A film crew, cast of actors, and an entire film set occupied most of a city block on Neil Avenue between 1st and 2nd Avenues for approximately two weeks during the summer of 2020.
They also filled to the brim and transformed the three-story Italian Village home of Jon Sherman and Melissa Vogley Woods.
The pair couldn’t think of a more appropriate location to set and shoot the movie they co-wrote.
Not only did they want to highlight the city of Columbus, but the house was also where Sherman and Vogley Woods moved in together in 2016, merging their family of four teenage children, which is the premise of “Them/Them/Us.”
“It’s loosely autobiographical,” said Sherman, an associate professor of film 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 teenage children and move in together. One of the teens is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them.”
Hence the title of the film.
However, each of the other teens has their own struggles, including “the one who orders his weed through the mail, the one who talks outright, and last but not least, the ‘good’ kid,” as the biography of the movie.
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But at heart, the film is a romantic comedy, Sherman’s specialty, just one that takes a more realistic and honest look at love, especially for those who find relationships later in life. Balance that with some humor and edginess (think leather and whips as the main characters explore Columbus’ sexually adventurous kinky community).
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 bit out of the ordinary, but it’s really a 20th-century update…it has all the beats of a romantic comedy, but in the second half, the kids are struggling,” Sherman said. “It’s about being a parent but also a romantic and how you can be both at the same time.”
Where can I see ‘Them/Them/Us’?
The film opens Friday through Gravitas Ventures in select theaters across the country, including the Gateway Film Center and the Drexel Theatre, and Sherman will host Q&As at both this weekend. It will then be available for streaming 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 Lisa, opened in the fall. first in Hollywood and then here in October to a packed house at the Lincoln Theater in the King-Lincoln District.
Since then, it has garnered rave reviews at a host of film festivals, including as an official selection at the San Diego International Film Festival and winner of Best Low Budget Feature at the Paris Independent Film Festival.
The $550,000 film was not only one of the first projects approved by the Screen Actors Guild to begin filming during the pandemic with the strictest safety protocols, but “They/Them/Us” was also the first movie to use Columbus backgrounds. Pictures, a nonprofit entity of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.
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CAPA president Chad Whittington said they have been working for several years on ways to grow the film industry in central Ohio, including starting a fund to help movies get off the ground.
When Sherman came to CAPA in 2019 with his script, it gave CAPA the ideal 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 a great partner. This was exactly the kind of movie we wanted to invest in. This sets the tone for what we want to do in the future.”
In addition, the project defended Columbus.
The film shows the favorite places of Columbus
Logistically, Sherman said it made sense with his small budget to set it up more or less in one place and not in an expensive area like New York City. Plus, he was able to take advantage of the 30% Ohio Movie Tax Credit.
Still, he ended up spending more than $60,000 on a personal credit card to pay for all the COVID-19 tests 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.
Perhaps the most important reason for showing Columbus, however, was to present the Midwest as a place where people struggle with the same issues (drug addiction, gender identity, sexuality, family dynamics, love) that viewers see in countless other movies. shows set in New and New York. The Angels.
“What pleasantly surprised me about Columbus is how open and reasonable the city can be at times,” said Sherman, who moved here in 2010. “We definitely leaned into each other on the whole Ohio thing once it became clear that he was a character. important in the movie.
A dating montage 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 German Village.
During a pivotal scene, Maddy (played by non-binary actress Lexie Bean) confides in Charlie. (Bean consulted with Vogley Woods’ son, who uses the they/them pronouns, to prepare for the role.)
“A teacher keeps misunderstanding me and being a jerk,” says Maddy in the film.
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“Do you want to get some donuts?” Charlie asks, and what follows is an endearing bonding trip to South Side staple Buckeye Donuts.
During the 18 months it took her to write the script with her now-husband (the couple married shortly after filming wrapped in 2020), Vogley Woods, a noted visual artist, said they discussed a multitude of topics to include.
It was especially important for her to explore sexuality and what that might look like for two consenting older adults.
In the film, Lisa is heavily involved with “kink,” which can range from feathers and whipped cream to full-on dominatrix, and the filmmakers consulted with the kink community to ensure they portrayed the scenes accurately.
For advice, the filmmakers turned to husband and wife Drew and Trina Gardinier of Pickerington.
“Early on we did consult on some of the writing and that took into account that the kinky people in Columbus are soccer moms and dads, normal people,” said Trina Gardinier, who with her husband runs Adventures in Sexuality, the kinky larger. organization in Ohio.
But soon Sherman and Vogley Woods approached her as 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.
Both Gardiniers were honored to be part of the project and the opportunity to show how important sexuality is for the human being.
“The main thing for me is that I’m really excited that people are challenging the dominant paradigm and embracing the alternative, whether it’s kinky, gender fluid, non-binary,” said Drew Gardinier.
Hargreaves, who plays artist Lisa, fell in love with the story of the couple and children, who, according to many involved in the project, stole the show.
Danny, played by recent University of Cincinnati graduate Jack Steiner, has a tough exterior, but ultimately leans on his family when he needs them most, while his sister Anna, played by Cleveland native Shanna Strong, leans on him. she strives to be perfect, but ultimately finds comfort in it. new housemates, siblings Courtney (Sarah Eddy) and Maddy (Bean).
“I loved working with all four of them,” Hargreaves said. “The cast did a great job and the young actors bring the four teenagers to life so beautifully.”
His favorite scene to film was the one where the whole family goes go-karting, one of the lightest in the film to help balance the weight of some of the real issues the film addresses.
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“The movie shows that it’s never too late to make a change and live your life the way you want,” said Hargreaves, who is a longtime friend of co-star Slotnick. “That goes for the adult characters as well as the teens.”
Sherman, who recently moved to the Old Oaks neighborhood near downtown with his family, said “they/them/us” is really about redefining happiness at all stages of life.
Vogley Woods said that the film should resonate with people from all walks of life and is keen for more audiences to see it.
“It offers a very comprehensive perspective on the lives of those over 40,” said Vogley Woods. “It is concise in its disorder. He felt really real and very magical. There is tragedy but also hope. It’s not a fairy tale ending and that was important.”
take a look
“Ellos/Ellos/Nosotros” will be screened at the Gateway Film Center, 1550 N High St., from January 28 to February 2. 2, and at the Drexel Theatre, 2254 East Main St., from January 28-30. A question and answer session with director and co-writer Jon Sherman will follow the 7 pm screening on January 28 at Drexel and the 7:30 pm show on January 29 at Gateway. The Drexel requires proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter and patrons must wear masks. Masks are also required at the Gateway. For ticket costs and show times, visit www.drexel.net and www.gatewayfilmcenter.org.