MPAA: Ohio Movie & TV Production By the Numbers

The Ohio House has proposed ending the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit
as a means to help fund a reduction in state income taxes.

We believe to eliminate the tax credit is a GRAVE ERROR that will do great damage to our economy and to so many Ohio taxpayers who either work in media production, run a business that works with the media production industry or dream of someday working in this industry right in their own backyard.

The success of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit is real and demonstrable.

To see how you can help save Ohio film jobs, click HERE.

The MPAA reports on the industry impact (jobs/wages), and numbers are updated annually following the release of the prior year’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

Movie & TV Production:  By the Numbers1

  • 2015-2016:  During the course of 2015 and 2016, 28 movies and 5 TV series filmed in Ohio. Movies include The Fate of the FuriousBye Bye ManUFOTroubleBlood on WheelsMy Blind Brother, and In Search of Fellini. TV series include Fat n’ Furious: Rolling Thunder, Lachey’s Bar and Preach.
  • Impact:  While shooting on location, a major motion picture contributes an estimated $250,000 per day, and a single one-hour television episode contributes $150,000 per day, to the local economy.
    • In 2014 and 2015, film and TV productions spent $22.6M in the Cincinnati area, directly employing 4,331 people.2
  • Historic:  Key titles that filmed in whole or in part in Ohio include Captain America: The Winter SoldierThe AvengersDraft DayThe Ides of MarchParkerTouchbackSpider-Man 3The SoloistAir Force OneAntwone FisherA Christmas StoryMajor LeagueMen in BlackShawshank Redemption, Rain ManRedemptionSilence of the LambsTango & Cash and Traffic.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier spent an estimated $35M in Ohio over approximately 150 days, creating roughly 2,778 Ohio jobs and opportunities.3
    • The Avengers spent more than $25M in Ohio in 2011, employing 3,875 Ohioans.4
  • Production Incentive:  The tax incentives for Ohio include refundable credits for film, TV, video and digital media equal to 30% of production expenditures (with a minimum in-state spend of $300,000) including out-of-state wages. There is an annual $40M cap on available credits.
    • From July 2011 through June 2015, 31 productions received a total of $32.6M in Ohio tax credits. These productions contributed to more than 1,700 jobs, $70M in wages, and $225M total output impact to Ohio’s economy.8

Economic Impact of the Motion Picture & TV Industr

  • The motion picture and television industry is responsible for more than 35,500 jobs and $1.2B in total wages in Ohio, including indirect jobs and wages.
  • Nearly 11,700 people are directly employed by the motion picture and television industry in Ohio, including 2,974 production related employees.
  • There are 2,080 motion picture and television industry businesses in Ohio, including 1,200 production-related companies.9
  • MPAA member companies paid $17M to 851 vendors in Ohio in 2016. These local businesses include transportation, retail, hardware, and technology. Since 2012, MPAA members have paid on average $27M per year to local vendors in Ohio.


Download MPAA Report for Ohio HERE

Download MPAA Report for the U.S. HERE



1 Film commission listing and industry sources. Includes only feature films and TV series, not individual episodes, documentaries, specials, or other programming.
2, “Why an expanded film incentive matters to Cincinnati,” 7/8/2016.
3 Ohio Development Services Agency, “Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit Helps Lure New Captain America Movie,” 9/28/2012.
4 Cleveland State University, Analysis and Economic Impact of the Film Industry in Northeast Ohio and Ohio, March 2012.
5 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data as of year end 2016. U.S. Census Bureau data as of July 1, 2016.
6 BLS Data, using SIC to NAICS bridge. Production-related includes motion picture and video production, independent motion picture production artists and technicians, production-related businesses, post-production, re-production and studio distribution. Consumer distribution-related includes motion picture theaters, video wholesale and rental operations, television broadcasting, cable and other subscription programming. Total jobs calculated using RIMS II model of the BEA and some additional film/TV specific employment in other industries (e.g. retail). Data as of year end 2015.
7 Analysis of studio submissions received, using additional detail to ensure greater accuracy in estimating the number of vendors paid. Data as of year end 2016.
8 Cleveland State University, Box Office Ohio: Analysis and Economic Impact of the Film Industry in Northeast Ohio and Ohio, June 2015.
9 Analysis of Dun & Bradstreet industry reports. Data as of year end 2016.

