Local Film Draws Acting Talent Back to Columbus
Filmmaker and Ohio native Steph Greegor is passionate about making movies locally. Her 2016 short Olsky, a film about an aging hockey player facing life’s challenges, filmed around Columbus. Its success led to Greegor’s latest project, The Third Period.
She held a full day of auditions for the feature last Saturday, an event that attracted actors from town, across the country and even across the globe: one actor flew in from London for a chance, and another Skype-auditioned from Australia.
Greegor will again film in Columbus, plugging into that hockey vibe and central Ohio hospitality.
“There’s a sense amongst creatives and business owners that we’re in this together and we want to make Columbus an interesting place, so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen,” she says of filming locally.
She’ll start by taking advantage of local talent. This includes casting two former OSU hockey players, Chris Olsgard and Alex Lippincott, as well as Gabby Bittner, the first female to play men’s hockey for New Albany High School.
Greegor wasn’t just looking for athletes, though.
“We don’t want our young people who are getting a film education at Ohio State University to get that great education and then leave,” she says. “You see this grassroots effort mixed in with what John Dougherty is doing with the Film Commission, mixed in with what Chris Hamel is doing at Gateway Film Center, mixed in with what all these other film folks and creative folks are trying to do to build this base of creatives in Columbus so people don’t have to leave.”
For that reason, the filmmaker was thrilled at the talent the project is luring home. Greegor says she saw the same phrase in many resumes:
“I’m from Columbus. I live in LA but I want to come back to audition,” Greegor says. “I just kept seeing it. We have these kids leaving because they didn’t feel like they could do it in Columbus and now they come back. That’s awesome.”
Among those LA emigrants back to audition was Katie Stottlemire. She’d filmed several features while living in Columbus, including the locally produced award winner The Street Where We Live as well as national films Tragedy Girls and My Friend Dahmer.
“Columbus is such a great place for local stuff because the people here are so passionate about what they’re developing,” Stottlemire says. “Steph’s movie is so cool because it takes place in Columbus and it’s filmed in Columbus. That doesn’t always happen.”
Cole Bernstein left Upper Arlington to pursue acting in LA just after the 8th grade. While she has worked steadily since leaving, she came home to audition as well.
“This is the first time really flying for an audition,” says Bernstein, who’s been cast as Ana Olskey, daughter of the film’s main character. “It’s always been a dream of mine to work in Columbus. I’m so excited there’s a booming film industry here now.”
Grandview native Donovan Wolfington headed west to pursue a music career after a year of studying at Ohio State.
“I started acting while I was out there,” he says. “I’m excited to get to do something in my hometown.”
He’s modeled, appeared in several commercials and a series of short films. The Third Period will be his first feature.
“I’m excited to get to be in a project on that scale,” he says. “It will be fun to be in a sports movies. I think sports movies have a unique energy.”
For Aaron Massey, sports movies and working locally are nothing new. The original Mike Olskey in Greegor’s short film, Massey switches roles for the feature, now playing Olskey’s best friend, Tuck.
The Youngstown native relocated to LA in 2003 to act, eventually moving into additional roles of writing and directing.
“After 11 years, I decided I wanted to bring that to my home state,” he says. “I moved to Columbus and it’s been my home base ever since. I love being involved in the local film community.”
Massey is currently in production on a feature he’s helming, Mid West, also filming in Columbus. Another believer in the power of local moviemaking, he was onboard with whatever Greegor had in mind for The Third Period.
“Whatever it takes to make it and bring a film like this into Columbus, that’s kind of the ultimate goal,” he says. “Steph’s just been leading that charge.”
Working local was not the only draw for these actors, though. Greegor will be the first female in the U.S. to write and direct a full-length feature film about hockey.
“To have her doing a hockey film – a female director – that was an attractive thing for me as an actor to be involved with,” says Massey.
“This is one thing that I am coming to understand is probably bigger than even I realized it was,” says Greegor of her groundbreaking position. “It’s one of those things that you don’t realize how much it means to another woman, but it really does. I think it’s really important to young women who are in the industry.”
Stottlemire agrees. “I will always think it’s cool to work with a female filmmaker,” she says.
“Getting to be a part of that milestone is very exciting,” Wolfington says.
And though Bernstein has worked with female directors on episodes of both S.W.A.T. and The Bridge, the idea of a female-helmed sports film is a big draw.
“I think it’s so wonderful what she’s doing,” she says.
“They’re just so underrepresented,” says Stottlemire. “I think some people may assume it’s being fixed right now, but here’s such a drastic difference. I will always love working with women in the big seats, even when the day comes that there are more women in the industry than men. I’ll always think it’s cool.”
The Third Period is set to begin filming summer of 2019.
For more information, visit elevenoneproductions.com/the-third-period.