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First-ever National Women's History Month Festival to be held in March

March is Women's History Month, and to celebrate, two Cincinnati organizations are bringing a one-of-a-kind event to town.

Women empowering women through art and lectures is the premise of the first annual National Women’s History Month Festival, which is happening from March 3-18. AlivenArts and MUSE are partnering up for two weeks to bring the festival — filled with art of all kinds — and conducted by women.

The hope is for this year's festival to be the first of many. Each year, AlivenArts will pick a local group to receive proceeds from the event, and this year, they chose MUSE Cincinnati Women’s Choir.

“There's still a place, there's still a reason and there's still a way and need to celebrate women, and what better way to tell the history than through the artistry,” says founder and former associate director and accompaniment for MUSE, Rachel Kramer. “Whether that's singing, theater, dance, film, literary — whatever it is — the story can be told and history can be told through the artistry.”

The inspiration for the festival started when Kramer attended Dayton LUNAFEST in 2017 as a guest. From there, it developed into booking other guests and eventually turned into a much larger festival.

One of the goals of the festival is to help bridge the gap between women who work from home and women who own businesses.

“Women have always had these cottage industries, like teaching piano in their home, crafting or book club,” says Kramer. “Then there's these women owning these huge businesses and they don't intersect. It's been a real eye opener.”

Some of the women to be featured at this year’s festival include Xavier University adjunct professor Dr. Brenda Portman, who will present an organ recital; Miami University’s Dr. Tammy Kernodle, who will conduct a lecture on women’s rights; the LUNAFEST Film Festival; and many more.

The National Women's History Month Festival will be held various places throughout Cincinnati, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Walnut Hills and St. Michael’s Street Sanctuary in Price Hill.

Passes for the festival are $40, which includes one ticket to each of the main events. For single day passes, prices vary, depending on how many events a person chooses. 

Film tour highlights issues surrounding the death penalty


On Jan. 16, 2004, the state of Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using an untested cocktail of lethal injection drugs. The result was an execution that lasted nearly 30 minutes and left witnesses aghast at what they had seen.

That execution and the litigation surrounding it is one of the storylines featured in a new documentary film, The Penalty, directed by Will Francome and Mark Pizzey. Recently, Francome and a team of activists traveled around Ohio to screen the film — with three stops in Cincinnati, including one at Xavier University last Wednesday evening.

“Ohio plays such a big part in the film,” says Francome. “We really wanted to bring it here to show the people of the state the unknown story of the litigation around lethal injection.”

The tour was co-hosted by two nonprofits, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and Ohioans to Stop Executions. IJPC is committed to end local and global systems of injustice; OTSE is a statewide nonprofit group with a mission to reduce the use of capital punishment in Ohio, and eventually repeal it completely.

The Penalty not only focuses on the many problems with lethal injection, but also dives into issues of innocence and the difficulties faced by the families of murder victims. The film centers on three narratives: the story of a man trying to put his life back together after being freed from death row; a murder victim's family’s journey through the legal process; and the efforts of an Ohio attorney to keep his client alive, which ultimately culminated in the botched execution of Dennis McGuire.

“We filmed other stories as part of the film and these stories demanded to be the main focus," says Francome. "They were very compelling, and what makes this film good is that these characters are fighters that really go through something.”

The film's release and the subsequent tour is timely for a Cincinnati man, Raymond Tibbetts, who is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 13. Tibbetts is currently seeking clemency from Governor Kasich, an effort that’s being promoted by OTSE via an online petition.

“It’s an important time to show the film — I just hope that people think about the death penalty and consider what’s being done here,” Francome says.

Abe Bonowitz, an organizer for OTSE, wants Cincinnati to pay attention to this issue and hopes The Penalty will start the discussion in the city. “The state is carrying out the ultimate authority of life in all of our names, and whether we agree with it or not, everybody wants to be sure the system is both fair and accurate. You can’t look at how the system functions and believe that it is either.”

A collaborative film project to showcase what makes Walnut Hills unique, special

Communities around Cincinnati are experiencing a renaissance — new businesses are recognizing the beautiful bones of our neighborhoods and growing into these interesting spaces.

