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CBUS Is a Character in Jon Sherman’s Latest Film

Hope Madden Hope Madden CBUS Is a Character in Jon Sherman’s Latest FilmPhoto by Walker Evans
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“Columbus needs a story that will help the city find its cinematic identity, that shows Columbus for what it is: an energetic city filled with diverse families and open-minded, creative people.”

That’s the official word from the website of new locally shot feature They/Them/Us, a film about blended families, new love, and Columbus.

Co-writer/director Jon Sherman’s somewhat-autobiographical comedy is not set in Columbus solely because the filmmaker lives here. Nor is it simply because, as Board President for Film Columbus, Sherman is passionate about nurturing the local filmmaking community.

Those two things are true, but the primary reason Sherman set his film locally is because he wants to see Columbus on the big screen, and he thinks others will, too.

“I drive around and think, ‘I’ve never seen German Village on film, I’ve never seen Victorian Village on film,’” he says. “I made movies in New York that were very New York-y. I really wanted to make a movie about Midwesterners. I think it’s going to surprise people with the edginess of Columbus, what they would expect to find here and what they wouldn’t. I’m excited to show it to a local audience and have people see all these different locations they know on the big screen, and some locations they will not know, I guarantee.”

And if the city was good for his film, Sherman’s convinced his film and others like it will be good for the city.

“If you watch Poser [Noah Dixon and Ori Segev’s Tribeca-screened feature set in Columbus’ music scene] and this film together, it’s the best travel ad for Columbus,” he laughs. “Poser makes Columbus seem like the coolest city with its music scene, and we’re like, ‘Look at this beautiful house you can have – move to Columbus! Look at this beautiful neighborhood!’”

While his location was ideal, other logistics were not.

“We were supposed to make it in 2019, didn’t have the money,” Sherman recalls. “And then it started to come together, it was almost ready to go, and then the pandemic happened. We actually had the money, we had the cast, it was June. We postponed it, but we were actually one of the first films in the country to get permission to shoot during Covid.”

Working with SAG-AFTRA, Sherman instituted protocols to keep cast, crew and Columbus safe. A large part of the film takes place in a single space.

“We shot in one house for 10 of the days,” he says. “We shot all over Columbus for the rest of the days. We couldn’t really use extras except for a couple of scenes, and we had to put the extras through the Covid protocols. But most of the scenes have no extras except for PAs and my students from Kenyon.”

Associate Professor of Film at Kenyon College, Sherman not only gives film students the opportunity to participate in active production, he also mentors new filmmakers.

“It’s all about helping other people get their movies made,” he says. “How else can you do this except to talk to other filmmakers? I know the low budget process, I know the medium budget process, and I’m happy to help people figure out the best way to move forward.”

Part of that way forward could be Film Columbus’ filmmaker grants, which is why the proceeds from Friday night’s event will go toward those funds.

The hometown premiere of They/Them/Us happens at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St.) on Friday, October 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5. Reserve tickets at mycbusarts.com. Masks and proof of vaccination required.

Listen to Hope’s weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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