Filmmaker Benjamin Johnson’s hopes of filming scenes from his movie "I-59 South" in Groveport are fading to black.
Last August Johnson, a Groveport resident, approached Groveport Village Council with a proposal to film the scenes from his new screenplay (see below), on Main Street sometime in the spring or fall of 2008. He also sought a $25,000 donation towards the film from the village to help him reach the 10 percent funding he needed to raise in order to obtain further funding elsewhere.
Village Law Director Kevin Shannon told council in August that the Ohio Constitution prohibits municipalities from using public funds for private, profit making endeavors, such as this film.
In August, council instructed village officials to work with Johnson to see what would have to be done to accommodate filming of "I-59 South" on Main Street and also to see if there were any other financial options available for consideration regarding the films.
Johnson stated on March 3 that he has received little response regarding the film from village officials since last August.
"The community was completely behind the project and the village council was also supportive of the project," said Johnson. "But, due to a lack of response from village officials, the film will likely be shot elsewhere. The film could have been income generating and great public relations for the community of Groveport and yet, despite the council’s blessing, it’s not getting done. The Groveport CIC, which I understood was to work out some way of providing the investment necessary to bring the film in, never met. I was in contact with them quite a bit and it simply went nowhere."
Groveport Village Administrator Jon Crusey noted that the amount of income tax the project would have generated for the village would not have been of great size. He also reiterated that the village cannot provide funds to a private profit making venture.
However, Crusey said the village could still talk over other matters regarding filming on location in Groveport with Johnson.
Where to film now?
"I think we will probably end up filming somewhere near New Orleans and just doctor it up to look more midwestern or something," said Johnson. "We may also be able to work up something out in Los Angeles on a lot. It’s a shame, too, as I had a couple people lined up for parts with the contingency that they would be hired for the parts if their scenes were shot in Groveport. I feel badly for one local boy who would have had a couple lines and a pretty big scene with the male lead. He was excited, as was I honestly."
Johnson said he is disappointed that it appears Groveport won’t be involved in the project, but he said the film will go on.
"Ultimately with an independent film, there have to be the initial investors and the expense to bring the crew to Groveport only made sense as being in return for the investment," said Johnson. "Otherwise, it is simply far, far less expensive to shoot near our other shots in New Orleans where the state of Louisiana offers the tax credit, etc. I’m deeply saddened that I can’t bring this project into our village."
About the film "I-59 South
•Written by Groveport resident Benjamin Johnson, the two hour film tells the story of a young man who robs a bank and then goes on a "leap frogging" murder spree from an Ohio small town to New Orleans. It would be rated "R" for violence.
•Seven scenes were hoped to be shot on and around Groveport’s Main Street – five in a bank, two in a library, and five in an apartment. Main Street would have been temporarily shut down for a short time, possibly overnight. Filming was expected to have taken about a week.