Walnut Hills is one of those neighborhoods. Its proximity to downtown, historic Art Deco architecture and greenspaces have made it a highly-coveted community for businesses looking to establish themselves.

Yet some residents are concerned about losing the spirit of their neighborhood to the so-called renaissance.

That’s why a new artistic collaboration called “Here. Now. This.” seeks to preserve the character of the neighborhood and make the argument to keep Walnut Hills a little "weird."

“Here. Now. This” is a documentary film that includes footage and still shots by photographer Michael Wilson that capture the eclectic beauty of Walnut Hills. The film is the result of a collaboration between Wilson, musician Ric Hordinksi and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, along with funding from ArtsWave.

“I hope ‘Here. Now. This.’ preserves the beauty of what Walnut Hills is now," says Betty Waite, CFO for the WHRF. “The beauty is going to change. It’s like the high school graduation picture, preserving the beauty before the big makeover.”

The documentary is scored by Hordinksi, who has been a resident of Walnut Hills since 1992. He says that the stories and sights of his community inspire him every day.

“I’m constantly running into interesting characters. I really love the physicality of the neighborhood; the architecture of the neighborhood.”

Hordinski says he hopes the project can unify redevelopment efforts with the diverse population of Walnut Hills. “When a neighborhood starts to have a renaissance, the things that make the neighborhood unique tend to get washed out,” he says. “I’ve been here for 25 years and we’ve worked hard to preserve the parts of the neighborhood that are amazing and unique.”

“Here. Now. This.” is still being developed with an eye toward completion in early 2018. The collaborators plan to host screenings in Walnut Hills, while also making the film available online.

“It’s important because I want to do my part to give back,” says Hordinksi. “I’ve been enriched by the neighborhood and my neighbors. I just want to share that with other people.”

Cincinnati Film Commission celebrates "Carol" premiere as well as new jobs and attention

The Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission will host a red carpet gala Dec. 12 to celebrate the local premiere of Carol, filmed entirely on location in Greater Cincinnati. The romantic drama stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and is already garnering critical acclaim and awards from Cannes and the New York Film Critics Circle, among others.
The benefit gala will celebrate a crowning achievement for the Film Commission, which has played a key role in the increase of major motion pictures shooting in the area over the past couple of years.
The nonprofit works to attract, promote and cultivate various kinds of film production in order to bring the jobs and economic stimulus associated with the industry here. The organization courts production companies and helps facilitate the process of filming in the area to provide filmmakers with a positive experience, hoping those same companies build Cincinnati’s reputation as a good place to do business.
That work has been paying off in the past two years, with Blanchett even giving interviews stating it was “phenomenal” to work in Cincinnati. But Film Commission Executive Director Kristen Erwin Schlotman also gives some credit to the state of Ohio.
Schlotman explains that Cincinnati had film production business in the 1990s but lost much of it when many film shoots left the U.S. for cheaper international destinations. To lure some of that business back into the country, many states began adopting incentives for production companies to film there.
Ohio was one of the later states to adopt such incentives, which Schlotman sees positively.
“We’ve learned a lot from states that have been too aggressive with the programs,” she says. “We don’t want to be a state that is turning away business.”
The incentives must be in place strategically, but with a $1.75 return on every dollar currently spent on them and six major motion pictures having filmed in Cincinnati this year, the strategy seems to be working.
With the Film Commission helping to coordinate all the moving parts that go into film shoots, more movies made here means more work for a host of people involved: actors, crew, technicians and the entire support staff involved in the film industry.
Schlotman is now starting to hear stories of Cincinnatians who are able to work full time in that industry, including young actors who never thought it could be a reality in Cincinnati and those able to change careers because more film-related work is available. These stories will only multiply as film shooting becomes steadier and requires a fully fleshed out support network.
“We don’t just want to have a piece of this business,” Schlotman says, “we want to see the entire film ecosystem here and become a global destination.”
Schlotman sees Cincinnati eventually supporting multiple film projects at one time and in succession, with all aspects of the film industry represented locally, from education to production.
“I just want people to know that while it seems like this is the peak of our efforts, it’s only the beginning,” she says. “This office is changing people’s lives. And I think it’s changing the city, too.”

