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First Look At Emilio Estevez Filming Here

John Kiesewetter
WLWT-TV news truck parked on Ninth Street for "The Public" filming.

A mob of reporters shouted questions at Christian Slater outside the downtown Main Public Library's Ninth Street entrance about 11 p.m. Wednesday night, while surrounded by Cincinnati Police cars and an ambulance.

TV vans from WLWT-TV and WKRC-TV, plus two WCPO-TV news vehicles (a van and the huge satellite transmission truck), were parked by the library. But you didn't see this on late newscasts.  

This was truly "fake news." The TV trucks apparently were loaned to director Emilio Estevez for "The Public," his independent feature film about the homeless and mentally ill taking over the library.

Ninth Street was blocked from Walnut to Vine by six Cincinnati police cruisers, so the scene could be filmed under the enclosed bridge connecting the two Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County buildings downtown during Wednesday night's snow storm.

Slater ("Mr. Robot," "Bobby") came out of the Ninth Street entrance and laid down in the street on a small portable mattress wearing a white dress shirt and tie. Then he popped up and spoke to a gaggle of reporters gathered behind the Cincinnati Fire Medic 46 ambulance.  

Credit John Kiesewetter
"The Public" filming on Ninth Street Wednesday.

I also saw actress Gabrielle Union ("Being Mary Jane," "Breakin' All The Rules") wearing a heavy winter coat in the scene. (Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take any pictures on the closed set.)

Jenna Malone ("The Hunger Games"), Taylor Schilling ("Orange Is The New Black"), Jeffrey Wright ("Westworld," "The Ides of March"), hip hop artist  Che "Rhymefest" Smith ("Selma"), Michael Kenneth Williams ("The Wire") and Alec Baldwin were not seen filming late Wednesday.

Credit NBCUniversal
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump Jan. 14 on "Saturday Night Live."

Baldwin was in New York, where he's hosting "Saturday Night Live" this weekend (11:30 p.m. Saturday, Channel 5, NBC). Baldwin, who has portrayed Donald Trump on "SNL" this season, has been "back and forth, back and forth" between Cincinnati and New York, says Kristen Schlotman, Film Cincinnati executive director.

The 15 or so people portraying the media were just a few of the 750 extras used in the film, Scholtman says. As the lights from a half-dozen police cruisers flashed in the background for more than an hour, Scholtman said, "The city has been incredibly supportive."

Estevez will shoot most of "The Public" at the library, with more scenes at eight other locations around town. He's half-way through the five-week shoot, Schlotman says. 

In December, Film Cincinnati announced that "The Public" dramatized "a standoff with police and library officials when library patrons, many of whom are homeless and mentally ill, stage an Occupy sit-in, turning the Cincinnati Public Library into an impromptu homeless shelter for one night during a brutal, life-threatening cold snap."

Baldwin plays a crisis negotiator who tries to de-escalate the standoff. Estevez and Malone play librarians "caught up in the crisis," the release said. Schilling's character "helps expose the truth while a corrupt media spins the story for ratings," and Smith plays a homeless man.

Last year a record 10 films were made here, taking advantage of Ohio’s film production tax incentives. More are coming this year. Randall Emmett announced in October that he planned to make three more movies here this spring. His Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films last year produced "Inconceivable" with Nicholas Cage, Gina Gershon, Nicky Whelan, WWE wrestler Natalie Eva Marie and Faye Dunaway, and John Travolta's "The Life and Death of John Gotti," after filming "Marauders" in 2015 here with Christopher Meloni, Bruce Willis, Adrian Grenier and Jonathon Schaech.

Schlotman declined to say how many films were heading here soon. In October, she told WVXU-FM's listeners that "we're lined up with productions well into next year."

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.