Bringing Hollywood to Cincinnati

092109FEATURE.jpg Bringing Hollywood to Cincinnati
Local film industry seeks national attention

From state lawmakers to local producers, Ohio's cheerleaders have started the ball rolling to make Cincinnati the next Los Angeles or New York as far as the entertainment industry goes. With new legislation, star-destined talent and a central location, the Queen City has what it takes to make that happen.


So grab your bag of popcorn and sit on the edge of your seat. Learn how your beloved city could be making appearances all over TV and film in the near future.

Cincinnatians' eyes glimmer at the thought of the limelight, and we stand proud behind our hometown heroes of the entertainment industry. Nick Lachey, Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and more red-carpet celebrities
all have local ties, but that list could grow with the current initiative that focuses on bringing the entertainment industry to Ohio.


Grow-ing an Industry


Local film producer and restaurateur Cynthia Grow got her start in the film industry with a note from the Butler County Commissioner saying that an L.A. director and New York producer wanted to film a movie — in Grow's house.


Heyman_InStory.jpg Grow welcomed the opportunity, and with her generosity of offering up her $3-million house to be stampeded by the film's cast and crew, she became the executive producer of "Kiss of the Vampire" (originally "Immortally Yours"). After entering the film world, Grow has produced a second full-length film, "Bareknuckles."


Now, Grow is working with Governor Ted Strickland, other local industry players and her Los Angeles connections to bring the film industry to Ohio and, more specifically, to the Queen City. "You know when they say Ohio's the 'heart of it all'? We really could be that, and I would like to see Cincinnati be the heart beat," Grow says.


As a restaurateur, Grow plans to mix food and film with dinner and a movie at Mesh, her restaurant in West Chester. Mesh has a "Sweet and Savory" private room where Grow will set up a large screen to have first-run movie screenings over dinner. The films' directors can introduce the movies, and the audience can provide critiques. But directors and producers will need more than just a night of nibbles and clips to bring them to Cincinnati to actually shoot the movies.


Of Financial Persuasion


Money isn't everything, but it sure helps in the entertainment industry. From extravagant sets to jaw-dropping talent, everything that goes into a production adds up to a pretty expensive tab. So when state legislation offers tax breaks for filmmakers, directors and producers are more attracted to shoot films in that state.


In April 2008 Michigan passed legislation to offer tax incentives, including breaks on in-state expenditures and salaries for Michigan-resident cast and crew. Since the enactment, filmmakers have been turning to the Wolverine State for shooting movies. "Michigan is becoming a huge film industry because they give a great tax credit," says local actor Elizabeth Holmes, who stars in "Finale" and "Cornhole: The Movie."


Grow and Strickland hope that filmmakers will start turning their heads to the Buckeye State now that an Ohio budget bill that included an Ohio film tax credit became law in July. With this tax credit, Ohio will be a more appealing location for filming movies.


Cincinnati's Got Talent


To supplement the potential tax breaks, filmmakers also can look to the Queen City for its wealth of talent.The Heyman Talent Agency, based in Cincinnati, has been providing talent in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years. Founded and owned by Lynne Heyman, the agency has helped local actors, including Holmes, get their start in the business.


The agency only makes money when they book jobs for the talent it represents, and with the agency's continual growth, there's something to say for the agency, the talent and the interest in Cincinnati — even before Strickland signed the tax credit into law. Actor Denise Dal Vera, for instance, works with Heyman Talent, and she has starred in everything from Kroger commercials to "Homecoming" (a recent film with Mischa Barton).


With all this talent, Cincinnati currently sends the hometown stars off to Hollywood, New York and even Miami instead of keeping them right here. "Would it be easier to do this somewhere like L.A. or New York? Sure — because of the opportunities presented. But I've had a family, a husband, four kids. I wouldn't trade that for the world," Holmes says, but that doesn't mean that she won't move her family in the future.


"We love where we live. We've both grown up here. But someday we may end up in one of the bigger cities," Holmes says. She and her husband have talked about the option of Holmes' heading to L.A. to get her feet wet with the possibility of her husband and kids following after her, and the couple has left the idea open to future discussion.


Grow wants to alleviate the future discussion of moving plans among the members of the entertainment industry. "It's like amazing talent right here, and we're sending them off to California, so we want to keep our kids home. That's how I look at it," Grow says.


Location, Location, Location


Besides tax incentives and valuable talent, Cincinnati offers a prime location for filming with many parallels to the Hollywood area. The Ohio River could be the Pacific Ocean, and our seven hills could be the Hollywood Hills. The city boasts an urban landscape, but in just 30 minutes, corn fields stretch across the horizon. "We have four seasons, we have water, we have hills, valleys. You name it. I mean we have everything," Grow says.


In addition to the geographic elements, the physical location in the country makes sense for attracting outside talent to the Tri-State. Cincinnati is centrally located, so cast and crew members don't have to travel to the extremes of L.A. and New York to reach their filming destination.


So with the talent, location and recently approved tax breaks Cincinnati might become that heart that our motto suggests, and the Queen City could start beating to the rhythm of the entertainment industry and pumping out films.

Chic Update: Sept. 22, 2009


To get involved with the advancement of the local film industry, you can take part in an upcoming fundraiser for the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission. The Film Commission Masquerade Ball will grace Laurel Court (5870 Belmont Avenue) with its presence at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24. For $150 per ticket, the ball will offer a night of masked fun with fine foods, mansion tours and a chance to win a part in a major motion picture by participating in the live auction.


But this event will help more than your dreams of being on the silver screen. "It will provide funding to market the city of Cincinnati to the industry — creating jobs/dollars and opportunity for local freelancers, hotels and regional eco impact," says Kristen Erwin, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission.


For more information, visit the local film commission's Web site at



Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Model: Aymie Majerski, executive producer with Barking Fish Lounge

Location: The McAlpin

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

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