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


Before one can figure out how to develop a social profit mindset, it would help to know what a social profit even is.  Right?  Although I did not coin the phrase, it is my preferred term in lieu of nonprofit.   The use of “non” in front of something can carry a negative connotation.  Non is described in the dictionary as “expressing negation or absence.”   

Even though it might not come in the form of cash, there is absolutely some return on investment or profit, back to the community in which social profits do great work to address the societal ills we all face. 

Throughout the brief history of this country, too many in positions of authority have actively and intentionally sought to continue to divide us along such lines as race, ethnicity, gender, or even dare I say, political affiliation.  Race in fact is a social construct meant specifically to divide us, as well as to perpetuate and justify such national stains of embarrassment such as the enslavement of people for ill-gotten profits, Jim Crow, and the “Trail of Tears.”
That attempt to divide is painfully apparent even more so today, as we see shameless efforts to further suppress a full and accurate account of the American story, as well as the right of all to vote.  At the end of the day, no one is immune from the challenges that life throws our way.  In my opinion, a social profit mindset speaks to the intrinsic mission that God, no matter your religious or political affiliation, has admonished us all to embrace.  Which is that we are on this earth to serve others. 

One of my favorite Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes is – “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”   If an organization has servant leadership and community engagement as components of its corporate culture, then they are on its way to having a social profit mindset.  Ask yourself if you as an individual are on that path. 

For argument’s sake, let’s say that making money is your primary motivation.  There is certainly nothing wrong with desiring to run a profitable business.  After all, it is not money that is the root of all evil, it is the LOVE of money that clouds judgment, and causes us to do things that we would be embarrassed to share with our grandkids one day.  If your company is drawing customers and employees from the community that keeps earnings up, doesn’t it stand to reason that you should be giving something back besides simply a base transaction?  Being a constant “taker” doesn’t seem to be a sustainable business model.  Life is not an athletic competition and should not have to be a zero-sum game. 
Most companies that endure and thrive in either the social profit or for-profit sectors, tend to be those that can effectively illustrate their true value proposition to, and passion for, the communities it serves.  Additionally, goods and/or services notwithstanding, they can also clearly define what the return on investment (ROI) is for said transaction.  Being able to do those things can take a company from being merely transactional, to one that is transcendent and seen as a true community partner. 

An organization with a social profit mindset is in it for the long haul.  Believe me, most people know the difference.   We can fake many things in life.  Passion and commitment are not among them.  As the saying attributed to President Abraham Lincoln goes, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”   One might therefore argue that being true with yourself and others, and speaking truth to power is part of the social profit mindset.  
Lastly, diversity, equity, and inclusion as a tenet of your corporate culture is an existential part of a winning organizational culture and a social profit mindset.  Don’t get so caught up in just saying the words, and not deeper into what they really mean.  This is not a fight in which any of us can be AWOL.  We all have a stake and must be honest with ourselves that it has taken over 400 years of intentionally denying equity and inclusion and discouraging diversity to the point of stealing land and denying basic human rights, to get us to where we are yet today.  It will take equal intention, but hopefully not as much time to change things for the betterment of all our kids, our grandkids, and our country.   There is certainly the wherewithal to do so.  The question of course is the will.  Personal.  Political.  Collective.
No matter if you are a social profit enterprise in business to find solutions to the problems that life throws at us all, or a company just trying to make a buck, you should be engaging in service above self.  If you think hard, you will be able to find your WIIFM – What’s in it for me?   The first step in the process is to take the first step toward a new way of thinking about life and business.  Yes, that does take a little faith!
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
The staircase is in front of you.  What are you going to do?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Better Understanding of a True American Hero

Memorial of Martin Luther King in Washington DC | Photo by Wilson Rodriguez

Lowell Perry Jr., Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President Corporate & Community Engagement |
February 1, 2023

As you know, February is Black History Month. Black history is American history. The contributions of African Americans to the story of this country are immeasurable. This includes literally building Washington D.C., as well as our national economy, as forced and enslaved labor. Many citizens are not aware of much of these contributions because these parts of American history have regrettably, not been taught in our schools. It is also unfortunate that this omission was not an accident.  If you are indeed a student of history, make a concerted effort to learn more about the important role of Black people in the American story. 