The Carol gala is 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Cincinnati Club downtown, with proceeds benefiting the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission. Tickets are $150. The movie screening is sold out.

Torrice's "Trees in Trouble" film has local roots, national relevance

Three years ago, local filmmaker Andrea Torrice was jogging through Burnet Woods and noticed swaths of dead trees with an “X” spray-painted on them.
“Then my neighbor said, ‘Do you know, we’re going to loose them all. There’s an invasive species from China that’s killing them all,’” Torrice recounts.
As the filmmaker learned more about the Emerald Ash Borer, she began to realize the scale of the issue of tree loss nationally as well as in Cincinnati. She became passionate about the value of trees to human economies, social life, health and well-being, which inspired her to make the documentary film Trees in Trouble.
The film explores the national issue of tree loss, specifically the loss of Ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect native to China that arrived in the packing material of goods being shipped to the U.S. Trees in Trouble focuses on Cincinnati’s reaction to the arrival of the pest and how the city is responding. Since the Ash Borer arrived here a few years ago, more than 12,000 dead Ash trees have been cut down just on land owned by the city.
“I wanted to use Cincinnati as a case study for other communities,” Torrice says. “My film explores the rich history of urban forestry in the region.”
That history, going back over 100 years, is one of the reasons Torrice focused on Cincinnati. She sees a current need for urban forestry and stewardship of our green spaces as a continuation of this tradition.
Trees in Trouble is more than a stand-alone documentary — it’s also part of a larger social movement to value and preserve trees. Torrice hopes that the film will “make us perhaps pause and re-evaluate what we think about trees” because increased international trade makes trees ever more vulnerable to invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.
The film will be used to spread the word about what’s happening to trees and to raise a little money for associated causes. Its first public showing will be a sneak preview Nov. 5 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The event will benefit the Cincinnati Park Board and Taking Root Reforestation, a campaign to plant 2 million trees in the region by 2020.
Just as the film starts in Cincinnati to tell a national story, screenings start in Cincinnati and move to the national arena. After the local sneak preview, the film will be shown at the Continental Dialogue on Invasive Insects and Diseases Nov. 17 and the Partners in Community Forestry Conference Nov. 19, both in Denver. The broadcast premieres will follow the same pattern, with the initial premiere on CET Channel 48 at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 22 and showings on PBS channels nationally on Arbor Day in April 2016.
“I’m hoping that people will change their views on the importance of trees,” Torrice says. “We need people, politicians and policy-makers to re-think what trees mean in our communities.”
From her viewpoint, understanding the value of trees is the only thing that will save them.

New round of People's Liberty grants available as first year starts to wind down

The next few months will be busy at People’s Liberty, with new grantees announced, current grantees premiering project results and two grant application deadlines.
Last week, the organization announced the three winners of their Globe Grants for 2016, an opportunity that gives projects $15,000 and three months to create some kind of innovative installation or programming in the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery space on Elm Street across from Findlay Market. The 2016 group of grantees features a photography exhibit of African-American men as Kings, a “toy library” for both children and adults and a chain-reaction space-filling machine art installation reminiscent of Rube Goldberg. Winners Nina Wells, Julia Fischer and Michael DeMaria should provide some captivating experiences in the space in its second year of installations.
The first year has one exhibit left: Deep Space, a nontraditional installation by Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead that provides an environment for creativity rather than presenting its finished products. It aims to be an “indeterminate space, a nebulous nurturing envelopment where creativity can thrive unencumbered.”
Deep Space will open with an event during Over-the-Rhine’s Final Friday on Oct. 30, finishing out the first full cycle of one of the three main People’s Liberty grants. The first two Globe Gallery projects were Jason Snell’s Good Eggs (March-June) and C. Jacqueline Wood’s Mini Microcinema (July-Sept. 3).
People’s Liberty launched a little over a year ago to provide opportunities for “new philanthropy” in Cincinnati. Founded by Eric Avner and Amy Goodwin via the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation and Johnson Foundation, the philanthropic lab invests in individuals and human talent rather than the traditional model of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.

