Networking a Greater Cleveland Film Commission Mixer: No Time To Be A Wallflower – Part 1

Networking has been described as “the process of making connections and building relationships.  These connections can provide you with advice and contacts, which can help you make informed career decisions.  Networking can even help you find unadvertised jobs/internships.”  If you are contemplating a career in the growing film production industry in NE Ohio or taking your current industry related job to the next level, there is no better opportunity for quality networking than a Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) Mixer.  The next is set for September 20, 2023, at McCarthy’s Downtown (1231 Main Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113) from 6 to 9 pm. 

The previous two mixers were packed affairs with a great mix of current and aspiring crew, vendors, and talent.  Even if you are a business not in the industry per se, come on out and mingle with GCFC staff, as well as industry folks who might just need the products or services you provide for an upcoming project.  95% of the people who work in the film industry never walk down the red carpet. A film crew is made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands, more jobs than just the director, actors, or camera operators.  Almost any job skill you have will translate to a career in the film and TV industry! 

Check out the chart at this link, which includes just a handful of possible career paths you can take to get your start in production.

A few tips for a productive night of networking and fun:

  • Bring plenty of business cards and arrive early with a plan as to who in general you must connect with during the allotted time.  Try to accomplish this goal in the first hour, and it will take some of the edge off for the remainder of your time at the event.
  • As the title of this piece suggests, don’t just stand around, even if others might be.  Be proactive by introducing yourself and acting like you belong in the place.  Believe me, everyone has a touch of anxiety in a social setting and will love you for breaking the ice.  My late father-in-law loved to tell our kids right before they were about to play in a big sporting event – “Let them know you were there!” 
  • Don’t launch into a long soliloquy.  Be concise and ask questions about the person you are engaging.  The goal is not to close a deal on the spot, but to exchange information and the promise to get in touch to set up a meeting to go into more detailed conversation.  Remember, networking is making the connection.  Besides, there may be several people you need to connect with, so make the best use of your time and that of the person you are speaking with who will likely have networking objectives of their own. 
  • Introduce yourself to all GCFC staff, some of whom will be at the check-in desk and may be able to point you in the right direction of the individual(s) you are looking to connect with.  There is also a sheet at the check-in desk with QR code links to GCFC team members facilitating setting up a time to meet with them in the future. 
  • Make sure your name tag is legible and accurately says who you are and/or what you are seeking to do.  Someone just might be looking for you, so write large enough for people to see as they pass by you during the night.
  • Be mindful of body language.  You can tell how a group is standing (open or closed) as to whether they are open to a new person joining in with them. Obviously, firm handshake, look folks in the eye when you address them, and don’t be an uncomfortable Seinfeld “close talker.”  LOL.
  • Have fun!  This is a party, so it is okay to act like it.  People like to be around others with positive energy, but of course, don’t overdo it with excessive loudness and “barroom curls.”  Don’t be a wallflower, but it is also not the time to be the life of the party.

Your actions post-event are as important as the event itself, if not more so.  Try to send an email to each person you took a card from at the mixer within 24 – 48 hours.  Mention how nice it was to meet, a tidbit about something you remember from the conversation, and how you would like to get together in person to continue the dialogue.  Give a few alternative dates/times as appropriate, particularly if it was said during your encounter at the mixer that there would indeed be some kind of follow-up.  Do your LinkedIn research prior to that follow-up meeting.

SIGN UP FOR THE GCFC NEWSLETTER!  That way you can keep up with what is going on in the local film community, including future productions, networking, and job/intern opportunities.  Visit the GCFC website – where you can register as a vendor or crew, as well as access other valuable film production-related data.

Finally, National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from September 15 to October 15 across the United States in recognition of the history, culture, influence, and achievements of Hispanic Americans.  This year’s theme is – Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America.  So, a special shout out to all my Latino brothers and sisters for their continuing contributions in shaping the collective American dream.  As my dad loved to say – keep on keeping on! Mantente adelante! 

Chief Diversity Officer, VP Corporate & Community Engagement

Help spread the word about “A Christmas Story” Official 40th Anniversary!

For the first time ever since making “A Christmas Story”…RALPHIE COMES HOME!

