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Q & A(rnold)

It’s no surprise action heroes are Hollywood’s single greatest export. Amid wildfires, mudslides, drought, and rolling blackouts, it’s a wonder the filmmaking capital of the world has survived any better than its on-screen alter ego, regularly ravaged by everything from earthquakes to alien invasions. The cost of living is untenable, the traffic is intolerable, even [...]
J.R. McMillan

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It’s no surprise action heroes are Hollywood’s single greatest export.

Amid wildfires, mudslides, drought, and rolling blackouts, it’s a wonder the filmmaking capital of the world has survived any better than its on-screen alter ego, regularly ravaged by everything from earthquakes to alien invasions. The cost of living is untenable, the traffic is intolerable, even the most groundbreaking feature film of last year was titled simply Get Out—and like most movies and television series these days, it wasn’t filmed there either.

California has in many ways become the star of its own disaster film. How can you tell? After years of economic malaise and mismanagement, the voters there actually asked Arnold Schwarzenegger to save them, and maybe we in Columbus should too.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Arnold Sports Festival, held the first weekend of this month. What started three decades ago as the Arnold Classic, the former bodybuilding championship has ballooned into a four-day health and fitness expo celebrating more than 75 established and obscure sports, from fencing to axe throwing.

But Schwarzenegger’s ties to Central Ohio run much deeper than just a long weekend once a year.

Back in 1970, Worthington Mayor Jim Lorimer invited a 23-year-old Austrian bodybuilder to the World Weightlifting Championship’s new Mr. World competition in Columbus to vie for the title and a cash prize of $500.

Arnold passed. The three-time consecutive winner of the Mr. Universe competition was already scheduled to defend his title in London, but Lorimer wasn’t taking no for an answer. He offered to fly Schwarzenegger back from London to Columbus immediately after the event there so he could compete.

Outside the then close-knit bodybuilding community, Arnold was just some guy who struggled to shop off the rack. That was all about to change. He won both Mr. Universe and Mr. World in the same weekend, a feat that was featured on ABC’s wildly popular Wide World of Sports, introducing him to his largest audience to date.

Schwarzenegger confided in Lorimer his dream of sponsoring his own tournament after he retired from the sport, and a seed was planted. After hosting several successful Mr. Olympia competitions here in the ’70s, and a brief acting hiatus in the early ’80s, Arnold ultimately launched his own competition in Columbus 30 years ago this month.

So what does that have to do with our fledgling film industry? More than you think.

Arnold has become an ambassador for Columbus for more than just sports. His annual health and fitness expo celebrates the city as much as the events and athletes. His own celebrity doesn’t just rub off on us; he’s helped introduce us to new audiences, just like we did for him with that first Mr. World competition.

He could have talked his action hero buddies Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis into opening Planet Movies anywhere on Earth, the motion picture rival to Hard Rock Café that coupled a Planet Hollywood restaurant with an upscale movie theater complex. But he chose Easton Town Center, and even though the concept was short-lived, the investment and effort shouldn’t be forgotten.

Action heroes also have a reputation for formulaic personas from one film to the next. Schwarzenegger is the exception, never afraid to try something unexpected or face the critics if an endeavor falls flat.

Yes, he’s been a barbarian, a commando, a spy, a hitman, and a killer cyborg from the future. But he’s also been a kindergarten teacher, Danny DeVito’s genetic better half, and even pregnant. His blockbuster appeal hasn’t stopped him from making fun of his own typecasting or being cast against type. Recent performances in Maggie as the protective father of girl slowly succumbing to a global pandemic that turns victims into zombies, and in Aftermath as an anguished survivor determined to avenge his family’s death from a mid-air collision, show an unexpected range and depth.

As soon as you think you know Arnold, he’s going to do something to prove you wrong.

How did your experience with the Arnold Classic influence the decision to shoot the film Aftermath here? What makes Columbus ideal as an emerging film city? Columbus is a fantastic place for anything and everything. I’ve spent time in Columbus for 48 years through our bodybuilding championship, that then developed into the world championships in many different sports through our sport and fitness festival. It’s a perfect place that I use as an example, where the private sector and public sector work really well together. They’re very well coordinated. There’s no “we” against “them.” It’s always “us,” and it’s always what is best for the community. It doesn’t matter if it’s Republicans or Democrats in office, they all know they ultimately have to serve in a way to bring more businesses here. I have seen the great growth of the Arnold Classic and how dedicated the city officials are, and also the people at the state level. They’ve helped us every step of the way to make the Arnold Classic Sports and Fitness Festival successful. This is how it became the biggest in the world. This year we have 20,000 participants from 80 different nations. It’s gigantic, and we wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere else than Columbus.

When I did the movie Aftermath, I told the production company when there was a debate about should we go to Atlanta, or New Mexico, or Cleveland, I said to them, “Look, let me explain to you a little about Columbus…”. I told them basically what I told you. It’s an extraordinary place, and that I’ve talked to the mayor many times, the governor many times, and they all said if you come here with a production, we will help you because we want to establish ourselves as a city where you should go to shoot movies. Big movies, small movies, documentaries, whatever you want to do. So I took the risk. I said, “I’m not going to do the movie unless we shoot it in Columbus.” They decided to investigate, to check into it, and this is why after looking around, talking to the film commission, they realized this is a very friendly place where they are opening up their arms to productions. So we shot the movie here and the producers walked away absolutely delighted with one of the best experiences they’ve ever had.