“I think this model gives us the opportunity to advance someone’s career,” says Aurore Fournier, a program director at People’s Liberty. “Sometimes we can even help them figure out what they want to do next.”
She expects People’s Liberty to continue expanding its marketing to reach an even wider pool of potential grantees.
“We want to strive toward even more great applicants,” Fournier says. “We want people to come from all over the I-275 beltway area.”
Fournier encourages everyone with an idea to apply for two upcoming grant opportunities. The first, due Wednesday, Sept. 9, is the Project Grant, which gives each winner $10,000 to complete a short-term project in Cincinnati.

The previous round of projects ranged from a cultural dance event to real-time arrival signs at Metro stops. Several of that group of grantees have their own milestones coming up this fall.

Alyssa McClanahan and John Blatchford just published the first issue of their Kunst: Built Art magazine with a series of events in Over-the-Rhine. Mark Mussman’s first class of Creative App Project students will premiere their finished Android apps at the Globe Building on Sept. 14. Giacomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders had a successful first test in Walnut Hills recently.
The Project Grantees aren’t the only ones making progress.

The first two recipients of the full-year $100,000 Haile Fellowship are also coming to the culminating stages of their projects. Brad Schnittger will soon launch the MusicLi platform to help connect local artists to music licensing opportunities, while Brad Cooper’s Start Small tiny homes project is due to break ground in October.
The application for next year’s Haile Fellowship will be open until Oct. 1, with a variety of opportunities for applicants to consult with People’s Liberty staff about their ideas.
Fournier sees the Haile Fellowship and Project Grants as a way for individuals not only to realize their ideas but to learn and grow in the process.
“This is not just a learning experience for us,” she says, “but also a learning opportunity for the people we fund.”
People’s Liberty staff members are proud of the work they’ve done and the people and projects in which they’ve invested so far. The five-year project will continue until 2020, when the team and funders will take some time to reflect on their work, its impact and what might be next.
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” Fournier says. “The opportunities are endless, and I think only time will tell with People’s Liberty.”

ReelAbilities Film Festival moves headquarters from NYC to Cincinnati, plans biggest year yet

The ReelAbilities Film Festival, A weeklong festival of independent, award-winning films, aimed at stirring discussion and celebrating diversity and shared humanity, has moved its headquarters from New York City to Cincinnati. The headquarters in Cincinnati is now overseen by the local nonprofit Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD).
ReelAbilities was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC, and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. The festival now takes place in 14 U.S. cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the biennial festival will next occur February 27-March 7, 2015.
“Cincinnati has been so receptive to this festival, it makes perfect sense for it to be here,” says Christa Zielke, National Field Director of the festival. “From the funders to our partners and the festival goers themselves, everyone has really rallied around this.”
In 2013, the festival brought 24-plus events to the Cincinnati area, held at a variety of venues including the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Esquire and Mariemont Theaters and more. More than 250 people volunteer, and the festival saw a 514 percent increase in attendance last year from the previous festival in 2011.
“By telling these diverse stories through film, ReelAbilities shines a light on our common human spirit,” says Jeff Harris, a board member and funder of the festival through the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B. “Last year’s festival was truly amazing in its ability to draw that connection and include the entire community.”
This year, LADD has partnered with several organizations to continue to raise awareness and promote discussion around these topics outside of the festival. This summer, they partnered with 3CDC and Washington Park to sponsor a screening of Finding Nemo.
“We’ve also partnered with the education and legal communities to engage people with these ideas, and to celebrate and acknowledge difference,” Zielke says.
Among ReelAbilities advocates is Danny Woodburn, a professional actor who plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” Woodburn says. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
For more information about the 2015 ReelAbilities Festival, visit www.cincyra.org

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: C. Jacqueline Wood, Golden Hour Moving Pictures

Throughout the summer, Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.

