released a $40 million tax credit designed to encourage growth of a film industry in Ohio. When Point Blank was approved for the tax credit, the production crew chose Cincinnati over other major cities like L.A. and Atlanta. In fact, the original script of Point Blank was set in L.A., and if chosen to film in Atlanta, producers planned to stage the southern city as L.A. Once they decided on Cincinnati, they rewrote the script to be set in the Queen City.
Producers chose to put in the extra work to rewrite the script to be set in Cincinnati for multiple reasons, namely, co-producer and Cincinnati native Johanna Byer’s love for her hometown, but also, according to Schlotman, because of the Cincinnati community’s willingness to accommodate the film, and even be a part of it—nearly 500 Cincinnatians will be featured as extras in Point Blank. Byer says it’s also important to feature local Cincinnati businesses in the film. So far, Skyline, Graeter’s, and Sibcy Cline are confirmed to be in the movie.
Cincinnati’s booming film industry is aided by the University of Cincinnati’s recent development of a Bachelor of Arts in Film & Screen Studies program, giving students the opportunity for local film education and real-life film experience. Since so many movies are being filmed here now, graduating students can find thriving careers without having to move to the coasts. “People that are graduating college here are staying in Cincinnati to work in film,” Schlotman says. “They can stay and work here and we’re retaining a lot of talent.”
In the last four years, ten motion pictures have been shot in Cincinnati annually. Each of those companies have come back for a second or third film after falling in love with the city and its talented residents, Schlotman says. MovieMaker Magazine even voted Cincinnati one of the top places to live and work as a filmmaker in 2018.
So, could Cincinnati be the next Hollywood? Co-producer Joe Carnahan says the idea is not as crazy as it may sound. “The film business as we know it is never going back to Los Angeles,” Carnahan said, in a recent press conference. “It’s really a jump ball in terms of what the next big city is going to be with the kind of claim that could build the industry. I think that there is a real opportunity for a city like Cincinnati to kind of take the lion’s share of the work that’s going on.”
Cincinnati’s growing film business has created sustainable work for locals and good-paying jobs. And that’s something Schlotman says she doesn’t foresee slowing down. “I truly believe we are on our way to being a world class destination for all things production,” she says. “It’s not going to stop anytime soon.”