The GCFC is honored to host Behind the Camera: “A Christmas Story” Official 40th Anniversary November 10th -12th at Cleveland Public Auditorium. Hear behind-the-scenes production stories with the entire cast during the Behind the Camera panel on Friday night in the Public Music Hall, and visit Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) and the rest of the cast at the Cast Expo in the Public Auditorium all weekend for autographs, photo opportunities, and more!

Are you “A Christmas Story” superfan, and want to help us spread the word about our event?

Post our flyer below, or share our event link with your friends! (Don’t forget: event tickets make a great Christmas gift!)


Share a photo of our poster in your place of business, and we’ll tag you in a post on our Facebook and Instagram! Send your photo and name of your business to GCFC Development Coordinator Juli Johnson Piller at [email protected].

Film Forward: A Social Profit Mindset Focused on Investment Impact

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) is a workforce and economic development organization that is enhancing the growing film and media production industry in N.E. Ohio.   It is a vehicle used to achieve job creation and economic impact.  We are a 501(c)3 social profit that depends on investment to allow us the ability to do this important work, as well as grow our own capacity to contribute even more to uplifting the future professional prospects of Clevelanders. 

Film Forward is a descriptor of our organizational mindset placing a finer focus on not just what we do, but rather what we achieve.  Central to that focus is heightened intentionality around ensuring that citizens from underrepresented and underserved communities have every opportunity to pursue, participate, and thrive in the impact environment the GCFC is helping to drive.
The following graph illustrates a high-level glimpse of what the impact of your investment of time, talent, and/or treasure in the GCFC has heretofore been:

An example of impact is what the filming of the movie WHITE NOISE, starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle, shot here in 2021, meant to the local economy.  $106.6 million in direct spend with 256 vendors, 921 crew jobs, 3000 background actor jobs, and 36,000 hotel room nights.  The numbers for the LeBron James biopic, SHOOTING STARS – $25.5 million, 400 crew jobs, and 2,000 extras in 2022.  

It is a fact that arts and entertainment bring a certain “cool factor” to a city like Cleveland as it seeks “world-class” status.   People visit specific cities and towns all over the world these days in anticipation of seeing locations where movies and television shows were made. 

The Cleveland film scene in fact has a Behind the Camera event coming up November 10 -12, 2023 celebrating one iconic film made here that captured the heart of Clevelanders, and people all over the country.  Ralphie is coming home for Behind the Camera: “A Christmas Story” Official 40th Anniversary.  This is the BIGGEST cast reunion ever.  Watch the video below for a message about the event from cast member Yano Anaya (aka Grover Dill):

If you are ready to act now and want to avoid an acute case of FOMO if you are not in attendance (Fear. Of. Missing. Out.), CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.

Want to learn more about Film Forward and the Greater Cleveland Film Commission?  Give us a call or email to arrange a time to visit us in our offices for an information session or to book a presentation of this social mindset concept in front of your company, neighborhood/community group, or professional organization. Contact us here.
The late great American hero, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Take that first step today.

Universal Below the Line Traineeship: Shooting Stars

Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion (GTDI) team are proud to have partnered with the Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) to source trainees for its Universal Below-the-Line Traineeship on the Peacock Original ‘Shooting Stars’, a LeBron James biopic focusing on the young life of the basketball star. It was produced by LeBron’s SpringHill Company, directed by Chris Robinson, and one of its three writers included GTDI Universal Writers Lab alumni Juel Taylor (‘Creed II’ ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’).

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) continues the push to take Ohio’s media industry to the next level by leading efforts to increase the incentive and provide vital industry infrastructure that will allow the state to attract larger productions.  With these in place, the industry in Ohio will generate thousands more jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars more in economic impact. It made perfect sense that GCFC was the partner for this project, especially with the film’s director Chris Robinson and producer LeBron James both being adamant that it films in Ohio, not only to give back to the community LeBron grew up in, but to give authenticity to his story and really make the city of Akron a character within the film. The production created employment opportunities for the local community who were hired both in-front and behind-the-camera. Universal Below-the-Line Traineeship Locations trainee Raziya Herton said ‘To know that projects like this are coming to town, it’s a dream come true.’  

The encouraging results outlined in the most recent economic impact study illustrate the benefits of GCFC’s efforts to strengthen Cleveland’s growing media sector.  Over 300 productions have filmed in Ohio since 2007, including commercials, documentaries, independent and studio feature films, music videos, public service announcements, photo shoots, television shows, video games, and web series.  As a result, local businesses have enjoyed significant increases in revenue from the media industry.  Retail shops, hotels, contractors, real estate agents and restaurants and other food suppliers, just to name a few, have all benefitted from the increased business during production.

