Greater Cleveland Film Commission wants to ensure Ohio's film incentive doesn't have its last act

Proposed cuts in the Ohio House budget means the curtain might fall on Cleveland’s thriving film scene. The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which gives filmmakers an incentive to bring movie production to Ohio, is on the chopping block to make space in the budget for income tax cuts. But at the same time, Senate Bill 37 is in the works, with a goal of raising the tax credit from $40 million to $100 million to pave the way for more growth in the local film industry. It’s a pivotal moment that has the Greater Cleveland Film Commission on edge.

“We're fighting for survival,” says film commission president Ivan Schwarz. “We've already lost a couple of shows because what this does is make people nervous that the credit won't be around so they're going elsewhere.”

While not everything filmed here is as flashy as The Avengers, Schwarz points out film and TV production is a big financial boon to the region—bringing $463 million in economic impact to Northeast Ohio alone since 2009. Not only do the visiting crews spend money at local businesses (on everything from catering and hotels to transportation and dry cleaning), but they also employ local film crews and workers on set.

According to Schwarz, 75 to 85 percent of the people working on any given production are hired locally. And they’re good-paying jobs, averaging $60,000 a year.

“If we lose this, those 5,000 people are going to have to look for jobs in other states,” says Schwarz. “It’s like losing another Lordstown and DHL combined.”

But if S.B. 37 passes, not only will those jobs be saved and more created, but the 300 students in the highly-acclaimed, one-year-old Cleveland State University School of Film and Media Arts are more likely to stick around too, instead of heading for greener pastures in more film-friendly states.

The film commission is fighting back, launching a Save Ohio Film Jobs campaign to educate state legislators and citizens on the benefits of the local film industry. They plan on testifying to the state Senate, and are encouraging citizens to not only attend, but also to contact their representatives to express their support of the tax credit. A #SaveOhioFilmJobs media mixer takes place tonight at Music Box Supper Club, where attendees can learn more and ask questions about the film industry’s local impact.

“When everybody keeps saying this is about putting money in the hands of Hollywood, it's just simply untrue,” says Schwarz. “It's about putting food on the tables of the locals here in Ohio.”

Ilona Westfall
Ilona Westfall

About the Author: Ilona Westfall

Ilona Westfall is a Cleveland-based freelance writer. When she's not penning articles for a variety of Ohio publications, she's roller skating with Burning River Roller Derby, rolling d20s with her D&D group, or getting muddy in the woods. Follow her on twitter @IlonaWestfall.