It was the radio station or the film festival. It was going to be one of those two and for whatever reason, the film festival won out. That was 11 years ago, and since then, C. Jacqueline Wood has continued her passion for film and made it her career. Now back in her hometown of Cincinnati, she is the one-woman show behind Golden Hour Moving Pictures.
During her freshman year of college at the University of Michigan, Wood decided to walk into the office of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She wound up working for the festival in a variety of capacities throughout her time at the university before moving to Chicago, where she received her master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in film video/new media. From there, Wood returned to Ann Arbor, where she began teaching film and video classes to high school students through a program with Eastern Michigan Unveristy.
“It was great to get to teach students about experimental film and video and to expose them to some things outside of the mainstream Hollywood aesthetic,” Wood says. “But I was getting antsy and really had an urge to spend more time creating my own work. So in 2012, I decided to quit all of my jobs and move back to Cincinnati, and on the day I moved, I began the CO.STARTERS program.”
After graduating from the CO.STARTERS program, Wood had an LLC and a business plan for Golden Hour Moving Pictures, but the business itself was still very green. Two breakthrough moments came for her one right after another when she landed an opportunity to create a video for Nicola’s, one of Cincinnati’s most esteemed Italian restaurants, which led to her creating a video in anticipation of the opening of Boca’s downtown location, which opened just over a year ago.

Boca from Golden Hour Moving Pictures on Vimeo.

“For the Boca video, I traveled all around and got footage of farmers, painters, woodworkers, engravers and more,” Wood says. “That video got a lot of attention for Boca and ended up being show on the jumbotron on Fountain Square. It also opened a lot of doors for me, and it’s just been project after project since then.”
Since then, Golden Hour’s clients have included organizations like the Contemporary Arts Center, The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Random Snacks of Kindness and more. Wood does all of her editing and production work in her studio at the Essex building.
“Even though I’m from here and I’m moving back here, it’s just a whole new place,” Wood says. “It’s not the same Artworks I remember 12 years ago when I was in high school. It’s just an amazing organization. In any other big city, there’s no other way I would be at this point in my business. Artworks has truly helped make my business what it is every step of the way.”
Through the Big Pitch competition, Wood is hoping to secure the funding that would allow her to expand her staff and catch up on the demand for her work. She sees lots of room to grow here and also has her sights set on some bigger dreams further down the line.
“In the long term I want to open a micro cinema, a small movie theater that has a focus on experimental film and video,” she says. “That’s a huge part of the culture right now, and it’s not represented here in Cincinnati. I’d love to see the cinema as a place that focuses on exhibition and education, where people can take film-making classes for all ages.”
In the meantime, Wood has plenty of video production work to keep her busy for a long time.
“I’ve done virtually no PR, so the fact that people have seen my work and notice it, I can’t describe what that means to me,” she says. “I can’t imagine that happening this quickly or in this capacity in any other city.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Awesome Collective of Covington to host film premier party

On Friday, December 20, the Awesome Collective of Covington (AC) will premier the Index of Awesome, a film celebrating the awesomeness of Covington, at the Carnegie in downtown Covington from 6 to 9 p.m.
The collective is a group of engaged citizens of Covington dedicated to celebrating the “awesomeness” of the city through community projects which aim to engage residents, youth, visitors, schools, businesses and organizations.
Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign as well as a Center for Great Neighborhoods’ Place Matters Mini-Grant, the film highlights the people and gathering spots that make Covington a wonderful place to live and visit as voted by the public in an online survey earlier this year. The film was produced by local media company Matic.
The Index of Awesome began in 2012 as a free printed zine and accompanying online digital version.
“Due to the success of the printed zine, we decided to replicate the project in 2013 using a vehicle that could be shared across the world,” says Teresa Burns, core member of the AC. “We knew that a film would allow the message of Covington’s awesomeness to be delivered far and wide.”
The AC promises that the film will features residents, visitors, patrons, entrepreneurs and change-makers all sharing the same message: Covington is awesome.
“Our sincere hope is that people receive a message of pride, strength and inspiration, and share that message with others in their community whether that be Covington or elsewhere,” says Jerod Theobald, another core member of the AC.  
“The time is now in Covington,” says Lydia Cook of the AC. “There is the development of the Hotel Covington, Gateway Community & Technical College’s Urban Campus, new entrepreneurs are joining the pioneers, and businesses, residents and organizations are working together toward the same vision. The Awesome Collective is one small part of the gigantic team moving Covington ahead.”
To learn more about the Awesome Collective of Covington or about the premier of the Index of Awesome, visit www.facebook.com/AwesomeCollectiveofCovington.      