Universal launched the Below-the-Line Traineeship in 2021 on Jordan Peele’s “Nope” and has since run it on nearly two dozen productions. The Traineeship provides on and off-the-job training and mentorship across select below-the-line departments on select Universal film projects around the world. With the increasing demand for experienced crew throughout the industry, this innovative and immersive experience cultivates the next generation of talent by collaborating with local partners.

For more information on the Universal Below-the-Line Traineeship and GTDI’s other talent experiences across writing, directing, and composing, please visit

Lights, Camera, Action! Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit Gets a Blockbuster Boost

Lights, camera, tax credits! On Friday, June 30, 2023, Ohio Legislators voted in favor of an increase to the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit.

Since its passage in 2009, the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit has generated over $1.38 Billion in economic impact and created over 7,092 Full-Time Equivalent jobs in the state. With the tax credit expansion, Ohio continues to position itself as a top destination for local, national, and international filmmakers.

The increase raises the current annual $40 million cap to $50 million, with $5 million designated for theatrical production and $45 million designated for motion picture production for the 2023-2024 fiscal year (which commences July 1, 2023).

For the 2024-2025 fiscal year, in addition to the $50 million production incentive, Ohio adds a $25 million infrastructure tax incentive that will also be available to reallocate towards production incentive at the discretion of the Ohio Department of Economic Development.


Urge the Ohio Legislature to Enact House Version of HB 33 in Regard to the OMPTC

With the new Ohio state budget in the process of being passed, we are once again facing an impediment to the continued growth of the film industry in Ohio. The House introduced a raised cap of $75 million per year, but that was reduced to $50 million in the Senate version of HB 33.

We are asking members of the Ohio film community and those supporting and supported by this industry to reach out and insist that the House Version of HB 33 with the $75 million cap be restored to the budget.

Click below to send a letter via ACTION NETWORK urging the Ohio Legislature to enact the House Version of HB 33 in regard to the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit!

Where is kindness and compassion when we need it most?

Photo by Marta Branco

Were we not put on this earth to serve others?  It is certainly not about the accumulation of the most toys.  News flash, it is unlikely all your stuff will be on flatbed trucks trailing behind your funeral procession when your time here is up.   Regardless of the color of one’s skin, place of origin, beliefs, lifestyle, political affiliation, you name it, we are supposed to have compassion for others.  Yes, there are many differences between us as human beings, but we also have a lot in common.  It is within those points of intersection that we should be focusing our interactions with humanity rather than hurling stones out of our glass houses at others over our disagreements.
For the most part, we all love our families and friends, pray for good health, prosperity, safety, and the freedoms we are supposed to be entitled to as citizens of this country.  We laugh when our kids do something funny, cry at sad movies, and root for our home teams.  Why then do far too many people look at life as a zero-sum game with only winners and losers?  We assume that because someone doesn’t parrot or embrace our own beliefs, that they are somehow defective.  It is human nature that we will often disagree with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even our own families.  That doesn’t mean that we must also be disagreeable.  Annette Bening’s character Sydney Ellen Wade in the American President said it well:  How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?  It is in the political arena that kindness and compassion seem to be dying traits. 
We fight for fighting’s sake.  There is no middle ground anymore.  A “winner takes all” mentality is at play.   The irony is that in that kind of battle, there actually are no winners, only losers.  Our country suffers today because too many people in position to affect public policy choose to be disagreeable rather than behave like the public servants they allegedly were elected to be.  It is certainly not reflective of love of country, nor loving your neighbor as yourself as God instructs us.  An embarrassing lust for power and influence is the primary driver.  Public discourse in our seats of power have turned into petty fighting, lying, and name calling.  A friend appropriately called it “intellectual malpractice.”  Folks we place our trust in, obfuscate with stunning audacity, and are seldom called out for it by their peers out of fear of losing a political race.     
Kindness and compassion are sorely lacking today and should be required character traits of those worthy of positions of power who make such difficult decisions with broad impact.  However, we are the ones responsible for voting to keep putting these jokers in power, so the buck stops with us, yes?   Maybe we need to brush up on being kind and compassionate to others ourselves to better set the tone of what is acceptable behavior from those we charge with governing.  It is a sign of true leadership and strength, not weakness.  Anger, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness also literally make us sick. 
I get that it is not easy and does indeed take practice.  What can you do today to demonstrate kindness and compassion towards someone else who is different on the surface than yourself?  Our kids are watching us intently and will likely emulate our behavior when they become adults.  The stakes are therefore high, with the idea of a more perfect union in jeopardy if we don’t make the effort to treat others with the same dignity and respect, that we crave for ourselves.   And with all due diligence.  So why wouldn’t we as Otis Redding admonished in the song of the same name:  Try a little tenderness. 
Your move,

So, you want to be an actor?

