Shot in Columbus, champion city of “They/Them/Us”, love of all kinds

A film crew, a cast of actors, and an entire film set occupied most of a city block on Neil Avenue between 1st and 2nd Avenues for about two weeks during the summer of 2020.

They also filled to the brim and transformed the three-story Italian Village home owned by Jon Sherman and Melissa Vogley Woods.

The couple couldn’t think of a more suitable location to shoot and film the movie they co-wrote.

Melissa Vogley Wood and Jon Sherman wrote

Not only did they want to shine a light on the city of Columbus, but the house was also where Sherman and Vogley Woods moved in together in 2016, mixing their family of four teenagers, which is the premise of “They/them/we “.

“It’s very vaguely autobiographical,” said Sherman, associate professor of filmmaking at Kenyon College and director of the film, his third feature film project. “The characters meet on a dating site in their 40s. They both have two teenagers and move in together. One of the teenagers is non-binary and uses the pronouns them/them.

Hence the title of the film.

However, each of the other teenagers has their own struggles, including “the one who orders their weed by mail, the one who talks straight and last but not least, the ‘good’ kid,” as the film’s biography states.

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But at its core, the film is a romantic comedy — Sherman’s specialty — just a comedy that takes a more realistic and honest look at love, especially for those finding relationships later in life. It balances that with a bit of humor and edginess (think, leather and whips as the main characters explore the sexually adventurous community of Columbus).

It’s definitely not “Yours, Mine & Ours,” the 2005 family comedy about a blended family, starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, Sherman said with a laugh.

“It’s a little off the norm, but it’s definitely a 20th century update…it has all the beats of a romantic comedy, but in the second half the kids struggle,” said Sherman. “It’s about being a parent but also being romantic and how can you be both at the same time.”

Where can I watch “They/them/us”?

The film is out Friday through Gravitas Ventures at select theaters nationwide, including the Gateway Film Center and the Drexel Theater, and Sherman will host Q&A sessions this weekend. Then it will be available to stream starting Tuesday.

The film, which stars New York actors Joey Slotnick (“Too Big to Fail”, “Nip/Tuck”) as Charlie and Amy Hargreaves (“Homeland”, “13 Reasons Why”) as by Lisa, debuted in the fall, first in Hollywood and then here in October to a packed house at the Lincoln Theater in the King-Lincoln neighborhood.

It has since received rave reviews at numerous film festivals, including as an Official Selection at the San Diego International Film Festival and as Best Low-Budget Feature Winner at the Paris Independent Film Festival.

The $550,000 film was not only one of the first greenlit projects by the Screen Actors Guild to begin filming during the pandemic with the strictest safety protocols, but “They/Them/We” also was the first film to use Columbus funds. Pictures, a nonprofit entity of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.

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Chad Whittington, president of CAPA, said they have been working for several years on ways to grow the film industry in central Ohio, including creating a fund to help get movies off the ground.

When Sherman came to CAPA in 2019 with his script, it gave CAPA the perfect opportunity to start such a program, Whittington said.

“We thought, ‘We have to support this,'” Whittington said. “It allowed us to get the model up and running. (Jon) was a catalyst and such a great partner. It was exactly the type of film we wanted to invest in. This sets the tone for what we want to do in the future.

Additionally, the project championed Columbus.

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Logistically, Sherman said it made sense with their low budget to set it up in more or less one location and not an expensive area like New York. In addition, he was able to take advantage of Ohio’s 30% motion picture tax credit.

Still, he ended up spending over $60,000 on a personal credit card to pay for all the COVID-19 testing required by the actors guild.

Filming in central Ohio also allowed Sherman to attract talent from area film schools. About a dozen interns from Kenyon College, Columbus College of Art & Design, Otterbein University, and Ohio State University joined 20 to 30 local crew members to help with the film.

However, perhaps the main reason for featuring Columbus was to portray the Midwest as a place where people struggle with the same issues — addiction, gender identity, sexuality, family dynamics, love — that viewers see in other movies. countless shows set in New and Los Angeles.

