By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~
Cincinnati is an unlikely center of Midwestern industry, from its grocery titan Kroger to its several local breweries. Lately, an unexpected industry has also budded in Cincinnati: the film industry.
The Queen City has often offered itself as a cheaper stunt double to New York City, with films as varied as Bruce Willis’s Marauders to Cate Blanchett’s Carol having been filmed here. This summer, Cincinnati once again played host to Hollywood during filming for John Travolta’s The Life and Death of John Gotti, a film following the life of New York mob boss John Gotti.
Travolta, who achieved fame in popular films such as Grease and Pulp Fiction, was most recently seen in The People vs. O.J. Simpson as lawyer Robert Shapiro. Gotti is a biopic following “Dapper Don” John Gotti’s life of organized crime throughout New York City in the 1980s, eventually leading to his becoming the head of the powerful Gambino family.
The film, which is being produced by Gotti’s son John Gotti Jr., is being directed by Kevin Connolly.
Filming has taken place in neighborhoods such as Finneytown and Indian Hill, which through the lens of Hollywood cinematography offer themselves up as New York City lookalikes. Filming took place during late July and August and even incorporated many locals as extras, including Xavier sophomore theatre major Jenny Roberts.
“My time on set [as an extra] showed me how important it was for the director to get the correct shots and angles for a movie and how the whole crew worked on the appearance of the shots, while the actors just came and did their work,” Roberts said.
Working with high profile actors also proved to be an exciting experience for Roberts.
“John Travolta is a very conscientious actor who made it his priority to be accurate in his intentions,” Roberts said. “He was also very kind, shaking hands with some of the extras, even remembering one from his filming of I Am Wrath in Columbus, Ohio.”
As Cincinnati gains traction in the film industry, local casting agents such as Lynn Meyers and Ben Raanan of Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati worked to fill these films with as much local talent as possible, holding casting calls at Xavier University over the summer for roles as extras in the bigticket pictures.
Additionally, non-profits such as the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission also help to ensure that out-of-town film crews have an exceptional experience.
As Cincinnati continues to attract attention from filmmakers for its photogenic architecture, low maintenance production costs and local talent, the city will hopefully continue to embrace this blossoming industry.