Growing up in the small, somewhat sleepy town of Eaton, Ohio, I couldn’t wait to get out. I knew I was destined for greater things, or at least a life away from hogs, acres of open spaces and places where everyone knew you, your parents and your grandparents. Most of all, I wanted to be surrounded by action—live theater, a happening nightlife, fantastic museums and more. 

Little did I know, I would end up in the even smaller rural community of Waynesville. On a farm. With pigs. And my tiny hometown would become the set of a movie—a real Hollywood movie with famous actors, lights, cameras and lots of action. 

The Long Home

When I heard that James Franco—star of films like Eat Pray Love, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Oz: Great and Powerful and The Interview—was not only passing through Eaton, but was actually scouting sites for his next major film—The Long Home—I couldn’t believe it. 

Produced by his film company, the Rabbit Bandini Production Company, and starring Franco, the film is based on the novel by the same name by William Gay and is set in rural Tennessee. Trust me when I say Eaton fits the bill. 

I was even more surprised to see Instagram photos of Franco sitting on a stool at Dale’s Pool Hall. A stool I had sat on many times when my grandfather worked at the diner many years ago. The film crew found the town had the perfect mix of architecture and charm and set up shop, filming on Barron Street for several days. 

“It was really cool to see how the film crew transformed the city street into a Tennessee town set in the 1940s,” says Tessa Loxley, an extra for the film. “They covered the street with dirt and brought in vintage cars. With everyone dressed for that era, it made it feel like I was stepping back in time.”

Aaaand ACTION!

Turns out, this is exactly the type of economic development the Ohio Film Office has been hoping to attract to the state. By introducing the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, the state provides a refundable, non-transferable tax credit of 25 to 35 percent off the amount of a production company’s qualifying expenditures incurred while producing a film in Ohio. 

According to the Ohio Film Office website, the credit is available to eligible production companies that bear the overall responsibility for making (or producing) the project as a whole. The website also features location searching, vendor and crew databases, and an online extra and crew job postings page. 

Katie Sabatino, communications manager for the Tourism Ohio office, says 63 projects applied for the Motion Picture Tax Credit since 2012. Twelve projects cancelled, 26 tax credit certificates were issued and the remaining projects have not started, have not finished or have not returned the CPA report, so they have not been reviewed nor received a certificate. 

“Producers have made it clear that they will not consider filming in a state unless a tax credit is available. The state supports the local communities in Ohio that have embraced film as part of their economic development strategy,” Sabatino adds.

Extra, Extra

As it happens with any film, The Long Home’s main actors were cast and flown in from Hollywood. However, all of the scene fillers, such as Customer at Table 1 and Crowd Member 40, were filled by area residents interested in movie production or trying to gain experience for a budding film/TV career. 

Tessa Loxley, a Dayton native who grew up in West Alexandria and Lewisburg, heard about the extra roles thanks to a Facebook post. 

“I saw an article about James Franco filming a movie in Hamilton and surrounding areas posted on Facebook. The article included a link to apply to be an extra,” Loxley says. “I sent an email including a head shot and my availability to the casting director and was sent to the wardrobe director. He chose an outfit for me to try on and approved my total look, including hair and makeup.”

Loxley did so well on the Eaton set that she was asked back for additional shooting on the Hamilton set. 

“It was awesome to see everything involved with making a movie. I would absolutely love to be an extra again and plan on auditioning for more films in the future.”

Eaton native Ariel Chelsea found out about available roles the same way, although her experience was a bit different.

“I had to provide my own costume,” she says. “We spent two hours waiting, then four hours in holding until we were needed ... I met many people from out of town.”

She says it was an interesting experience coming to understand how a movie really gets made. “I would do it again if given a chance.”

Hollywood, Ohio?

The Long Home cast and crew spent the majority of time filming in Shandon in Morgan Township with additional shooting taking place in Hamilton’s German Village and the old Municipal Building on High Street. 

Franco’s partner at Bandini, Vince Jolivette, is an alumni of Hamilton High School and is concentrating on bringing more Hollywood to the area. 

Jolivette told the Hamilton Journal-News that the Ohio Film Tax Credit has created financial incentive to come back home. “It’s a no-brainer,” he says. The company also filmed Goat in Cincinnati. The Long Home could receive up to $288,355 in refundable tax credits and Goat another $570,573.

Interested in being an extra or part of a production crew? Register for the Ohio Film Office database at development.ohio.gov/filmoffice.