Photo by Luis Quintero

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission kicked off Career in Films Week this first week of May to highlight potential career paths in the film and media production industry.  This celebration of jobs and skills in the sector is our way of drawing attention to the variety of positions available and how your skills may translate into a career in film and TV production.  Most of the focus is on the talent behind the camera.  Many of you might be thinking – “But I want to be in front of the camera!”  Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with that, and as a working SAG-AFTRA actor myself, I offer you encouragement.  But in case you haven’t heard or found out on your own already, being an actor is perhaps the toughest path into the film and television industry.

Imagine a job where you are told no at least 95% of the time.  If you are indeed selected, you are then told what to do, when and how to do it over and over again on set. Unless you are the star or featured character of a production, you will be forced to play the game of “hurry up and wait” for hours without getting makeup on your wardrobe that you are expected to keep looking brand new in between takes that are broken up into brief scenes.  And to top it all off, you may not get to see yourself on screen from your minutes in front of the camera for months.  Change your mind yet?  I hope you haven’t because, despite all that, it is fascinating work which allows you to lose yourself and tap into your creative being in ways you never thought possible. 

While I am not a full-time actor, it is a passion I have followed for years because it is fun!   It has helped to make me the professional I am today, and yes, I have made a little money along the way.  I admit that getting in front of a camera or microphone is not a natural act for most of us.  It is well known that speaking in front of a group of people absolutely terrifies most people.  Imagine being the center of attention on a set with the pressure of learning your lines or dialogue, and literally being responsible for the success or failure of the finished product.  

Lowell Perry Jr., SAG-AFTRA actor and GCFC Chief Diversity Officer, VP Corporate & Community Engagement

On an industrial film, of which I have been a spokesperson for dozens, everyone else on set is trying to make sure you look and do your best in a timely fashion.  Time is money after all.  But folks, it is an absolute blast and a feeling of accomplishment when you nail a difficult, but important scene or part of a production!   Especially in one take.  Even then, they will still do the scene again.  For “safety.”  LOL. 

I have also been fortunate to over the years have had small day player roles with such luminary talent as Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Matthew McConaughey, Connie Britton, and Kate Beckinsale, as well as appear in numerous commercials.  All productions shot in markets like Cleveland, Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans.  That is my point.  You don’t have to go to New York or LA to act.  There is plenty of opportunity here in the Midwest, especially if you also dig the stage.  Did you know that Cleveland has a great stage scene?  

If you are serious about wanting to get into acting, the first thing you must do is not take yourself too seriously.  You should be willing to “act a fool” as the old folks used to say.  When you go on an audition, know your lines and be the character you are trying to play.  Take chances.  Most often, the writer and director have a certain look in mind, so while your read is important, don’t feel beat up if you don’t get the part; you just may not have looked it or fit the overall look of the other characters in the spot if it is a commercial.

Do your research by reaching out to local casting and talent agencies that offer workshops, and casting opportunities.  In any event, nothing beats a failure but a try.  So go for it, or rather, “break a leg” as the old stage saying goes.

Lowell Perry Jr.

How did we get so lazy with our speech?

Perhaps it’s just me, but do you ever feel like you are drowning in a sea of acronyms?  It seems like we’ve added the practice of abbreviation to everything in our lives.  The overuse of acronyms fits right along with technology-driven ways to squeeze more work into our days at the expense of faith, family, and health. 

The world we live in wants things right now, even if what we end up with at the end of the day is some diluted version of that which we were searching for in the first place.  The economy of words does not necessarily equate to a more clear-cut understanding.  Sometimes we must spell things out for folks in order that they truly get where we are coming from.  Not doing so risks taking away the human factor from life’s precious interactions.
Look, I get that many names and titles can be a mouthful to say in their entirety.  Heck, my title, Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President of Corporate & Community Engagement is one of them!  However, in some cases people we try to have a dialogue with may not fully grasp the meaning of what a given acronym stands for. 