One good place to start if you want to raise your history IQ is the work of a true American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, please do not rush to join the chorus of hypocrites who love to quote Dr. King around his birthday, and this month, using out of context selective snippets from the iconic I Have a Dream speech.   I use the word hypocrite given many will utter words from the speech, but then turn around and support public policy that is the antithesis of the message and the man.  That speech was a call for freedom and equality, a quest that is still a work in progress.  

If you really want a peek into history, and into the mind and mission of this man of God, then you owe it to yourself to read the Letter from Birmingham Jail.  This eloquent missive is regarded by some as a revelation and a chronicle of the struggle of African Americans, then and now, as protagonists in the American story. Dr. King’s prophetic words ring just as loudly, if not more so today. It may well be one of the best examples of what he stood for, his skill as a writer, and why he is an esteemed American hero. Follow this link to experience riveting historic prose from a King:

Lowell Perry Jr. at MLK Memorial Dedication – Washington D.C.

He and I also share something in common besides being juniors, and a passion for fighting injustice. We are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The first Black Greek Letter organization. I mention this not just as a shout-out to my good brothers everywhere, but rather, I am still awed by the experience of being present for the dedication of his memorial in Washington DC. My dear fraternity led the effort to make this momentous dream a reality.

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission is deeply committed to a corporate and community culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, leading to true equal opportunity for all. We work collectively with our stakeholders to protect and promote diverse people, places, and experiences that help tell all of America’s stories equitably and inclusively.

We define diversity as the meaningful participation of myriad groups in cultural and economic development driven by our efforts, including but not limited to race, age, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, ethnicity, perspective, and geography.

We define equity as the development of policies and practices that help all communities gain access to the resources, opportunities, and networks required to reach their maximum potential.

We define inclusion as the authentic engagement of diverse groups in real personal and professional development, leading to an enhanced sense of belonging.

When added together, we believe that D + E + I = O.  Opportunity. I submit to you that this basic human equation was a central message of Dr. King’s journey while on this earth. In today’s world, it is more relevant than ever, as we see far too many in authority seeking to actively undermine it on a daily basis. What are you going to tell your children and grandchildren that you did to personally combat such madness and help ensure that the phrase in our Pledge of Allegiance – “liberty and justice for all” is not just an empty promise?

Your move my friends.

Happy Black History Month. 


Cleveland Named to Moviemaker’s 2023 Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker

The Russo brothers’ hometown is a cinematic powerhouse with Midwestern charm, a very reasonable cost of living, and a long record of proven success and stability. It can double as almost any other part of the country, offers a deep bench of production facilities and equipment-rental houses, and is home to the Cleveland International Film Festival, one of the best proving grounds for crowd-pleasers. Recent projects include the upcoming LeBron James film Shooting Stars, about his early life, and the Tim Blake Nelson drama Asleep in My Palm. Northeastern Ohio’s history with the industry means experienced crews who earn the same rates as those in more expensive regions.

“The Northeast Ohio motion picture industry has a long academy award-winning track record,” says Bill Garvey, President of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.  

“Over 300 projects have filmed in Ohio over the last decade.  But we’re only getting started.  With our growing tax credit program, low cost of production, diversity of architecture and topography, and veteran crew base, Northeast Ohio is poised to attract unprecedented investment and job growth in the next few years.”

Click here to read the full article.

Greater Cleveland Film Commission Names Lowell Perry, Jr. Chief Diversity Officer, VP Corporate & Community Engagement

Lowell Perry, Jr. | GCFC Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President Corporate & Community Engagement

CLEVELAND, OH—The Greater Cleveland Film Commission is pleased to announce the appointment of Lowell W. Perry, Jr. to the newly created position of Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President Corporate & Community Engagement, effective immediately. 

Mr. Perry brings a proven track record of success in non-profit and for-profit executive management, along with a broad-based organizational development background and significant expertise in diversity, equity & inclusion, community outreach, advocacy, strategic alliances, and fundraising. 