By Mike Sarason

LEAPframe Digital Film Boutique invites you to feel the love

LEAPframe, the digital film and motion design boutique based in Over-the-Rhine, has quietly been building an impressive portfolio of work since forming in the beginning of 2013. In that time, they’ve worked with clients such as Cintas, First Student, Powerhouse Factories, FreestyleUSA, Texas Roadhouse and Carnival Cruiselines. Most of that occurred before the company even had a website or logo up.
“At the end of the day, I think our clients, our crew and our team like working with us because we’re about people and chemistry more than anything else,” says Brandon Faris, Director and Co-Founder of LEAPframe. “It’s what we refer to as ‘the love.' We want to spread the love. We get handwritten notes from people we work with all the time expressing gratitude. I don’t think they are used to that kind of highly personalized experience.”

LEAPframe’s early success can be attributed to several factors. First, their unique structure allows them the ability to scale and maneuver based on a given project’s demands in a way that very few other companies can. LEAPframe exists as the film/motion design division within LEAP, a Louisville-based digital marketing company.  As such, much of their work is for LEAP clients, but they also have their own, separate clients and even get hired on to do work for other agencies from time to time.
“Ryan [Woolfolk, Co-Founder of LEAPframe] and I had been working together for about eight years, and we wanted to do our own thing, but we didn’t want to have to do paperwork or accounting, we wanted to be creative,” Faris says. “We had already worked with LEAP on a few projects, so we opened a discussion with them, and after one conversation, we knew that it would be a beneficial situation for all of us.”
In addition to this, LEAPframe offers an innovative scaling approach that allows them to take on projects large and small while keeping overhead low and prices competitive.
“Because of the networks we’ve built up over the years of being in this industry, we have crews and directors in Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New York and all over that we hire on as needed,” Faris says. “We can build to scale anywhere, keep our prices low, but also ensure the quality doesn’t suffer. We can maneuver and make things happen that larger companies sometimes can’t. We’re like Kung Fu or Legos—we’ll adapt and bring in the right people to meet the need of the job and the client.”
No matter the size of the project though, Faris and Woolfolk are the constant. “You’re never dealing with a middle man; it’s always us,” Woolfolk says.  

By Mike Sarason

Film written, produced and shot in Cincinnati debuts nationwide

Cincinnati-based Rebel Film Productions debuted its newest film, “A Strange Brand of Happy” in more than 40 markets across the United States during the past two weeks. The film is set in Cincinnati, where it was also written, produced, shot and edited in its entirety. Cincinnati-based
“We wanted this film to be a love letter to Cincinnati,” says Brad Wise, writer and director of the film. “I spent time living in Boston; whenever I watch a movie set there, I get very excited when I can recognize a location. We wanted that same experience for Cincinnatians.”
“A Strange Brand” takes the form of a romantic comedy in which, “an aimless bachelor loses his job and finds himself chasing the same girl as his manipulative ex-boss.”
Wise, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program in graphic design, found the inspiration for the story while driving to a college roommate’s wedding on New Year’s Eve 2008. “I liked the idea of a guy in his thirties going through a mid-life crisis and getting help from a wily group of retirees,” Wise says. “That combination of ages and personalities seemed like a fun story to play around with.”
Since opening nationwide, including locally at the Kenwood, AMC West Chester and Springdale theaters, the film has already outperformed expectations.
“What we're hearing is that people of all walks and faith backgrounds leave the theater happier than when they went in,” Wise says. “That's about as much as I could've asked for. I've been surprised how many people have said they cried at the end.”
Rebel Film Productions cites its mission as telling stories that, “spark hope where there is apathy, confusion or despair and spark action where there is inaction.”
“This is a story about people you can relate to who are trying to figure life out, even though they don't have all the answers,” Wise says. “When we see and hear stories of friends helping each other ‘find’ themselves, I think that sparks a sense of hope that it could happen in our own lives.”
To learn more about “A Strange Brand of Happy” and watch the trailer, click here.
By Michael Sarason