URGENT: Save Ohio Film Jobs

The Ohio House has proposed ending the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit
as a means to help fund a reduction in state income taxes.

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission is reaching out to our state officials to strongly urge them to reconsider eliminating the tax credit and we ask our supporters to do the same. We believe to eliminate the tax credit is a GRAVE ERROR that will do great damage to our economy and to so many Ohio taxpayers who either work in media production, run a business that works with the media production industry or dream of someday working in this industry right in their own backyard.

THE SUCCESS OF THE OHIO MOTION PICTURE TAX CREDIT IS REAL AND DEMONSTRABLE.  The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently reported that nearly 35,500 people are directly and indirectly (hotels, caterers, carpenters, dry cleaners, etc.) employed by the motion picture and television industries in Ohio, with total wages earned exceeding $1.2 billion. We ask our state leaders to keep the incentive in place so we can continue to grow this industry and make Ohio a global production destination so that we can bring even more jobs and economic impact to our great state.

Are you an actor, crew member or vendor?
Tell your lawmakers how YOU will be affected if the film industry leaves Ohio.
  • Copy and paste the letter below into your email, personalizing the greeting for each recipient:
  • Copy and paste the letter below onto your company or personal letterhead and mail to the appropriate recipient.
  • Call the Governor, Speaker of the Ohio House and President of the Ohio Senate to express your support using the letter below as a guide for your conversation.
    • Governor DeWine – 614-644-4357
    • Speaker Householder – 614-466-2500
    • Senator Obhof – 614-466-7505
  • Share these social media posts to Facebook and Twitter, and use #SaveOhioFilmJobs

For questions, please contact GCFC President & CEO Ivan Schwarz at 216-623-3910 or [email protected]

We strongly encourage that you personalize your emails, letters, and phone calls.
Use this letter as a template. 

Dear Speaker Householder:

I write to you today with a profound sense of urgency as a supporter of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and Ohio’s growing media production industry. It has come to my attention that your office has proposed ending the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit and consequently pulling the plug on a successful industry poised for even greater growth.

The success of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit is real and demonstrable. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently reported that nearly 35,500 people are directly and indirectly (hotels, caterers, carpenters, dry cleaners, etc.) employed by the motion picture and television industries in Ohio, with total wages earned exceeding $1.2 billion.

This is a successful program that is putting Ohioans to work and putting hundreds of millions of dollars into their pockets right now. These aren’t just people working on movies and television shows, but also small business owners who have found a niche supporting this industry or whose businesses have found more paying customers from the growth of the industry in Ohio. Making media content is the manufacturing of the modern age, and it creates economic impact wherever it is fostered.

In 2008, Georgia passed a motion picture tax incentive that transformed their economy to the tune of $9.5 billion of economic impact in 2017 alone and made them arguably the media production capital of the world. New Mexico has seen similar success with their incentive. Netflix recently bought Albuquerque Studios and plans to invest over $1 billion in the state by driving production there.

I can personally attest to the incredible impact of this program. (Insert your story here.)

Growing this industry is a chance to grow something special in Ohio. This is a chance to stop our state from hemorrhaging bright, young people and keep them engaged – and employed – with an industry that’s not only hip and exciting but expanding by the day and filled with tremendous opportunity. The new film school at Cleveland State University has been designed from the bottom up to be one of the best in the nation and attract, train and retain the brightest young talent not only in Ohio but across the country. This is also a chance to bring skilled tradespeople back to Ohio to live, work, support local economies and pay state taxes.

I strongly urge you to reconsider eliminating the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit. To do so would be a grave error that would do great damage to our economy and to so many Ohio taxpayers who either work in media production, run a business that works with the media production industry or perhaps dream of someday working in this industry right in their own backyard.

Let us continue to grow this industry and make Ohio a global production destination so that we can bring even more jobs and economic impact to our great state.