“Lowell Perry is the right person at the right time to help GCFC leverage the explosive demand for content and accelerate economic investment into Northeast Ohio,” says Bill Garvey, President of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. “His wealth of experience in non-profit management and diversity, equity & inclusion will strengthen GCFC’s efforts to grow the number of local motion picture jobs and develop a more diverse workforce.”

Most recently, Perry served as Executive Director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area (YCNHA) in Yuma, Arizona, where he attracted over $11.25 million in restoration and preservation commitments for the Yuma Territorial Prison, and Colorado River State Historic Park to promote his vision for a “Historic Yuma Experience.”  As a board member of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA) Lowell played a key role in passing the legislation to reauthorize congressional funding for the national heritage area program.

Prior to that, Perry led the Central Promise Neighborhood—a program of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. He also served as Chief Diversity Officer, SVP Corporate & Community Engagement for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, as well as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, where under his leadership the regional agency set records for the number of children served.

Perry’s diverse background also includes public speaking, voiceovers, and commercials, as well as appearances in feature films and television. He is a graduate of Yale University, a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a past board member of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp and a member of Leadership Nashville Class of 2009. 


The Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) is a 501c3 nonprofit, whose mission is to create jobs and economic impact to Northeast Ohio through a vibrant film and media arts industry. GCFC was the driving force behind the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit (OMPTC) in 2009. Since then, GCFC has attracted over 300 productions, most recently Netflix’s “White Noise” and Universal Pictures “Shooting Stars,” the Lebron James bio-pic.  These projects have created 7,092 full-time equivalent jobs and brought over $1.38 billion into Ohio’s economy. GCFC connects cast and crew talent directly to production opportunities and invests in developing a strong local workforce by presenting workshops, seminars, FilmSkills training and internships designed to give local talent the education, experience and professional connections for a prosperous career in the film industry.  GCFC works tirelessly to generate real, sustainable opportunities that attract and retain talent and economic growth.

Netflix’s feature “White Noise” premiered on Friday, December 30th, 2022.  92% of “White Noise” filmed in Northeast Ohio in 2021 (starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle). Netflix was here for 21 weeks of filming (with an additional 6 months of prep), employing 921 crew and 3,000 extras, booked 36,000 hotel room nights, and spent an estimated $106.6 Million in the region at 256 vendors. ”White Noise” secured the prestigious honor of opening both the Venice & NY Film Festivals. 

Schauer Group Century of Service Nonprofit Award program

Thank you to everyone who voted for the GCFC during the contest, we appreciate your support!
The Family Resource Center of Wickliffe was announced the winner of the Schauer Group Century of Service Nonprofit Award program for 2022.

From ‘The Avengers’ to ‘Shooting Stars,’ Bill Garvey brings Hollywood to Cleveland

GCFC President Bill Garvey










SOURCE: | Joey Morona
April 10, 2022

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Northeast Ohio is ready for its closeup once again as filming on “Shooting Stars” begins in parts of Cleveland and Akron this month. Based on LeBron James’ autobiography of the same name, the Universal release focuses on the NBA superstar’s childhood years, telling the story of a close-knit group of friends who overcome the challenges of growing up in the inner city and find refuge together on and off the court.

The project is the first major Hollywood production to come to the area since the Netflix film “White Noise” (also known as “Wheat Germ”) starring Adam Driver wrapped in November. It’s also the latest win for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, the nonprofit that works to attract film and television productions to the region. The production will be here into June and pour a projected $25.5 million into the local economy, hiring crew members, partnering with local vendors and businesses and booking hotel rooms.

To put that into perspective, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” shot here in 2019, had a slightly smaller budget of $21 million and hired 118 local crew and over 3,000 extras, worked with 60 local businesses and booked more than 1,000 hotel room nights during its stay.

“LeBron James is very loyal to Northeast Ohio,” said Bill Garvey, president of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. “I think he always saw this as a project that needed to film here. But ultimately these projects depend on a tax incentive to come.”

