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James Franco returning to Hamilton to film 2 movies

Ohio, city doing right things to attract movies, native says.

Two movies will be filmed in Hamilton in coming weeks, projects that involve filmmaker and Hamilton native Jay Davis and veteran actor/producer James Franco.

The films will be the fifth and sixth shot here in two years. Two different scripts will be shot back-to-back.

“They are both low budget but qualified for the tax credit,” Davis said.

The movies were supposed to be shot in New York. Davis said that when Gov. John Kasich signed a revised Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit increase last week to raise the available annual tax credits from $20 million to $40 million for movies to be made in Ohio, the idea of coming to Hamilton and the Buckeye State to film the projects became more palatable than the Big Apple.

“Ohio is doing an incredible job of doing what it takes to attract filmmakers here - the tax credit is a major reason we decided to shoot here,” Davis said.

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Davis, Franco and Vince Jolivette’s Dark Rabbitt Production Company, which is part of the trio’s Rabbitt Bandini Production Company, has been making “high concept Sci-fi cult horror films,” according to Davis. And that is what is going to be filmed in Hamilton, specifically in the German Village/Third Street areas.

“We’ve done some of these types of films under the Dark Rabbit Production Company label in order to create high concept horror cult-like movies,” Davis said.

Hamilton had homefield advantages, too.

“Another reason is that Vince and I are from here. Also, The Cincinnati Film Commission is so helpful in helping us get things we need. Steve Colwell at Film Hamilton does a tremendous job in getting filmmakers what they need. You just get more bang for your buck when shooting here.”

The aesthetics of the city were mentioned as well by Davis.

“The city has everything a filmmaker is looking for. There are old and new parts, the river and downtown. It is cinematically attractive,” he said.

Davis said there will be casting for extras and some select roles in each movie by Hamilton native and current New York/LA casting director Cynthia Huffman. There is also a need for multiple crew members.

“We will release all of the casting and audition details very soon,” he said.

Shawn Stidham, interim general manager/director of sales at the Courtyard by Marriott Hamilton, said movies coming to area have a positive economic effect on local businesses.

“Our staff have become very knowledgeable with film crews, which helps us anticipate their needs. We, along with other local businesses and hotels, have certainly benefited from the amazing work Film Hamilton has done, and I think all of Hamilton has benefited from the positive publicity that comes from being involved in so many productions,” Stidham said.

Franco plans on making an appearance in both of the films being shot in Hamilton and also is looking to give an opportunity to two female directors — a rarity in the business, according to Davis.

“Melanie Aitkenhead and Jenna Cavelle just got out of film school at USC, and they were students of James,” Davis said. “It has been important to him, Vince and myself to give an opportunity to first-time filmmakers and women.”

They have also hired two up-and-coming producers, Lauren Bates and Ray Martinez, to help them get their production done in Hamilton.

Another film, a sci-fi thriller “Curvature,” which was being primarily filmed in Fort Thomas, Ky., was in Hamilton recently to shoot a few scenes.

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