Filmmaking in Cincinnati: A Wide Angle

Cincinnati has a well-known history of filmmaking. Ides of March (2011), Rain Man (1988) and Traffic (2000) were filmed in town, as well as some less-predictable pictures such as A Rage in Harlem (1990) and Lost in Yonkers (1991).  

But those are just Hollywood-type visitors. There are also locally based independent directors and budding auteurs that do production here—as well as internationally—for the benefit of their own thriving creative endeavors. 

Andy Licardi never went to college. “I’ve taught myself everything I know through trial and error,” says the Cincinnati native. 

The 24-year-old's short video, “Home Movies” premiered at May Day in Northside earlier this year. It is not for the faint of heart—but then again, most skateboarding films (with their typical “bails” section of painful-to-watch outtakes) aren’t. Licardi edited more than 20 hours of iPhone footage from friends to create the 12-minute piece, which feels schizophrenic at points as it wavers between uncomfortable, hilarious and beautiful. (His earlier-produced "Delicatessen" gives a sample of the skateboarding without the graphic elements threaded throughout "Home Movies.")

The 24-year-old calls “Home Movies” an “Audio/Visual Experiment,” and it is clear that music and sound are integral elements to his work. 

While his use of montage is typical of skateboarding videos, Licardi’s slick editing in “Home Movies” demonstrates his awareness of how noise (music or otherwise) affects the mood and tempo of a film.

Part of the joy in watching someone skateboard is the snap-pop of the wood and skid of wheels and board over hard surfaces. In “Delicatessen,” Licardi left in many of those sonic elements, added a moody musical soundtrack on top and used slow-motion photography of friends on a sunny day at the skate park, shot on a Panasonic GH2 digital camera, highlighting the contrast of image and sound. 

The current OTR resident says that despite having lived in Brooklyn and being a frequent visitor to LA, “filming feels more like a job there [on the coast] whereas here [in Cincinnati], it’s more like going out and having fun with my friends and documenting it.”

Just as making skateboarding videos involves capturing ephemeral moments, so too does the “intuitive, character-based sketch comedy” videos of recent Art Academy of Cincinnati graduate Kristen Lundberg.  

Lundberg says that she wants to “present people with my honest stream of consciousness,” and it is clear from her “Mammyspanx” channel on YouTube that humor and physical comedy is important to her process.  

She doesn’t script her sketches, improvises on camera and isn’t interested in doing something that doesn’t come “naturally.” Like a demented Carol Burnett, she dances, flops and speaks in exaggerated accents while wearing ridiculous costumes—willing (if not hoping) to make a spectacle of herself for the sake of her craft.

Often the star of her own quirky videos, the actor-producer-“Directress” walks the line between humor and absurdity without ever taking herself too seriously. Lundberg masquerades as Barb (a foul-mouthed Grandma who loves beer and NASCAR), Tad (a Bill and Ted-esque “performance artist” who is obsessed with ants) and a door-to-door cucumber delivery girl.  

Her videos are sweet and strange and, despite their lighthearted tone, seem rooted in Lundberg’s genuine appreciation for honest human expression.

Whereas Licardi and Lundberg remain budding auteurs, respected local director Scott Fredette has been shooting professionally for 12 years. He got his start in the industry by working on John Sayles’ film, “City of Hope,” which was filmed in Cincinnati in 1991; but he credits Jim Jarmusch’s film “Stranger Than Paradise” (1984) with his initial inspiration to be a director.  

Based at OTR’s motion graphics collective, Lightborne since 2001, Fredette studied film and video production at Indiana University, went out to LA for his first film in the early 1990s, then decided he liked Cincinnati better.  

“It’s a great home base to be able to travel and shoot the stuff I do.”  

He has created promo spots for MTV2 and countless music videos for everyone from Bad Religion to Atmosphere, [which includes clips of CNN stock footage from Cincinnati’s 2001 riots]; concepted, produced and directed whimsical story-based commercials for Danish shoe company ECCO; and directed the visual projections that played behind Jay Z for his 2010 Home and Home Tour.  
In 20 years, Fredette has done every job on set, from production assistant to assistant camera. The experiences seem to have influenced his independent approach to directing. 

The Northside resident said in an interview with Zo Wesson on CET’s “Viewfinder,” “to know from beginning to end what you need to do and how it’s done makes the process better for everyone. Not just for the client, but for the people that are collaborating with you.”

Perhaps because he’s worked with the armies of people who are often required to make a film, Fredette seems keenly interested in collaboration. He has a “directing duo” called Velva Sheen with Lightborne’s Creative Director Ben Nicholson and co-directed several music videos with friend and Lightborne’s head of client services, Dana Hamblen.  

Hamblen and Fredette also form half of “fruit pop” band, “Culture Queer.” They work together on their own music videos, another sign that creative teamwork is part of his natural repertoire.  

In 2006 Fredette came full circle when he got the opportunity to work with Jarmusch on a video for The Raconteurs. He understands the need for directors to be open to creative opportunities.  

“I grew up with the hard-edged ego directors,” Fredette said in his interview with Wesson. “I actually think that we’re breaking that [tradition]. I’d like to think of us as a new style: less ego, more collaboration… because I think it really shows in the final.”  

With artistic collaboration as a standard for filmmaking, let’s hope for local up-and-comers like Lundberg and Licardi that more experienced directors like Fredette can help lead the way.
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