Garvey is referring to the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which provides productions a 30 percent tax credit on their in-state costs. The state limits the maximum amount of incentive awarded at $40 million a year. “Shooting Stars” is taking up $7.6 million of that.

“We have a steady stream of content being produced here, but we also have more projects that are turned away because of the restrictions of our tax incentive,” he said.

Garvey said the state had to turn away $224.5 million worth of film and television projects over the past year because of the cap on the tax incentives available. In his view, those are opportunities the state can’t afford to lose.

“We want to take advantage of the arms race of the streaming wars that’s led to an exponential increase in the amount of production happening throughout the world,” he said. “There is more opportunity than there ever has been in an industry that is growing more than any other industry at the moment.”

Originally from Queens, New York, Garvey has been in the film industry for 26 years. Before his current role luring projects to the region, he worked on the other side of the equation as a location manager, finding places for filmmakers to shoot their movies and then working on the logistics to make it happen.

His interest in movie-making began while he was a business major at the University of Notre Dame. Needing an elective, the self-described movie buff took a film production class. Fate then stepped in when “Rudy,” the inspiring 1993 sports drama, came to campus to film scenes. Director David Anspaugh spoke to the class. Garvey was hooked.

“Here’s this director in front of me telling us how he makes his living, doing something he loves. It was a foreign concept to me,” he said. “It opened my eyes.”

After bouncing around the country, Garvey and his wife settled in Cleveland in 2008 to be close to her mother, who was suffering from cancer. He quickly realized he didn’t have to be in Hollywood or New York to continue what he loved doing. Not long after his arrival, a producer hired him to scout locations for a super-secret project. It was a big-budget movie set in New York City with elaborate action sequences that would be impossible to film in a city of eight million people.

avangers filming begins

Cars, taxis and trucks were smoking and tossed about like toys during the first day of filming on “The Avengers” movie set on Monday, August 15, 2011. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)The Plain Dealer

The film turned out to be “The Avengers.” Marvel originally intended to shoot it in Detroit, but those plans fell through. Luckily, Garvey knew of a place where you could easily shut down streets so Captain America and Thor could fight off an alien invasion, and also stand in for Stuttgart, Germany, where Loki could cause trouble. It was his new adopted hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

“That film was kind of the calling card that put Cleveland on the map and started a pipeline of other projects coming here,” he said.

Garvey followed that up by bringing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Fate of the Furious,” “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “White Noise” to Cleveland. Those efforts plus his existing relationships with companies like Marvel, Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. led to him being named head of the GCFC last September.

Instead of the buyer, he’s the seller now. His pitch is pretty simple. With its unique and varied architecture, topography and climate, Cleveland can be anywhere the film needs it to be.

“Whenever I’m with a director or producer from out of town and I take them on a tour, I show them all this amazing architecture and I say that’s never been in a movie. They’re shocked because everywhere they’ve ever been, everything’s been on screen,” he said.

He also sells them on the cost of living here. But the city’s biggest asset, according to Garvey, is its people.

“I’ve filmed in many places and you don’t get the welcoming reception that we get here,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be able to go into a community, spend money and people appreciate it.”

Still, studios aren’t going to spend millions of dollars just because we’re nice to them. There are 4,000 projects currently in development and to attract some of them, Garvey said Ohio needs to stay competitive with places that offer higher tax incentives than the $40 million Ohio issues annually. States like Pennsylvania ($70 million), Kentucky ($75 million), New Mexico ($100 million) and Louisiana ($150 million).

“When the tax incentive goes away, so does the spending,” he said.

Garvey is working with state legislators and other stakeholders, trying to increase Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit and make it more flexible. Since its inception in 2009, the incentive has generated $1.1 billion in economic impact and created over 6,000 jobs. The ultimate goal, he said, is to replicate the success in Georgia, which doesn’t cap the amount of tax credits it doles out or restrict when entertainment companies can apply for them to just two times a year as Ohio does. The result: film and TV production has become a major part of Georgia’s economy with $4 billion of spending annually, which has led to the creation of an infrastructure that now includes roughly 100 soundstages across the state.

“That’s why they’re the new Hollywood,” he said.