My idea was that this would be the opening, and those production people would go to Hollywood and tell others about it. That’s exactly what happened.

This is why I think it’s a great place. Because people work together, they work tirelessly. People are talented here—the stage crew, the people who build sets —they’re energetic, they’re passionate. This is something you cannot buy. It’s not just tax credits. I made this clear, Columbus maybe doesn’t have the best tax credits, but you will get your money’s worth in many other ways, and it paid off.

Why is it important to take risks in film? Why do actors need to take risks, why do filmmakers need to take risks? Why is it important to get out of your box? I don’t think there’s a difference from one field to another. One cannot say, why do you need to take risks in movies, why do you need to take risks in the parts that you play, what genre of movies you make? There are people who love to take risks, and there are people who like to play it safe. I think I’ve always been a person who thrives on risk. When I started in bodybuilding back in Austria they said, “You’ll never be a bodybuilder. Austrians are known for soccer and skiing. But bodybuilding? Forget it.” But I took the risk. It’s no different than taking the risk of running for governor. In movies, you have to take risks. Hollywood is a place that loves to put you in a box. You’re the action guy. You’re going to make action movies, and you’re going to do one script after the next—which I did, and that was very successful during the ’80s and ’90s. But there’s a time when I’ve done enough of that, after I’ve satisfied the studios’ needs, to show that I can do other things, that there’s a different Arnold in there than most people know. So I take the risk.

When I did Twins, I said to the studio, I know you don’t want to put much money behind this like an action movie. They said they wanted to make a minimum amount, and I said, “Then, don’t pay me? I’ll take the risk. It’s my first comedy. Why don’t you not pay me or the director or Danny DeVito, and just give us the back end?” We took that risk and it was my most successful movie at that time in my life, and I had a backend of 20 percent.

You couldn’t ever get that deal today. It was all about being able to take that risk.

When you get to be more mature, with age you’re much more believable to play a father in Aftermath or in Maggie, with more acting than action. When you’re younger and an action star, they won’t write material like this for you. They write scenes with great action, but they won’t write scenes with great dialogue and great character building. That’s just the way it is. For me, it was great to take those risks whether it’s Aftermath and Maggie, or Twins and Kindergarten Cop and Junior. I wanted to branch out because there is a side of me that is also like that. So I think taking risks in which parts you take and which productions you choose is absolutely essential.

Aftermath, 2017. Photo By Brian Douglas/Courtesy Lionsgate Premiere

Typecasting is tough to escape, with studios and with audiences. Is there a role or genre of film that you haven’t done and would like to? We’re putting together a western. I’ve never really done one, and I’ve always wanted to do a western. It’s being developed with Amazon and it’s going to be eight segments, like a miniseries. It’s a terrific project—very intense, action-packed, great characters. We’ll most likely start shooting next year. It’s being written right now. This year, I’m going to be shooting Terminator in Spain, and Budapest, Hungary. We’re finalizing the script for Triplets, which will be a sequel to Twins with Eddie Murphy as the third twin brother.

Speaking of reboots, I’d be remiss not to ask if King Conan rumors are true. Is there another Conan installment we can look forward to with an elder Conan? That is correct. Those movies were really big hits way back when. It’s a theme in Hollywood, to come back to titles that are well-known. Independent companies take risks with production titles no one has ever heard of or that are new. But studios like recognizable names. That’s why Twins is becoming Triplets, it’s why they’re now writing King Conan, which is why there’s a Terminator 6—which is all good for me, to keep those franchises alive.

Some parents push their kids into their own profession. Others push them away. The upcoming release of Midnight Sun is your son Patrick’s first starring role. How do you feel about him getting into the family business? I never discouraged him from going into the movie business. I think it’s a great business to be in. But I also make it clear to all of my kids—no matter which field they get into—they have to be smart with business, and they have to be smart with money. My son is very serious about acting, but he’s also very serious as a businessman. He’s always been entrepreneurial. While I’m proud of him and his work in the movies, I’m also proud of him and his work outside the movies—so that he never ends up being vulnerable. It’s important to have a passion for acting, but it’s also important to be financially independent—not having to sell out and take a role just because they offer good money. He’s really serious about acting, but he’s also really smart about it. I was so proud when I saw his movie, and I think people are going to be surprised by his performance.

Aftermath, 2017. Photo By Brian Douglas/Courtesy Lionsgate Premiere

As a Midwestern city, Columbus can pretend to be anywhere on film, but many filmmakers don’t realize it. How practical is it to shoot here instead of more familiar film cities? Columbus has so many different sides to it. When we shot Aftermath, we had no problem finding any backdrops whatsoever. The plane crash site was done a little bit outside of Columbus, we shot in a jail and had free reign over that location. You can find government buildings and high-rises, dangerous looking alleys. If it’s a modern looking shopping mall, there’s Easton Town Center. If you want to find a nice Spielbergian kind of community like you see in many of his movies, you have that in Columbus. You literally have everything that you need. I don’t think there is anything anyone would say you don’t have. If you’re shooting a movie that takes place in New York, I would highly recommend you shoot 95 percent of the movie in Columbus. Five percent of the movie—all of the exteriors, walking on 42nd Street or Broadway, or Central Park or aerial shots of the city—you go to New York to shoot that. But the rest it? You can shoot it all in Columbus. 

The 30th annual Arnold Classic will take place March 1-4. Aftermath is available for rent on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas

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While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can't wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By0yi8xhuPE/

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

614now Staff

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven't visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city's hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area's evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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