James Franco's 'Goat' takes friends from Hamilton, Ohio to Sundance Film Festival

CINCINNATI — In early 2015, two friends decided on a whim to answer an open casting call for a James Franco-produced movie slated to film in the Tri-State that spring. 

Fast forward a year later. Now Chase Crawford, 19, of Monroe, and Tommy Stevison, 26, of Ross Township, are headed to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, at the end of this month to see the film's premiere. “Goat,” starring Nick Jonas and directed by Andrew Neel, is based on a novel about two brothers whose attempt to join a college fraternity ends in tragedy.

Producers invited the pair to Utah, if they could make it, after they landed roles as extras. “Goat” is one of three movies filmed in Greater Cincinnati showing at the independent film festival, which runs from Jan. 21-31. The others are “Miles Ahead,” filmed in the Tri-State in 2014, and “The Fits,” a critically acclaimed short shot here later the same year.

Chase Crawford (L) and Richard Lewis (R) appear in the Columbus shot independent film, "Olsky" (Credit: Olsky Film)

“It was something that was almost a freak accident,” said Crawford, a sophomore marketing student at the University of Cincinnati, of getting to be a part of “Goat.”

Crawford, 5 feet 11 inches tall and 135 pounds at the time, did not think he fit the bill of “fraternity brother types” that casting agents were initially looking for during auditions held at Northern Kentucky University last year.

What he did have, though, was a passion for movies that included studying post-film production at Butler Tech Career Center while in high school. He also had previously appeared in a commercial.

“He’s pretty well put together,” said John Ginter, an instructor of digital media at Butler Tech, who has watched Crawford and other former students pick up the movie-making bug as the number of productions has grown in the Tri-State.

Tommy Stevison

Crawford also had his friendship with Stevison, who prodded Crawford into going to the casting call at NKU with him. The pair met while working together. Stevison had begun auditioning for bit parts in local film shoots in 2014.

Crawford said casting directors asked those who showed up for the "Goat" tryout to do “frat stuff.” At one point Stevison, Crawford and others were even asked to play a game of Red Rover. Crawford said he was not surprised to be picked to try and break a chain of bigger “frat brothers” during the game. What did surprise him, and others, was how committed he felt in trying to land a part in the movie.

“I went full head of steam into this wall of guys,” he said. “Blood started coming out of my nose.”

When production crews carted him off the field, Crawford thought his chances of becoming an extra were over. 

“He was a trooper,” Stevison recalled, laughing.

In a surprise to both, a casting director called them back days later. Stevison said he was asked to play a background extra for one of the fraternity parties in the film. Because of his Red Rover shenanigans, Crawford said he was offered the role of “Goat Boy,” a character who did not appear in the original script. Though he is not allowed to divulge too much about the movie, Crawford said he portrayed a frat kid who “looks broke.”

“They shaved my head,” he said.

Both Crawford and Stevison’s scenes were shot in a single day. Neither now know if they made it into the final edit of the film. But whether or not they see themselves on the big screen at Sundance, both agreed they were grateful for the opportunity to be part of the film and would have regretted not going to Sundance after being invited to attend.

“Why the heck not?” Stevison asked. “It’s going to be a blast.”

With film productions continuing to arrive in both Hamilton and Cincinnati, both also said they dream of furthering their movie careers. Stevison is waiting to see if scenes he appeared in for Franco’s other movie shot in Hamilton, “The Long Home,” make the final cut before it hits theaters in 2017. Crawford has since appeared in a Crossroads Church video geared toward teenagers and another short film, "Olsky." He also has committed himself to balancing his school work while pursuing more movie and commercial auditions.

“I’ve had auditions for some pretty big things,” Crawford said. “I got in the room and have a lot of stuff planned for the future.”

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