Garvey believes the film industry in Northeast Ohio has the potential to become a sustainable, year-round business, too. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are already in place. Studio projects such as “White Noise,” “Cherry,” “The Marksman,” Oscar winner “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and smaller ones such as “The Hunting” and “The Enormity of Life” have given local actors, artisans and technicians valuable experience on set. Film programs at Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland Institute of Art are producing the next generation of filmmakers.

“We have a pipeline of those kids going into these jobs, but we want more of these jobs for more of these kids,” he said.

That pipeline includes a few productions scheduled to arrive after “Shooting Stars” wraps. Garvey can’t elaborate on them, but he’s particularly excited about a Warner Bros. feature that will be partially shot here and another project he describes as “high profile.” Stay tuned.

For now, his focus remains on expanding the film industry here and across Ohio. He’s been encouraged by the progress so far.

“There have been so many silos over the years and my main goal is breaking down the silos and getting everybody cooperating as a film community,” he said. “Once we have a higher tax incentive, then we can have multiple projects shooting in multiple places at the same time. That’s what creates stability and longevity.”


Celebrate Black History Month with the GCFC and get your raffle tickets for a chance to win this prize pack!

All proceeds from this raffle will fund scholarships for the GCFC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) workshop program that sponsors people from underrepresented groups to attend our workforce events and online training.

Raffle tickets are:
1 for $10
5 for $45
12 for $94


The winner will be announced on Friday, April 1st, 2022.

For questions, please contact Development Coordinator Juli Johnson Piller at [email protected].


Photo and Letter: Venus & Serena Williams with Cast

Oscar® Winner
Best Actor – Will Smith

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, starring Will SmithAunjanue EllisJon Bernthal

A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams.

Now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max


Flask & Shot Glasses, Bandana, Trading Cards, Hardcover Script

Nominated for 1 BAFTA Award
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – Jeymes Samuel


Directed by Jeymes Samuel, starring Jonathan MajorsZazie BeetzRJ Cyler

When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge.

Watch on Netflix


Making of…Hardcover Book, Hardcover Script

PASSING (2021)
Nominated for 4 BAFTA Awards
Outstanding British Film of the Year
Best Leading Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – Rebecca Hall

Directed by Rebecca Hall,  starring Tessa ThompsonRuth NeggaAndré Holland

“Passing” follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities.

Watch on Netflix



RESPECT (2021)
Nominated for 1 Screen Actors Guild Award
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role – Jennifer Hudson

Directed by Liesl Tommy, starring Jennifer HudsonForest WhitakerMarlon Wayans

Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.

Rent on Amazon Prime


Softcover Script, Original Movie Soundtrack

HARRIET (2019)
Nominated for 2 Oscars®
Best Actress – Cynthia Erivo
Best Original Song – “Stand Up”

Directed by Kasi Lemmons, starring Cynthia ErivoJanelle MonáeLeslie Odom Jr.

The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Rent on Amazon PrimeWatch on Peacock



Making of… Hardcover Book

Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy®
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics – “Letter to My Godfather”

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, starring Clarence AvantHank AaronGwen Adolph

This documentary follows the life of Clarence Avant, the ultimate, uncensored mentor and behind-the-scenes rainmaker in music, film, TV and politics.

Watch on Netflix


Cleveland Named to Moviemaker’s 2022 Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker

Cleveland is rising up the ranks to 12th in MovieMaker Magazine’s best places for filmmakers to work and live.

Cleveland is a chameleon, capable of transforming into whichever city the script needs it to be.  Cleveland easily wears so many hats because there is an abundance and diversity of architecture, ranging from the 19th century to ultra-modern.  The topography ranges from flat as Kansas to cliffs and mountains, all within a short company move within a 30-mile radius. Local and state governments gladly work with production companies to cut through red tape.  And another beautiful trait: Clevelanders aren’t jaded.

It is refreshing how easy it is to film movies in Cleveland.  But the cost of living alone is enough to make Cleveland the best place for a filmmaker to live.  That’s why Cleveland is a filmmaker’s Shangri-La.

Click here to read the full article.