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WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD

About The Production
Every small-time crook in the rough and tumble Cleveland neighborhood of Collinwood dreams of the perfect crime. In local lingo, it's called a "Bellini," a job so rich and simple that any fool with the right information can pull it off. When it comes to a Bellini, belief and desperation are two sides of the same coin.

Collinwood is one of those rust-belt neighborhoods ringing Cleveland's once vibrant industrial center. It's the kind of neighborhood where streets form boundaries between bristling ethnic and racial enclaves. It's the kind of place that yuppies and urban pioneers don't invade, where Starbucks doesn't sell coffee and happy-meals are only served from the parish soup kitchen. In Collinwood, it might be 1960 or 1990-change comes slowly, if at all. It's not a real nice place, but it is an authentic place, an American place.

In Welcome to Collinwood, the first feature film from Cleveland natives and co-writer/directors Joe and Anthony Russo, Collinwood is not just the landscape for a rare mix of tragedy and comedy, it's a part of the cast. "We set the story in a traditional working class neighborhood of Cleveland, the kind of neighborhood that's interesting because of its archaic feel," says Anthony Russo, who, along with his brother, won the attention and support of Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich) after he saw their student film Pieces at the 1997 Slamdance Film Festival. "Because this story is a fable, we didn't want a specific or recognizable time setting, and Collinwood was perfect for conveying something indefinite in time and space."

Soderbergh, who produced Welcome to Collinwood with partner George Clooney, agreed that the proper atmosphere couldn't be captured on a studio backlot. "I thought shooting on location was very, very important, because I didn't want it to feel like other movies, and I didn't want it to look like other movies. Welcome to Collinwood doesn't look like your typical film because it's shot in Cleveland and Collinwood, which results in an authenticity that is really integral to the movie."

The Russos' journey from their Cleveland roots to directing their eight million dollar action adventure comedy is, according to Collinwood executive producer Casey La Scala, "a fairy tale - with two fairy godmothers - Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney."

Their amazing Cinderella story began in 1997, when Soderbergh caught a screening of the film Pieces, a black comedy about three crazed Italian brothers in a failing Cleveland hairpiece business. A week later, the brothers received a phone call from Soderbergh. "We couldn't believe it," remembers Joe. "Steven said that he wanted to produce our next project, and he told us, 'there are two routes you can take in Hollywood: you can write your own script to direct - or we can try and get you connected to another screenplay.' We said we would prefer to direct our own material, and we began writing intensely over the next couple of years." Anthony then takes up the story, explaining that "when Steven and George formed their Section Eight production company, they brought us in and said they wanted to make one of our films. That film ended up being Welcome to Collinwood."

"When I saw Pieces," Soderbergh relates, "I thought it was energetic and creative, but also very well thought out and organized - not just a collage of effects. Then when I read Collinwood, I liked the structure of it; it had a plot and an approach to the characters that I thought was well developed, with a great set-up and payoff. Intelligent comedies are very hard to write and I thought it was really well built."

Collinwood is evocative of the ensemble comedies of the 1930s - the terrible conditions that existed during the Great Depression drew storyt

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