"Be Awesome" mini-conference will draw community advocates to Covington

On Thursday, October 3, the Awesome Collective of Covington will host “Be Awesome! A Mini-Conference for Community Change-Makers” in downtown Covington at 9 a.m.
The free event will include presentations by three Awesome keynote speakers as well as several breakout sessions throughout the day at venues throughout the city including The Madison Theater, Covington Artisans Enterprise Center (AEC), and Gateway Community & Technical College.
Centered around three actions—Inspire, Share and Strengthen—the mini-conference will provide a focused opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Although hosted in Covington, the event organizers are looking to attract individuals and groups from cities around the region like Dayton, Lexington, Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville.
“We wanted to focus on the culmination of our core values,” says Jerod Theobald of the Awesome Collective of Covington, a group dedicated to celebrating the “awesomeness” of the city by engaging residents, schools, businesses and organizations in Covington-based events. “We thought that by asking people to share ideas around these topics, we could inspire people to create new ideas in their communities, create an opportunity for new partnerships and promote Covington, as well.”
Keynote speakers include Griffin Van Meter from NoLi CDC (Lexington, KY), Seth Beattie and Brian Friedman from Collinwood (Cleveland), and artists Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova (Transylvania University).
“The keynote speakers and the breakout speakers were all chosen around the three tracks: Fun and positivity, risk-taking and failure, and design and innovation,” Theobald says.
The Awesome Collective was founded by Tess Burns in 2011 and partners with the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington. The Awesome Collective is an organization comprised of people who live, work and/or play in Covington.
“The mission of the group is to celebrate and promote Covington's excellence, uniqueness, authenticity, and share a sense of excitement about our awesome city,” Theobald says. 
Past events have included the Index of Awesome, which started in 2012 as both a paper and digital zine that provides a compiled list of everything “awesome” in Covington, as submitted by Covington supporters. This year, the Awesome Collective will produce the publication as a film in collaboration with production group Matic Media. Filming for this project has already begun and will continue through the fall. The premiere of the "2013 Index of Awesome" will be held on Dec. 20, 2013, at The Carnegie in an event that will be free and open to the public.
By Michael Sarason

The Happy Maladies want YOU to write their next album

The Happy Maladies has issued an open invitation for composers of all levels to submit original pieces of music for the band to interpret.

The project is titled “MUST LOVE CATS,” and it will be an album of five compositions. The tunes will be featured not only on a professional studio-produced album, but in performances across the Midwest (including Cincinnati). A booklet will also be made, which will profile each of the five selected composers.

“We’ll be accepting any kind of composition until January 1, 2014,” says violinist and vocalist Eddy Kwon in the band’s recently released YouTube video that officially kicked off the exciting new endeavor.

The band, which is comprised of founding members Benjamin Thomas, Peter Gemus, Stephen Patota and Kwon, utilizes the violin, double-bass, guitars, mandolin and banjo.

“We really don’t want composers to try to ‘fit’ our sound, or limit themselves to what they think these instruments sound like,” says Kwon. “We’re really willing to do anything.”

Jazzy, folksy and classically trained, the unique group is hard to classify, but infinitely easy and enjoyable to hear. In the band’s five-year career, they have explored so many genres that they’ve developed an omnipotent musical identity.

“All of us are really, really supportive and advocates for new music,” says Kwon. “We are hoping this project can be a new model for the way composers and bands and performers interact and work together.” 