Overuse of acronyms can also make people new to our little abbreviation clubs feel like an outsider.  Cutting to the chase often means losing the gist of who and what we are as individuals and companies.  This is true in opinion of the acronym DEI.  Diversity, equity, and inclusion to be more precise.  I submit that being lazy about saying these three words together, in full, dilutes their meaning and power.  Either as a standalone or when used in tandem. 
I further posit that the overuse of simply “DEI” might be another symptom of the misguided pushback coming from people who think that encouraging a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of some “left-wing woke” conspiracy.  Oh yeah, “woke” is a colloquialism with a positive meaning that has been co-opted by fearmongers who are trying to make it stand for something it is not, purely for political gain.  Most of the jokers who misuse that word don’t even know or care what the intended meaning is.  “Woke” is a word that ought to be reclaimed by those who originally, and for good reason, coined it.  But I digress. The reclamation of the word “woke” is a subject for a future blog.  Back to the overuse of acronyms.

When you spell words out, they tend to make people more inclined to think about what those words mean, rather than a lazy method of defining what it is not.  DEI means far more than just three random letters.  Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.  In all fairness, the individual definitions for each word may differ to some degree across different individuals.  For our part, the Greater Cleveland Film Commission offers the following:

Diversity is the meaningful participation of myriad groups in the cultural and economic development driven by the efforts of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, including but not limited to race, age, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, ethnicity, perspective, and geography.   

Equity is the development of policies and practices that help all communities gain access to the resources, opportunities, and networks required to reach their full potential.

Inclusion is authentic engagement of diverse groups in real personal and professional development, leading to an enhanced sense of belonging. 

Each of these words indeed has power by itself.  They can be done a disservice when reduced to the utilization of the initials alone when used out of context.  The overuse of DEI assumes that anyone hearing or reading the short form of the collective knows exactly what the initials stand for, much less what they mean.
Another pet peeve is the continuing addition of words lining up behind the initial identifier, diversity.  It may certainly be a well-intentioned way of making sure that people not so well-versed in this battle for justice and equal rights have a better understanding of the issue(s).   However, can it also reduce the actual knowledge being absorbed when the individual components get lost in an alphabet soup? 

I heard someone in a diversity, equity, and inclusion presentation not long ago suggest we are too busy adding more letters/words behind diversity before we have even gotten the diversity part itself right!  Can’t say I really disagree with the basis of that logic.

We can’t be too willing to rush joining the acronym arms race unless that acronym truly defines what the person, organization, or issue stands for.  It is a disservice to us, and the next generation when we exercise intellectual laziness and pretend as if we don’t have just a few seconds more to spell out what we really mean and who we are. 

I can’t speak for other organizations and causes, but please think about it the next time you are about to utter the acronym DEI.  It is diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Not only that.  Think about what each word means, and how as human beings, we can better be ambassadors for embracing the no-brainer that we are better off when we welcome diverse thoughts and talents under our tents.  That we fight to ensure every person has an equitable opportunity to be active participants in the pursuit of the so-called American Dream.   

Lastly, that we do our part in encouraging society to move ever closer towards a collective culture of inclusiveness, and thus a more perfect union. 
Your move.

Meet New GCFC Board Member Mario Hairston

Of all things that consume my time outside of my 5 years in the tax consulting and compliance industry, film and music are the arts that devour my days. To have a chance to cooperate with others who are passionate about the city where I was born and raised, blended with the collective interest in one of my favorite mediums, I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. 

I grew up in the Greater Cleveland area, graduated from Cleveland State University in 2019, and currently reside in South Euclid. I think it’s fair to say I know my city, unlike many others. I currently work for CBIZ MHM, a publicly-traded accounting firm, and expanding my network is something I’m more than ecstatic about.

My favorite film often changes but I tend to return to Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, as my top pick. My favorite pastimes are trying new restaurants in the area with my fiancée, optimistically rooting for the Cavs, Browns, and Guardians, and learning the art of songwriting/music production. Look up Romeo Mathis on any streaming platform to get a taste of my inspirations.

I can’t wait to make an impact in the community that built my foundations. At the end of the day, my main hope is that I can change someone’s life in the best way I can.

~ Mario Hairston