Film industry flourishing in Hamilton

Steve Colwell, location manager for Film Hamilton, just had a feeling that Hamilton could become a player in the movie industry after Ohio approved a Motion Picture Tax Incentive in 2009.

The law gives tax breaks to production companies that are spending a minimum of $300,000 in the state.

“Well, we didn’t start out like gangbusters,” Colwell said, reflecting on the beginning of Film Hamilton. “Some people thought we were wasting our time.”

But some people got in touch with his people, and like the old adage says: “The rest is history.”

“We heard the producers of ‘Echo Effect’ were looking for a place to film. One of the producers was local, and we showed them Hamilton and they decided to film here,” Colwell said.

The title of the film has been changed to “Chain of Command,” and several business including the Hamilton Mill, Cohen Recycling and Plaza One Grille Restaurant are shown in the movie. The trailer for the film is now out — The movie also received more than $400,000 in Ohio Motion Picture tax incentives.

Liz Hayden is the business development specialist for Hamilton. She thinks having movie productions filmed in the city is good for business.

“What I can tell you is we are excited about films choosing to shoot scenes here — it is great exposure,” she said. “During these film shoots, people involved in the film have stayed at the Marriott, ate at Hamilton restaurants, and bought items for the films from local businesses, so it was good for our local economy. We received good feedback from the films, so it might help bring more movie opportunities to Hamilton.”

Hollywood star James Franco filmed his movie, “The Long Home” in Hamilton. Colwell said many producers are fleeing the expensive Hollywood backdrop for Midwestern locales like Hamilton.

“To get the Ohio Tax Credit the film has to be legit, not just something filmed with your point-and-shoot camera,” he said. “It has to have a certified budget of between $1 million and $5 million dollars. Hollywood has so many fees now for everything – they’ve priced themselves out of the market.”

Shooting on location and being able to basically become part of the community will likely keep productions coming to Hamilton.

“’Echo Effect’ brought in over $400,000 locally and that is with only 21 days of shooting which is the average length,” Colwell said. “That’s a pretty good fiscal shot in the arm. Get three or four of those a year and that’s pretty good revenue.”

Colwell and his team will travel in November to the American Film Market Convention to try and lure more productions to Hamilton.

“There are three productions coming to the city in the next year and we will pitch to try to bring more,” he said.

Hollywood is trying to make a comeback and has put nearly a half billion dollars on the table to try and recoup productions. Will that put Hamilton’s film industry to sleep?

“I’m not sure what they will be able to get back,” Colwell said. “But I can tell you, if Ohio’s Tax Credit goes, the recent success of films being produced here in the state will go with it.”

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