Six questions with FilmDayton’s Lisa Grigsby.
FilmDayton didn’t need a big casting call to find its new executive director.
Lisa Grigsby, former special events director for the Aids Resource Center Ohio and a member of FilmDayton’s board since its creation, was named in July to lead the nonprofit dedicated to building the art, craft and business of films in Dayton.
Why did you decide to step into the executive director’s role now?
We’ve had big dreams and broad goals, but we’ve only been able to employ a part-time executive director. It got to the point that if we were ever going to make this happen, we had to step up and go for it.
We were trying to get the right person for the job, but we knew we couldn’t afford that person. We kind of jokingly said at one board meeting, “OK, who is going to step up and take the job?” I was ready for a change, and after thinking about it, I figured why don’t I take this on?
What are your immediate goals?
The first thing is to raise some funds. Our first job is to raise enough money to hire somebody full time. The second thing is to actually launch the Greater Dayton Film Commission. We’ve been doing the job of a film commission unofficially for the last couple years. I think of the commission as a sort of a concierge service for films coming to town and finding the things they need in our town. It’s knowing the right people, making the right phone call and knowing how to get things done in expedited manner. That’s what a commission can do.
The easier we make it happen, the more jobs we’ll bring to town. We’re really an economic driver. The film Carol that was here last Match did most of their filming in Waynesville and Lebanon, but Montgomery County got $400,000 in spend from that movie.
You’re not a Dayton native. What brought you here?
I grew up in Washington D.C., and lived in 26 cities before I settled here. I came to Dayton in 1991 on a 90-day consulting gig for Joker’s Comedy Café. It had been open three years, but wasn’t making money. They hired me to turn it around. After 60 days I had the numbers in line and I figured I’d hire a manager and move on. But the owner had different ideas. He asked me to stay and I eventually ended up buying the club.
I had a blast. I loved it. I got to work with some big names like Chris Rock and Elayne Boosler. That work prepared me for FilmDayton because I was dealing with the same kind of artistic and managerial talent. It’s business but not a traditional business.
What’s the best-kept secret about film in Dayton?
Films have been made here going back to the 1950s and the fact that the Wright State University film school is here. They are pumping out talent left and right. There are probably 150 people making their living in film in Dayton, but people don’t realize it.
What makes Dayton a good place for filmmaking?
The vast difference in locations is huge. In 30 minutes you can go from the middle of Farmville, USA, to Grafton Hill’s beautiful old period houses. The other thing is that Dayton has that small-town mentality. We’ll make it happen. A film last summer needed to film a restaurant after hours. If they did it in New York City it probably would have cost them $3,000 an hour. In Dayton, we’re like, “Can we get credit on the film and can we feed you while we’re doing it?” We’re excited about having movies here.
What’s your favorite film?
Remember the Titans. I went to college on a scholarship as an athletic trainer for the Oklahoma Sooners, so football is always near and dear to my heart. That movie breaks things down about racial tension and how the coaches deal with it and how people are people in the end. It’s a metaphor for a lot of places I’ve been.