Russo Brothers hoping to bring ‘Cherry’ to CLE

Before last weekend’s record-shattering box office opening with Avenger: Endgame, Cleveland-native Anthony Russo (of the directing duo the Russo Brothers), talked with  at The Plain Dealer about Endgame, and the next movie that he and brother Joe Russo want to bring to Cleveland, Cherry. ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE.  The Russos also talked out Cherry and their wishes to make it in Cleveland in a recent interview with Collider (see below).

Last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” earned more than $2 billion worldwide, which is more than the gross national product of Greenland and other countries and the 2017 budget of Cleveland.

The sequel, “Avengers: Endgame,” is expected to do even better with its opening this weekend. So why would directors Anthony and Joe Russo choose now to give up on the Marvel movie franchise?

Anthony Russo, born and raised in Cleveland, took time from putting the finishing touches on “Endgame,” to talk about the movie and their cinematic future.

“We’ve done four movies for Marvel in seven years,” he said. “It’s been the greatest time of our lives. We have loved the material, the comics, since our childhood. Making movies for them has been a dream. But ‘Endgame’ is the ending of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with ‘Iron Man.’ It all comes together here, all of it. We have no plans to do another, but on the other hand we might like to work with Marvel again someday down the line.”

Next up for the brothers is a movie called “Cherry,” written by fellow Clevelander Nico Walker. They hope to shoot the movie in Cleveland.

Director Joe Russo and Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Flacon) on the set of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

“We’re working with the Greater Cleveland Film Commission to see if we can get the tax incentives to do it in Cleveland,” Russo said. They filmed “Captain America: Winter Soldier” in the city. “ ’Cherry’ is a very intuitive portrait of a man who joins the Army and has a bad experience in Afghanistan. He returns home, where he suffers from PTSD, which leads to a heroin addiction. To feed his habit, he robs banks. We feel like it’s a very timely movie considering the opioid epidemic in our country.”

Anthony talked about “Cherry,” but clammed up when asked about the three-hour-plus “Endgame.”

“I can’t speak to it, specifically,” Russo said. “Joe and I want to make sure that people can have the full experience in the theater.”

“As I said, this is a closure of the Marvel universe, but with every closure there is a new beginning,” he said.

As anyone who’s seen “Infinity War” can attest, there is not much of the Marvel universe left after the end.

Spoiler alert for the benefit of the seven people who have not yet seen it; what follows are some facts about the previous film that will impact the new movie.

The evil, godlike villain Thanos took possession of the Infinity gems, which gave him control of everything: time, space, reality, the whole shebang.

Thanos believed that the universe would be a better place with fewer people, so at the end of the movie he snapped his fingers and half the living creatures on Earth dissolved.

Shown dissolving were Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Nick Fury, Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man), Loki, Heimdall, Gamora and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The survivors include Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, Ant-Man (Scott Lang) and War Machine, who, with an assist from Captain Marvel, will take on Thanos.

Suspicious people have noted that the “survivors” were the big-paycheck actors whose contracts were ending, so maybe they are really the ones on the way out.

“No comment,” said Russo. “Really, I don’t want to spoil it.”

But …

The Russo Brothers and Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) on the set of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

“Keep in mind that there was a rift between Cap and Iron Man in ‘Civil War’ that has never healed,” Russo said. “They did not reconcile in ‘Infinity War,’ and that prevented them from working as a team. Perhaps that is the reason Thanos won. I’m not saying anymore.”

Russo said the brothers have been busy.

“We used our success at Marvel to set up our own company, AGBO,” he said. “The origin of that name is a funny story. When we were students at Case [Western Reserve University], we started a sketch comedy troupe. We were trying to get publicity, and Joe had an idea.

“He wrote a scathing review of the show for the Case student newspaper,” he continued. “The reviewer despised the show. But we were able to talk about everything that was special about the show, disguised as a nasty review by someone named Gozie Agbo. Joe also used that name when he performed as an actor, so that’s how we ended up with AGBO.”

