- Wayne Baker Staff Writer
The film industry has its sights set on Hamilton for a variety of reasons, city officials say, from business incentives to the right amenities to accommodate filmmakers.
And with four films shot here in the past two years, Hamilton appears poised to keep reaping the benefits of being a new hot spot for filmmaking.
Currently, the movie “Tiger,” starring Mickey Rourke, is being filmed at various locations around the city.
“Tiger” marks the fourth film made in Hamilton during the past two years. The others were James Franco’s “The Long Home” in August; “The Echo Effect,” starring professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin in 2014; and “Carol,” starring Cate Blanchett, in 2014.
The bright lights and energy created when a feature film hits town generates a certain level of excitement among residents and businesses.
Brandon Saurber, director of strategy and information for the city, said “Tiger” will be filming at Hamilton High School, City Hall and on High Street over the next month. One very interesting location will also be on the film schedule.
“My house,” Saurber said.
Filming also took place last week at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Hamilton. Shawn Stidham, director of sales for the hotel, said it is great when any project brings guests to the area, and the movie industry is always welcome.
“One benefit of working with the various productions the last few years is it has allowed our staff to become more accustomed to the unique needs that a film crew requires, which allows us to provide better care so they can do the work they are here for,” he said. “In addition, the productions have helped give Hamilton a little bit of a ‘cool’ factor in the local media. You see and hear (and read) the various news reports that open with ‘another movie in Hamilton,’ and it has made people want to personally come to Hamilton to see first-hand what the buzz is about.”
That “cool factor” can mean fattening up the local coffers too.
“It translates into business as they visit and, hopefully, spend money locally whether it’s with us or Sara’s House or Ryan’s Tavern or All 8 Up or any of the various businesses in Hamilton,” Stidham said. “It’s just another sign of the positive upswing this city is experiencing.”
Some filming will take place in Hamilton High School’s gymnasium, weight room area, locker rooms and football stadium, according to Larry Knapp, business manager for Hamilton City Schools.
“The producers are being very flexible with their time to make sure our school day is not impacted Nov. 23 and 24,” Knapp said. “Much of the filming will take place at night as that is what the script calls for.”
Hundreds of extras are needed for the big fight scene at the stadium and that has students and residents applying for those parts. They are non-paying, but the chance to be seen on the big screen has many applying to Extras Casting for a part in the production.
Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s director of economic development, said she likes all of the movie buzz because of the marketing and economic impact it has on the city.
“The most obvious impact is typically witnessed in the increased activity in our local restaurants and hotel,” Gunderson said. “From the time that they begin evaluating locations for their shoot to the end of filming, they tend to frequent our restaurants and retail businesses.
“It most definitely has increased the awareness of the city of Hamilton as a great place to shoot films. The fact that the film industry continues to return leads me to believe that Hamilton is a very welcoming community and loves to show off our historic architecture,” he said. “Additionally, I think our residents enjoy the glamour of serving as extras for the various films.”
Showtime for city staff
The city has been easy to deal with in terms of traffic control and working with production crews, according to Jon Wagner, one of the line producers for “Tiger.”
Police Chief Craig Bucheit and Sgt. Ed Buns, of the Hamilton Police Department, said it has become showtime when dealing with the needs of production crews during filming in the city.
“Traffic Engineering and I meet with the production company, and we talk about their needs, the time schedule, and other issues such as the effect their requests could have on businesses, residents and safety and come up with a plan,” Buns said. “As long as we have good communications, it is pretty easy. We have been told by the crews from ‘Carol,’ ‘The Long Home,’ and now ‘Tiger’ that Hamilton is one of the easiest places they have ever worked as we will take the time to sit down, work together and make it work.”
Buns added: “When we meet with film company, we determine their needs related to security, safety and possible crowd control. Sometimes the production companies request specific security for locations and areas and at times we recommend having an officer or officers based on what they are doing and where. The film companies pay officers on an overtime, off-duty basis. We do not use on-duty officers for private ventures.”
Welcome to “Hamilwood”
Hamilton residents are looking forward to the December release of “Carol,” starring Cate Blanchett. That movie was filmed in Hamilton in 2014 and has received Oscar buzz after early screenings.
“Tiger” is described as “a modern-day boxing drama based on the true story of Pardeep Nagra. The plot of the film begins as Nagra, an Eastern Indian Sikh faithful, is kicked off a soccer team for anger issues, only to be discovered by boxing coach Frank Donovan played by Rourke. Through that relationship, Nagra, played by Prem Singh, goes on to become a U.S. Olympic hopeful boxer.
The movie also delves into the issue of racial profiling, according to Kristen Schlotman, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission. She is also excited about the film industry’s growth in the region
“This will be the sixth major motion picture in our area this year,” said Kristen Schlotman, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission. “This has been a thoughtful process of building infrastructure and creating the equivalent of full-time jobs for industry freelancers. Our entire film ecosystem is expanding in Greater Cincinnati and the Film Commission is paving the way. This is only the beginning.”