CINCINNATI — A rare thing happened after I wrote a brief story announcing “Marauders,” a new film starring Bruce Willis, would begin filming in Cincinnati in late September.
I received an email from someone named Steven C. Miller. I didn't realize it in the moment, but I was corresponding with the film's director.
"Thanks for the shout out on the site today. Super excited to be here. Love your city. I’m going to make it look amazing,” Miller wrote.
I was honestly skeptical concerning the source. I showed the email to two editors. One feared the message could be a nefarious ploy to lure me to an undisclosed “shoot location” to harvest my organs. The other offered a skeptical, “Maybe it’s real?”
You see, I’ve written stories about other big Hollywood movies filming in the Queen City thanks to the hard work of Executive Director Kristen Erwin and the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission. But I've never been directly contacted by someone involved in those films.
I’m like everyone else, always excited to see stars like Cate Blanchett and Don Cheadle grace our streets. I even stood on a residential street in Oakley last year and watched Cheadle film a scene in his Miles Davis biopic, “Miles Ahead."
The typical non-response of filmmakers to most media requests makes sense. These are expensive ventures where time really is money. Stars and production companies have a goal of getting in town, getting the footage they need and getting out. I get the impression that there is a fear local reporters will share upcoming shoot locations and snoop around sets, causing distractions, delays and loss of money.
This is why I was so skeptical that the man directing a movie starring Bruce Willis, Adrian Grenier, Chris Meloni, Johnathon Schaech and Northern Kentucky’s own Alyshia Ochse would email me directly.
I then did what every good journalist, and a fan of his own kidneys, would do.
I scoured the International Movie Database. Miller has a resume that includes a lot of horror films. So kidney harvesting was still a distant possibility. I then took to social media.
I found Miller was truly a different kind of director. He shared shoot locations on Instagram in pictures that beautifully captured the Queen City.
I followed and friend requested his accounts across various platforms. He "friended" and followed back. We exchanged a couple more emails.
He’s shared stories about “Marauders” from local media. He and cast members held a press conference where they answered questions and thanked the city for being so accommodating and gracious.
And sprinkled between all of that, Miller and crew celebrated the region in ways that had nothing to do with the movie.
Chris Meloni endorsed moving to Cincinnati on Twitter.
Seems like a smart small town. I really liked it https://t.co/RifskQ5b6x
— Chris Meloni (@Chris_Meloni) October 8, 2015
He also developed an affinity for the yellow penguins at the 21c Hotel.
"Would u like anchovies with ur oatmeal"? pic.twitter.com/y2cQPmagt0
— Chris Meloni (@Chris_Meloni) October 8, 2015
And they all enjoyed watching the now undefeated Bengals play at Paul Brown Stadium. A few even saw the team play two weeks in a row.
Adrian Grenier fell in love with Japps in Over-the-Rhine.
Notre Dame Academy graduate, Alysha Ochse, who now lives in California and has a part in the film, even agreed to an interview.
She had nothing but positive things to say about coming home to be part of the movie.
And she was kind enough to say this on social media.
— realAlyshia Ochse (@AlyshiaOchse) October 13, 2015
I blushed. Too kind from someone who took the time to chat as she was getting ready to go to work.
One of my favorite random social media shares came from Miller and cinematographer Alejando Lalinde as they wrap up filming here. They've raved about the Anchor Grill in Covington, twice.
The shout out for the oddball, greasy spoon with its dancing Barbie and Ken dolls really moved me. To be clear, I mean no disrespect to the establishment with that description.
The Anchor holds a lot of memories for me -- from late night eats with friends in my 20s to trips there as a child with my grandparents, who lived just a couple of blocks away before they died.
The crew's discovery of the Anchor Grill, as much as their love for places like Dixie Terminal, drove home for me the love Miller expressed for the region that led him to re-write the movie's plot to actually take place in the Queen City instead of the outskirts of Chicago as originally planned.
So, yeah, thanks Mr. Miller for paying attention to detail, loving my city and making it "look amazing."
And I haven't even seen the movie yet.