Since Marvel movies are not in the Russo Brothers’ foreseeable future, is there any chance that the brothers would bring their directing skills to DC and Warner Bros., whose superhero films have paled before Marvel’s?

“We consider all possibilities,” he said. “We would consider doing a DC superhero movie. After all, when I was a kid, my favorite character was Batman.”

Russo said it’s also too soon to talk about the repercussions of the purchase of Fox by Disney, meaning they can now bring the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and others into a joint universe.

“It’s all too new,” he said. “But my brother and are have always been huge fans of Wolverine.” Never say never, he said. “There are no plans for that, but who knows?”

Last April, after the release of “Infinity War,” the brothers hosted a showing of it along with both of their Captain America movies at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. He said something similar is planned for the opening of “Endgame.”

“We will return to Cleveland and host a showing; we’re still working out the details,” he said.

In order to bring the Russo Brothers back to the CLE to make their next movie, Cherry, we must expand the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit.
See how you can help by contacting your lawmakers HERE.

Help us advocate for the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit

As we continue to advocate for the expansion of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, we still need your help in encouraging our State lawmakers to pass this important legislation.  The current legislation offers a tax incentive for movies, television, web series and gaming and we would like to add touring Broadway productions that: are pre-Broadway engagements; launching national tours or run for a minimum of 5 weeks

Currently, we are about to lose $250 million in production to other states if this does not pass. We have already lost over $1 billion dollars in business due to our small incentive. This activity would have a significant impact on our economy, and part of our mission is to positively impact our region’s economy.  SB37 will boost the entire State of Ohio.

Please continue to express your encouragement in one of the ways listed below:
  • Copy and paste the letter below into your email and send to the appropriate recipient:
  • Copy and paste the letter below onto your company or personal letterhead and mail to the appropriate recipient.
  • Call the Governor, Speaker of the Ohio House and President of the Ohio Senate to express your support using the letter below as a guide for your conversation.
    • Governor DeWine – 614-644-4357
    • Representative Householder – 614-466-2500
    • Senator Obhof – 614-466-7505
  • Share these social media posts to Facebook and Twitter, and encourage others to show their support.

For questions, please contact GCFC President & CEO Ivan Schwarz at 216-623-3910 or [email protected]

You can use this letter as a template:


The Honorable Mike DeWine
Governor of Ohio                                              
Riffle Center, 30thFloor                                                 
77 South High Street                                                                 
Columbus, Ohio 43215                                                  

Dear Governor DeWine:

I write to you as a supporter of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, the only nonprofit dedicated to bringing jobs and economic development to Northeast Ohio through the growth of a sustainable, year-round media production industry. It is vital that the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit be increased to an annual cap of $100 million so our state can take advantage of the hundreds of millions of dollars in production spending and tens of thousands of jobs that are quite literally ours for the taking.

When the credit renewed last summer, it took barely a month to hit the $40 million cap. Filmmakers want to film here and put Northeast Ohioans to work, but instead take their business to states like Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Georgia due to their more available, more robust incentive programs.

In 2008, Georgia passed a motion picture tax incentive that transformed their economy to the tune of $9.5 billion of economic impact in 2017 alone, and to the point where they are arguably the media-production capital of the world. New Mexico has seen similar success with their incentive. Netflix recently bought Albuquerque Studios and plans to invest over $1 billion in the state by driving production there.

The success Ohio has seen, even with the current limitations of the credit, is real and demonstrable. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently reported that nearly 35,500 people are directly and indirectly (hotels, caterers, carpenters, dry cleaners, etc.) employed by the motion picture and television industries in Ohio, with total wages earned exceeding $1.2 billion.

The full potential of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit has yet to be fully realized. Georgia has signaled to Hollywood that they are open for business and that no production will be turned away for lack of state funds or infrastructure. Raising Ohio’s incentive cap to $100 million will tell the world that we can sustain a year-round production industry, allowing stakeholders (who are ready and willing) to invest in production infrastructure like studios and soundstages that will ensure that we can compete for the biggest productions available (including television series) and employ an even greater number of Ohioans.

