Council to Consider $2.5M Loan for Canfield Grads’ Movie

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A movie produced and directed by Canfield High School graduates could come to Youngstown next year, pending approval for a float loan from City Council.

Thursday evening, a team from Roadkill McGillicutty Production LLC met with the city’s Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee to discuss a $2.5 million float loan at 0.25% to finance the movie. Among the team present at the meeting were producer and co-writer Melanie Clarke-Penella and director Brandon Villano, both Canfield graduates.

Filming would begin in October if the loan were approved, Villano said, with pre-production work starting about six weeks prior to filming. A first-look deal is already in place with Sony Smith Global, Will Smith’s distribution arm within Sony Pictures, they added. The deal was accomplsihed through producer Ryan O’Quinn of Damascus Road Productions.

“An American comedy, especially a dramedy, is probably one of the hardest movies to sell because international markets don’t really do American comedy,” said Blaine McManus, a producer on the film from GrowHollywood. “This isn’t an easy movie to sell, but we’ve put together a cast and script that’s smart and we went to the distributors and got a solid thumbs up.”

The movie, titled Roadkill McGillicutty, tells the story of John and Colt McGillicutty in fictional Dallas Pike, W.Va., who have a rivalry with another father and son in the town.

“It’s about bigger thinking within a small town, classic good versus evil between one father and son and another father and son,” Clarke-Penella said, adding that the McGillicuttys have been the source of rumors in the small town since they faced accusations but were never convicted. “We find through the end of the story that everyone should be more understanding and look deeper.”

Much of the crew would be local, the three told the committee, helping lay groundwork for future productions.

“We have a plan to bring in the department keys who’ll make sure we can satisfy what the union is expecting of us and then fill in the gaps with a majority of the crew being local hires,” Clarke-Penella said. “If we do one film and then someone does another after us, those people [hired locally] can apply to be hired for the union and it starts to snowball so people know there’s crew here who can satisfy union credits.”

Extras will also be needed, including scenes that require upward of 200 people, Villano said. One such scene will take place at a Friday night football game. The same extras would then be used in another scene in a fundraiser. Because Dallas Pike is a small town, Clarke-Penella explained, many extras will be in multiple scenes.

City Council members Mike Ray, Julius Oliver and Basia Adamczak voiced concerns about where the crew would be hired from and where filming will be taking place. In the fall, filming wrapped on Them That Follow, which was approved for a similar $1.7 million loan. Not many of the crew were local and most filming took place outside city limits. For the latter, Director of Economic Development T. Sharon Woodberry noted that the impact of Them That Follow was about $190,000.

In addition, the cast and crew for that movie stayed in Boardman because it was the closest area with a hotel. Roadkill McGillicutty, meanwhile, would film within Youngstown city limits after the DoubleTree by Hilton opens in the Stambaugh Building downtown next year, potentially providing more tax revenue for the city by way of the bed tax.

“The true advantage of this group is that they’re locals. They know the community and the boundaries,” said Ray, fourth ward councilman. “As we work through this, we’ll define that [for others]. It’s good that we’ve been open and willing to explore. That $190,000 is new money. If $10,000 was spent with a caterer, that’s still new business.”

As locals who started their careers elsewhere, Clarke-Penella and Villano said the share a vision of establishing Youngstown as a well-known site for movie shoots. Laying the groundwork by training people to work on-set and register with production unions could lead to more, bigger projects.

“A lot of people in film feel it’s just about the project. For us, it’s about a long-term relationship with the city,” Villano said. “We’re trying to build a career and an infrastructure to do many films. Even industries as far as grip trucks and other equipment and skilled laborers, that’s what we’re looking to build. This is the first of many. This is the catalyst for the entire future we’re trying to have.”

At the meeting, the committee also talked with representatives from the Western Reserve Port Authority regarding assistance for redeveloping the Harshman Building downtown to be used as an office for the agency and space for Eastern Gateway Community College.

Other items discussed at the meeting included a $25,000 water grant to support the expansion of The Starting Lineup Barber & Beauty Shop and the creation of a racial economic equality commission to address job opportunities and training in the city.

No formal decisions were made on any of the agenda items.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.