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The Life and Death of John Gotti Producer Michael Froch

With less than a week’s worth of filming left on director Kevin Connolly’s anticipated 2017 release The Life and Death of John Gotti, select members of the creative and production team (and Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission head Kristen Erwin Schlotman) met with local press to discuss the project and share their experiences working in the Queen City. Most productions forego these kinds of events, tending to prefer a run and gun shooting approach, even for larger studio-backed fare, that’s all-business until the film is completed and considerations are made for possible local or regional premiere screenings.

With the recent spate of productions in the Greater Cincinnati region (from the artful indie projects like Carol and Miles Ahead to grittier genre movies like Marauders), a true partnership has emerged between our Film Commission and these production teams. Efforts are made to insure that local talent (both performers in front of the camera and skilled technicians behind the scenes) gain access to ply their trades, while filmmakers and production companies discover hidden gems, in terms of locations that can stand in for vital period settings and earn meaningful fiscal incentives that can, in some cases, make or break project budgets.

Following the formal press conference, I was able to corral producer Michael Froch for a quick chat, focusing on the business side of decision to bring The Life and Death of John Gotti to Cincinnati, but as the conversation took off, it became apparent that everything choice always circles back to the creative vision.

TT: As a film critic, I generally hone in on the creative process, but I’m curious to find out from you, what led you (the team) to look at Cincinnati as a location?

Michael Froch: Ohio has a great tax credit. The reason we’re in Ohio is because Ohio is incentivizing film companies from California to not film in California, but to film in Ohio because Ohio is betting – I’ve been here for five weeks, right? So, I’ve eaten at the 21c (Museum and Hotel) and I’m staying at the 21c. I drive a rental car. I go to the gas stations. I’m going to the mall. The company has local production offices that we’re leasing from a landlord that owns property here. There’s staff here locally. There are actors being hired here. That’s part of the incentive to hire from the community. Every possible thing that you can imagine that one could have here has been used because it is subject to these incentives.

TT: That’s obviously a big deal for the city and the  region. I’m wondering if this is a trend that other cities, outside the major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago), are taking advantage of?

Michael Froch: There are people I know, right now, in Birmingham, Alabama. Alabama has a tax credit. Texas, for a long time, thought they were going to have a tax credit. Connecticut sometimes turns on film, sometimes turns off film. California doesn’t necessarily have that incentive, so you have to travel across the United States for it. Wherever that is, as long as it fits the locale of your production.

In terms of coming here, we had a great production design team come out here to find the bars and the places (that worked). For instance, they going to use Jeff Ruby’s to film a scene that would have occurred in Sparks Steak House in New York. A famous Christmas scene, it’s going to be Christmastime at Jeff Ruby’s tomorrow. There’s a character named Frankie, sitting at the bar, in clear view of the street, and on the spot, when I walked into Jeff Ruby’s it didn’t look anything like the location, but the production design team came in – I mean, Academy Awards are won by taking something that’s not and making it what is. And they were able to do it with Cincinnati.

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Cincinnati, thanks to these incentives, is making itself into whatever the film industry needs. (tt stern-enzi)