Five questions with Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission’s Kristen Erwin Schlotman

Cincinnati may not be the Hollywood of the Midwest, but its reputation as a film-making center is definitely growing with five films shot here this year.

In large part it’s due to the efforts of the nonprofit Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, which has been promoting and facilitating film production in the Tristate since 1987. Kristen Erwin Schlotman, executive director, talks about filming in the city.

What’s fueled all the film activity lately?

It’s not a coincidence, I’ll tell you. These films are happening because you have an office actively marketing the city to the film industry. Ohio took its time to figure out what was working and what wasn’t when states started using incentives to attract films. The first year we were able to attract The Ides of March. Many people assume it was because actor and director George Clooney had ties here. That had nothing to do with it. The entire film was going to be made in Detroit, but with passage of the state incentives we were able to get some of that film here.

What makes Cincinnati a good film location?

I’d be foolish not to say our downtown and our period architecture. We also have a very big city and a very small-town feel all at once. Not only that, but Cincinnati has become a fun place to live and work. Those things make it very exciting to go on location and shoot. But films wouldn’t come here if we didn’t have the people here to support the work. 

You’ve been with the commission since 1997. How did you get started?

I went Walnut Hills High School and did a lot of theater. While I was in school I was an extra in a movie The Pride of Jesse Hallam starting Johnny Cash. I remember being on the set and thinking, “I don’t know that I want to act, but I want to be one of these people making this film.” It seemed exciting. I worked as a DJ in North Carolina after graduating from Miami University but came back to be near family. I called the commission and asked if they needed a volunteer and never left.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Challenging is a better word. We want locals to have a great experience while having these movies in town. And you want the movie company to find everything film friendly here. So really it’s being that catalyst between the community and the film production to make sure it’s a win-win for both that is really important.

Do you have a favorite movie, and not necessarily shot in Cincinnati?

The Shawshank Redemption has always been one of my favorite movies. The fact that it was shot in Ohio has always been a warm spot in my heart. Once I was on a flight back from Los Angels sitting in coach with a seat open next to me. They held the plane for one more passenger and it was one of the film’s stars, Morgan Freeman, who sat next to me.