Todd Haynes, 'Carol' director and Golden Globe nominee, may attend local red carpet gala

CINCINNATI -- Todd Haynes might return to Cincinnati Saturday, just two days after receiving a Golden Globe best director nomination for his work on “Carol.”

Haynes is scheduled to attend a screening of the movie he filmed here in 2014 at the Esquire Theatre, then a red carpet gala at the Cincinnati Club benefiting the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, according to the commission's executive director Kristen Erwin Schlotman.

“To have Todd Haynes there is going to be such a coup for Cincinnati,” she said. The only hang up could be whether or not the director feels up to after falling ill this week.

If he's able, the director’s appearance would be one of many successes for the film commission related to “Carol.” The first took place in August of 2013 when the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive brought Haynes to scout the state for shoot locations. Schlotman, along with Cincinnati’s architecture, convinced Haynes and his producers to film his 1950s dramatic romance starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara here instead of Cleveland.

Blanchett and Mara, who play lovers on screen, received nominations Thursday in the Globe’s best actress category as well. The movie is up for a best feature film award.

After landing the film for the Queen City, Schlotman’s office organized local production support that included finding more than 30 local on-screen extras with speaking roles to work with the actresses.

“All the roles except for the big star roles came from Cincinnati,” said D. Lynn Meyers, the producing artistic director of the Ensemble Theater of Cincinnati. Meyers was the location casting director for “Carol” and has worked with the commission on many other films shot here since then.

Meyers and Schlotman also scouted a dozen crew members to work behind the scenes manning equipment and mixing sound for the film.

“It’s not just a big deal for the film,” Schlotman said of the nominations and Haynes’ return visit. “It is a direct reflection on this city; on the many, many local people who worked on that film. Any award recognition is a direct reflection of that talent.”

Haynes praised the local cast and crew recently in an interview with The Guardian. Mara and Blanchett also shared their appreciation for the professionals they worked with here.

Schlotman believes that word-of-mouth advertising and the Golden Globe nominations will continue to feed the explosive growth in the region’s film industry.

“It will show other filmmakers Cincinnati is not just about architecture; it is truly about the crew base and talented professionals we have here,” she said.

The Film Commission’s track record after “Carol” wrapped up has also helped sell Cincinnati to Hollywood. Don Cheadle filmed his Mile Davis bio-pic “Miles Ahead” a short time after "Carol." This week the Sundance Film Festival gave Cheadle's movie top billing next month in Park City, Utah.

The local film industry then reached another milestone in 2015 with five major movie productions in the region.

“We saw two productions in this town at the same time,” Schlotman said as evidence that Cincinnati’s film industry is capable of taking on more work in the future. “Maybe we will see three productions in town at the same time, or a television series. I think it is important to note this is not Cincinnati peaking; it’s Cincinnati just starting.”

Or, as Meyers framed it, “work generates work.”

Case in point: Meyers recently held an open audition to grow the stable of local talent for future productions. More than 200 people responded to the call because they are staying in Cincinnati and see more opportunities, she said.

“Doing the casting work here has been great,” Meyers said. "It’s a wonderful wave for the city. I’m extremely excited for the future of the film industry here.”

People beyond those directly involved with making movies have also started to recognize what Cincinnati, and Ohio, has to offer the industry. Three Points Capital, a company with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Baton Rouge that finance major motion pictures, recently expanded into Ohio and Kentucky.

“We believe local offices in Ohio and Kentucky will allow us to better serve the influx of productions taking advantage of the great scenery, strong crew base and competitive incentives in the region,” Ali Jazayeri, executive vice president at Three Point, told Variety.com.

“Tiger,” the movie starring Mickey Rourke currently filming in Hamilton, Ohio is the first production to take advantage of Three Point’s services.

The success of movies like “Carol” has also brought growing pains to the local movie industry this year. The Ohio tax incentive that helped bring the film here reached its cap of $20 million in credits for the fiscal year that runs from July to June in November.

“That’s one of the challenges,” Schlotman said. “As we become more and more well know, we are hoping the state expands the program. We don’t want to have the reputation of being 'we are closed for business until next year' in November.”

She said the expansion also makes sense because for every dollar the state invests in the incentive program, film production in turn generates $1.75 in revenue returned according to some studies.

Schlotman added people should not worry about the current cap limiting local film productions in early 2016. The Film Commission lined up a host of project for the first half of 2016 before the tax credit maxed out. She could not say what those projects were, yet.

Dialing it back to the near future, Schlotman said she cannot wait for Saturday's screening of “Carol” and the red carpet gala to follow. She said there will be champagne and food and celebration.

“It is truly going to be a celebration of all the people who made this film possible,” she said.

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