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Russo Bros Wanted to Shoot 'Infinity War' in Cleveland

A Visit to the Set of '25 Hill'

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the set of 25 Hillproducer/writer/ director/actor Corbin Bernsen's tribute to the All American Soap Box Derby.

The film tells the tale of 12-year-old Trey Caldwell, who loses both his Army father to the Afghanistan War and the dream his father had for Trey, to race in a soap box derby. Trey eventually meets fellow lost soul Roy Gibbs, who has lost a lot himself: a son to 9/11 and the hope he once had for a bright future. Add to that a Soap Box Derby Championship cancelled because of financial problems, and you have a lot of uphill battles for Trey and Roy to overcome. 

You could argue, though, that the story behind the story of 25 Hill is more fascinating than the fictional story Bernsen's created. Reading a story about the real Soap Box Derby's financial troubles, Bernsen was inspired to write the story, make the film - and save the Derby in the process.

Bernsen, along with fellow 25 Hill producers, including Akron-area jo…

Chatting with Bob Heath,
Hot in Cleveland Producer and Akron Native

Earlier this month – after a bunch of schedule wrangling – I got the chance to chat with Bob Heath, Hot in Cleveland’s producer and resident Northeast Ohio expert.

When I asked him about growing up in Akron, he mentioned living on the west side of town. When I said I grew up the Montrose area, Bob perked up and chatted about how the only thing there when he was kid was the swim club.Not just any swim club, I thought. You mean Montrose Swim & Racquet Club, my place of employment for six burger-flipping summers. We spent the next five minutes chatting about Montrose Drive-In and the Freez.

It was a great ice breaker and the following 30 minutes breezed by. We talked about Akron’s old TV station and some of Northeast Ohio’s great personalities, like Tim Conway, who will make a guest appearance later this season on HiC.The interview was light and fun, just like the show. But when it was cut short by a call to the set, I knew I had to hold the producer to at least one tough question. An…

Ohio University Alum Piper Perabo
Leads Spy Fantasy ‘Covert Affairs’

Ohio University is quickly becoming the new mecca for television secret agents.

With the debut of Covert Affairs, USA Network’s new weekly spy thriller, 1998 OU graduate Piper Perabo succeeds Richard Dean Anderson (the immortal MacGyver and OU attendee – he never completed his degree) as TV’s coolest spy with Midwest roots.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a teleconference with Perabo and fellow online journalists. Dumb luck would see her called to the set when it was my turn to ask a question (seriously, my name was called, I swallowed my gum and cleared my throat, and they cut the call short). So aspiring actors and actresses will have to wait until I can score an exclusive interview to find out what she did to break out of Athens and into Hollywood.

Here’s what I did grab from others' questions:
Perabo considers Covert Affairs more “real life” than recent hit Alias, starring Jennifer Garner. Affairs follows the every day life and super secret missions of rookie CIA agen…

The Big Deal with Big Jones Productions

It probably only took 48 seconds for the filmmakers at Big Jones Productions (BJP) and Kinook Creative to receive the award for Best Film. Which is good, seeing as how it took 48 hours to make the movie that took home the prize: The 4th Floor.

But let’s get a little more specific.

The BJP and Kinook team burned a weekend last summer (2009) to compete in the popular 48 Hour Film Project, a self-described “wild and sleepless weekend in which (a team of filmmakers) make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours.”

Moments before the contest begins, filmmakers are given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre to include in the movie. The completed film – editing, music, credits, the works – must be turned in before the deadline.

In 2009, nearly 40,000 filmmakers made 3,000 films in 76 cities. In Cleveland, that included BJP and Kinook’s team. And by the end of it, they took home the prize for both Best Film and Audience Favorite.

“Winning ‘Best Film’ was totall…

‘Hot in Cleveland’ Premieres Tonight

Though TV Land’s first original sit-com doesn’t film its comedy in Cleveland, the show’s situation is firmly set in the Rock ‘N’ Roll capital. For that alone, we’re asking viewers to tune in tonight (June 16) and give Hot in Cleveland a chance. Check your local listings to see when it airs in your neighborhood.

Hot in Cleveland’s premise is simple. Three L.A. women in their 50s (hopeless romantic Melanie, cynical businesswoman Joy, aging actress Victoria) wind-up in Cleveland when their plane makes an emergency landing at Cleveland-Hopkins (hey, we’re making this local). When they discover the men in Cleveland think they’re hot, they decide to forgo L.A. for the Midwest hub.

The show stars Valerie Bertinelli, Wendi Malick, Jane Leeves and the unbelievable Betty White.

And the show does have its own midwest influence. A little investigation reveals that one of the producers, Bob Heath, is an Akron native. Heath told The Plain Dealer that the show's intention was to poke fun at the you…

Photos From the Set of Corbin Bernsen's '25 Hill'

Early this month, I had the opportunity to visit the set of 25 Hill, producer/writer/
director/actor Corbin Bernsen's tribute to the All American Soap Box Derby.