This is a successful program that is already putting billions into the pockets of Northeast Ohioans right now, and it could be doing so much more. I ask you to please raise the annual cap on the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit to $100 million, so that we can become the global production destination Hollywood already knows we can be.



GCFC Partner Spotlight: Playhouse Square


Gina Vernaci, President & COO of Playhouse Square, sees great synergy between the film and theater industries, “First and foremost, we are both telling stories. But beyond that, the skills needed overlap. Both industries must have actors, of course, but also carpenters, electricians, make-up artists, hair and wig stylists, plus costume, lighting, set and sound designers.” 

Playhouse Square President & COO Gina Vernaci

Gina believes Ohio is more than ready to take its place as a premier location for film and theater production, with a wealth of resources, locations and skilled labor.

“All we are missing is the expansion of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit,” she says of a bill currently being considered in the state legislature. “Although theater and film already are important drivers of our economy, the passage of this tax credit will have a noticeable, positive impact on spending and job creation that we need in Ohio.”

Like the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Playhouse Square focuses on economic development and actively advocates for production to take place in Ohio. In her role at Playhouse Square and as the Road Vice Chair of the Broadway League, Gina regularly meets with leading theatrical producers, “They all love Ohio, but the lack of a tax credit makes other locations more attractive for pre-Broadway production and rehearsals.”

As partners, GCFC and Playhouse Square have the privilege of sharing what those of us who live already know: Ohio and its talented, hard-working people deserve to be in the spotlight. 

“We are proud to partner with the GCFC to build a business sector and supportive working environment for those who make film and theater,” says Gina, “We know it is time for Ohio to take its place in the spotlight.”

Learn more about Playhouse Square by visiting their website.

‘Native Son’ Premiere on HBO

Native Son, which filmed in Northeast Ohio last year,
will premiere on HBO on April 6th at 10:00 pm!

Native Son was chosen as one of the films which opened the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and will premiere on HBO on Saturday, April 6th at 10:00 pm.

Directed by Rashid Johnson, written by Suzan-Lori Parks, and produced by Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman, Native Son is a modern retelling of Richard Wright’s classic novel. A young African-American man named Bigger Thomas takes a job working for a highly influential Chicago family, a decision that will change the course of his life forever. The cast is comprised of Ashton Sanders, Margaret Qually, Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Bill Camp, and Sanaa Lathan.

When it filmed in Cleveland early last year, Native Son created over 100 jobs, with about 80 of those going to local crew!  This film also employed over 200 extras and engaged many local businesses.

Watch the trailer below!

And Action! Edge Magazine Feature

Ohio’s increasing film tax credit key to a sustainable state film industry

By Alex Semerano
Partner, Director-CFO Services
Pease & Associates, LLC

The filming of The Avengers brought movie making to the spotlight on the corner of East 9th and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland in 2011. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson offered a preview of what Hollywood’s impact to this city could be. Native Cleveland directors Joe and Anthony Russo also shot Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2013, featuring a memorable fight scene on the West Shoreway.

Marvel Studios selected Cleveland for both projects, not only because of the city’s likeness to Manhattan, where the stories are set, but by the attraction of over $14 million in tax credits granted by the state. Since then, several hundred movies, documentaries, commercials and other media formats have been produced throughout the state, with movies ranging from Draft DayFun Size, and Dog Eat Dog in Cleveland to CarolThe Public, and The Old Man & The Gun in Cincinnati. What began as a $10 million tax credit in 2009 to encourage and develop a sustainable film industry in Ohio has steadily increased to the $40 million credit available today with plans to support $100 million within the next few years.

(Top to Bottom): Ivan Schwarz, President & CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.
Filming of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Downtown Cleveland

The motion picture tax credit available in Ohio, one of 35 states offering similar incentives, provides for a refundable or transferable tax credit of 30 percent of production-eligible in-state spending, which includes cast and crew wages. There is no per-project spending cap and production must spend at least $300,000 to qualify. Production projects include feature-length films, miniseries, series, music videos, and television commercials. A production interested in shooting in Ohio must submit an application and budget to the state’s film office. Once approved, they are awarded a letter from the state guaranteeing their credit. Upon completion of the project, production companies must have a certified audit by an accounting firm to verify qualified production expenses prior to receiving the rebate check or transferable credit.