“What pleasantly surprised me about Columbus is how open-minded and reasonable the city can be at times,” said Sherman, who moved here in 2010.

A montage of encounters between Charlie (Slotnick) and Lisa (Hargreaves) features the cement Field of Corn in Dublin and the Drexel Theater in Bexley.

Charlie’s ex-wife lives in a neighborhood that is unmistakably the German village.

During a pivotal scene, Maddy (played by non-binary actor Lexie Bean) confides in Charlie. (Bean consulted Vogley Woods’ child, who uses his pronouns, to prepare for the role.)

“A teacher keeps misunderstanding me and being a jerk,” Maddy says in the film.

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“Do you want donuts?” Charlie asks, and what ensues is an endearing bonding trip to the South Side Buckeye Donuts staple.

In the 18 months it took her to write the screenplay with her current husband – the couple wed shortly after filming wrapped in 2020 – Vogley Woods, a leading visual artist, said he discussed a multitude of topics to include.

It was especially important for her to explore sexuality and what it might look like for two older consenting adults.

explore sexuality

In the film, Lisa is heavily involved in “kink” – which can range from feathers and whipped cream to full dominatrix – and the filmmakers consulted with members of the kink community to ensure they depicted the scenes. precisely.

For advice, the filmmakers turned to husband and wife Drew and Trina Gardinier, of Pickerington.

“At first, we looked at some of the literature and considered that naughty people in Columbus are soccer moms and dads — normal people,” said Trina Gardinier, who with her husband runs Adventures in Sexuality, the biggest kink organization in Ohio.

But soon, Sherman and Vogley Woods approached her to play Lauren, the film’s dominatrix, who is an old friend of Lisa’s and helps Charlie explore this new side of himself.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Trina Gardinier.

The two Gardiniers were honored to be part of the project and to have the opportunity to show how important sexuality is to being human.

“The bottom line for me is that I’m really excited for people to challenge the dominant paradigm and embrace the alternative, whether it’s perversion, gender fluidity, non-binary,” Drew said. Guardian.

Hargreaves, who plays artist Lisa, fell in love with the story of the couple and the children, who many involved in the project say stole the show.

Danny, played by recent University of Cincinnati graduate Jack Steiner, boasts a tough exterior but ultimately leans on his family when he needs it most, while his sister Anna, played by Shanna Strong, hails from Cleveland, strives to be perfect but ends up finding solace in her. new housemates, siblings Courtney (Sarah Eddy) and Maddy (Bean).

“I absolutely loved working with all four of them,” Hargreaves said. “The cast did such a great job and the young actors bring the four teenagers to life so beautifully.”

His favorite scene to film was the one in which the whole family goes go-karting, one of the most light-hearted in the film to help balance the weight of some of the real subject matter in the film.

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“The film shows that it’s never too late to change and live your life the way you want,” said Hargreaves, who is longtime friends with co-star Slotnick. “This applies to both adult characters and teenagers.”

Sherman, who recently moved to the Old Oaks neighborhood near downtown with her family, said “They/Them/We” is really about redefining happiness at all stages of life.

Vogley Woods said the film should resonate with people from all walks of life and that she wants more viewers to see it.

“It offers a very comprehensive perspective of life over 40,” Vogley Woods said. “It’s concise in its disorder. It was really real and very magical. There is tragedy but also hope. It’s not a fairy tale ending and it was important.

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@AllisonAWard

In one look

“They/Them/Us” will screen at the Gateway Film Center, 1550 N High St., from January 28 through February 28. 2, and at the Drexel Theater, 2254 East Main St., Jan. 28-30. A Q&A with director and co-writer Jon Sherman will follow the 7 p.m. screening Jan. 28 at Drexel and the 7:30 p.m. show Jan. 29 at Gateway. The Drexel requires proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry and guests must wear masks. Masks are also required at the catwalk. For ticket prices and show times, visit www.drexel.net and www.gatewayfilmcenter.org.

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