The film tells the tale of 12-year-old Trey Caldwell, who loses both his Army father to the Afghanistan War and the dream his father had for Trey, to race in a soap box derby. Trey eventually meets fellow lost soul Roy Gibbs, who has lost a lot himself: a son to 9/11 and the hope he once had for a bright future. Add to that a Soap Box Derby Championship cancelled because of financial problems, and you have a lot of uphill battles for Trey and Roy to overcome. 


You could argue, though, that the story behind the story of 25 Hill is more fascinating than the fictional story Bernsen's created. Reading a story about the real Soap Box Derby's financial troubles, Bernsen was inspired to write the story, make the film - and save the Derby in the process.


Bernsen, along with fellow 25 Hill producers, including Akron-area journ…

‘Backdraft’ Scribe Pen Densham Says Success for Midwest Screenwriters is Just a Few Ideas Away

No doubt in a basement office in Cleveland or the back booth of a coffee shop in Pittsburgh or on an iPad in the middle of study hall in an Indianapolis high school, there’s an aspiring screenwriter punching keys and imagining great adventures that she hopes will someday grace the silver screen.
Not in Los Angeles, not in New York, but right here in the Midwest. Is she just chasing a dream? Not according to screenwriter Pen Densham, whose film credits include Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesandBackdraft.
“The truth is, any movie is about great ideas that stimulate human emotions, and if you can write films that mesh in scale with the new grass-roots producers that are evolving all over the country, there is a chance that someone in your city may be just as likely to produce your script as someone in Hollywood,” says Densham. “There is a new, technological gold-rush, as digital technology disrupts the entire old distribution system, and no one is quite certain where the new markets are.  Bu…

‘Beautiful Garden’ Blossoms for Cleveland Filmmaker

by Peter Balint


For Cleveland native Chris Peplin, wrapping Beautiful Garden signified the end of production for a project driven by a goal: make a feature length film by the time he celebrates his 30th birthday. He’ll do it — with time to spare.

Peplin grew up in the Cleveland area and, at an early age, realized his calling. He studied film at Cleveland State, worked a few internships and then decided to fast-track his career by moving to L.A. to attend The New York Film Academy. After completing the 12-month program, he carried the filmmaking torch back to the Midwest.
Peplin wrote, produced and directed Beautiful Garden. And it’s independent film at it’s best. With little budget, short schedules and never enough help, it’s the love of the craft and the need to tell a story that pushes small productions like Beautiful Garden forward. And for Peplin, there’s one other motivator: “No one will give you millions if you have not done anything. I have to have something to show.”
Along with h…

Heath in Akron:
A Chat with Hot in Cleveland Producer Bob Heath

Bob Heath remembers the Montrose Drive-In.


He remembers the swim club, the Freez and the horse farm on the hill. All of those places are gone, replaced by outlet stores, chain restaurants, movie theaters and more.


“Nothing was there,” says Heath, who grew up in West Akron. “It’s amazing how it’s changed.”


Change is amazing. And it’s the driving force behind the four main characters on Hot in Cleveland, TV Land’s first original sit-com. Heath serves as the show’s producer.


Hot in Cleveland follows the misadventures of three L.A. women in their 50s: hopeless romantic Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli), cynical businesswoman Joy (Jane Leeves), aging actress Victoria (Wendi Malick). The women wind up in Cleveland when their plane makes an emergency landing at Hopkins. When they discover the men in Cleveland think they’re hot, they decide to forgo the West Coast for the Northcoast. The trio are joined by housekeeper Elka, played with great verve by the legendary Betty White.


“We’re so lucky to …

The Big Deal with Big Jones Productions

It probably only took 48 seconds for the filmmakers at Big Jones Productions (BJP) and Kinook Creative to receive the award for Best Film. Which is good, seeing as how it took 48 hours to make the movie that took home the prize: The 4th Floor.
But let’s get a little more specific.
The BJP and Kinook team burned a weekend last summer (2009) to compete in the popular 48 Hour Film Project, a self-described “wild and sleepless weekend in which (a team of filmmakers) make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours.”
Moments before the contest begins, filmmakers are given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre to include in the movie. The completed film – editing, music, credits, the works – must be turned in before the deadline.
In 2009, nearly 40,000 filmmakers made 3,000 films in 76 cities. In Cleveland, that included BJP and Kinook’s team. And by the end of it, they took home the prize for both Best Film and Audience Favorite.
“Winning ‘Best Film’ was …

Eric Kripke: A Filmmaking (Super)Natural

Those that know Eric Kripke from when he was a boy growing up in the Toledo, Ohio, suburb of Sylvania often tell him they didn’t know that he was “secretly disturbed.” And even the filmmaker admits that his happy, idyllic life seems out of place for the guy that created the horror sensation, Supernatural.
“I guess the only thing weird may have been how normal everything was,” Kripke says.
Kripke’s Supernatural, soon to finish its fourth season, tells the tale of two monster-hunting brothers – Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles respectively. Think of it as a sort of Route 66 with chainsaws, muscle cars and a boatload of demons.
Bit of a 180 for a guy who started his career as a comedy writer.
Dangerously Obsessed Kripke says that since he was 8 or 9 years old, he was very focused on becoming a filmmaker.
“I never really wanted to do anything else. You could say I was ‘dangerously obsessed.’ And by 12, I knew I wanted to go to the University of Southern Calif…