By Sean Peters

From Cincinnati to New Orleans, riverboat style

Kyle Rouse and his best friends, Bill, Turner and Alex Ross, set out on a river adventure in October 2011. Rouse, a native of Piqua, Ohio, and the Ross brothers, who are from the nearby town of Sidney, traveled on a pontoon boat named the “Rosemarie,” and made the trip from Cincinnati to New Orleans via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. 

The trip lasted nearly a month—they arrived in New Orleans just in time for Halloween. The idea was hatched and planned while Rouse and the Rosses were in Texas shooting a documentary film for their aptly named 
Ross Bros film company. One of their most recent works, entitled Tchoupitoulas, was one of the last films to be picked up by the late Adam Yauch’s (aka MCA of Beastie Boys fame) Oscilloscope distribution company before he passed away.  

Rouse is now offering the public a unique way to experience this journey for themselves through his self-published book, titled simply, Cincinnati to New Orleans.

The book is primarily made up of images that Rouse took along the way using an old-school film camera instead of a newer digital model.

“Using film instead of a digital camera made me learn to see things intuitively,” Rouse says. “Because I knew I only had a set number of pictures to take, I learned to be more aware of what was happening around me and how to capture something really unique.” 

Along with the pictures, the story of the trip to New Orleans is told via journal entries typed on an old typewriter by Rouse. The journal entries take readers into the minds of the travelers and paint vivid pictures of American life along the forgotten backwaters and rusted-out small towns. 

“You learn a lot about yourself living 24 hours a day around the same people in a small boat stuck out on the water,” Rouse says. “But then, we also learned a lot about the people of America, and I’ll tell you what, that Credence song is right, people on the river are happy to give (referencing the song “Proud Mary”)."

More than two thirds of the way through their voyage, the Rosemarie wrecked and had to be left behind. Despite that setback, the crew did make it to New Orleans. 

After spending several months reviewing his pictures, Rouse began to compile them in order to tell a story. “The images in this book aren’t perfect, but they show emotion, which I think is more important,” he says. Self-published only this past spring, the initial short-run of Cincinnati to New Orleans has already sold out and a second press run is being planned now.

In addition to Rouse’s book, the Ross brothers made a film about the trip, entitled River, which aired initially in eight segments on the Internet. Since then, the four-man crew was invited to Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival to screen the film in its entirety there, where it became one of the surprise favorites.

Rouse says that perhaps the reason why the trip has resonated with people is the longing for adventure within all of us. “In situations like that, you understand just what you yourself can do as a person.” 

Learn more about “Cincinnati to New Orleans” which is also on Facebook. “River” will screen in Cincinnati on Sept. 30 at Washington Park

By Michael Sarason

Retrocentric creates pin-up army

Lovers of WWII-era Americana should kick off their shoes and bop to this news: Retrocentric, a boutique that offers the combination of professional salon and photography sessions, also celebrates the glamorous pin-up styles of yesteryear.

The business' all-female staff works to ensure customers, non-models especially, are completely comfortable. All of its “retrofitted” photo sessions include selections from a classic pin-up wardrobe themed around clothing that was popular in the American Midwest during World War II, along with hair and makeup by Eros Salon.   

Founded by Sailor Gruzleski, Retrocentric will be celebrating its first year in Cincinnati later this summer. To help commemorate that achievement, the Retrocentric team is selling a 2013 charity calendar called “Pin ups for Pound Pups.” Featuring pin up girls with rescue dogs from local shelters, the proceeds will benefit Cincinnati’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Living historians like the Retrocentric team help preserve the rosier side of turbulent times in America. While most able-bodied men were overseas, the ingenuity and strength of the women left behind helped stabilize the homestead. By taking on jobs typically held by men, Gruzleski says, women found unique ways to preserve their delicacy and femininity while still struggling under society’s wartime duress. It's an important cultural footnote that's shadowed by the glamorous eye candy of Retrocentric’s portfolio.      

Eros Salon (featured at Bridalrama) is open for non-pin up related appointments inside Retrocentric.

By Sean Peters
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