Recent legislative changes since the last renewal of the credit mandate documentation of financial ability to undertake and complete a motion picture by demonstrating secured funding equal to at least 50 percent of the total production budget. In addition, eligibility was extended to certain live stage theater productions and Broadway productions after initial performance in a qualified state production facility such as Playhouse Square.

The beginnings of the incentive program can be traced back to president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and producer of Band of Brothers, Ivan Schwarz. Upon joining the commission in 2007, Ivan has worked to bring a sustainable media industry to Ohio through a statewide effort in creating and passing the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit necessary to generate jobs, develop an industry workforce, and build an infrastructure necessary to attract and maintain media productions. As a result of these efforts, Cleveland State University recently opened a new school of Film & Media Arts, the first standalone film school in Ohio.

Since 2010, Pease & Associates has developed a niche in this area of practice by providing certification of tax-eligible production expenses as well as assisting in forming entity structures necessary to achieve investor’s tax objectives. Producers and other media-related companies work hand-in-hand with the firm’s partners and senior managers, who are committed to personalized added value. The firm has developed an industry reputation by focusing on quality and timely delivery of its services as well as serving as a strategic tax advisor to project producers and investors.

The possibility of increasing the tax credit to $100 million in upcoming legislation would transform the Buckeye State into one of the most competitive in the nation for attracting movie productions, leading to a sustainable industry through the creation of companies catering to the industry, such as media technology campuses complete with sound stages and offices for supporting vendors, in addition to the creation of permanent specialized jobs. This will, in turn, significantly increase ancillary revenue already generated by retailers, restaurants, hotels, caterers and other businesses that benefit when a production sets up shop nearby. Outside of deserts and mountains, the state of Ohio and, in particular, Cleveland, offers the look of classic America through its numerous attractive locations, including the lakefront and the ability to easily transition from the city to the country, qualities that producers often look for when choosing a location to invest in.

Read more from Pease & Associates, LLC in their new magazine, Edge – Volume 1

Alex Semerano, Partner, Director – CFO Services
216-472-4482  –  [email protected] – Alex Semerano

Northeast Ohio film industry readies for its closeup

Crain’s Cleveland Business has been following the Cleveland Film industry closely, sitting down with GCFC President & CEO Ivan Schwarz at the beginning of the year to discuss increasing the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit and what the proposed increase to $100 million will mean for Northeast Ohio. The recent conversation with Robbie Chernow of Good Deed Entertainment (GDE) takes an in depth look at how film companies are throwing off tradition and leaving New York and L.A. for Ohio.  ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

Originally Published: March 23, 2019 04:00 AM
Mark Oprea
[email protected]

It was a few weeks before Christmas last year when 31-year-old Robbie Chernow arrived by car in Ashland, Ohio. He’d just taken a job as executive assistant at a new film production company called Good Deed Entertainment (GDE), which had, like Chernow, relocated from Los Angeles the month before. Pining for job security and a breather— he’d been working 12-hour days — Chernow accepted GDE’s offer eagerly.

Now, at the start of December, instead of Sunset Boulevard, he found himself driving amid falling snow and Amish buggies.

“It was like jumping into a Hallmark movie,” Chernow recalled. “I remember going up Main Street in December, thinking, ‘I am in the quaintest town in America.’ No joke.”

Part of a trend of coastal film companies fleeing the burnout and high turnover of New York and L.A., GDE shows the potential for a startup to thrive in Ohio’s burgeoning film ecosystem. After the grand opening of Cleveland State’s standalone film school last August, GDE and a number of other companies are positioning themselves to shun tradition and do the previously unthinkable: attract and keep industry talent and productions in Ohio rather than Hollywood.

To Chernow’s mind, the possibility of a gigantic tax benefit was just part of the reason to say goodbye to West Coast life.

He’d been shopping around a film he’d written, an Adam McKay-style comedy based on his experience “attending a bachelor’s party in Chicago alone,” and had even met with the producer himself. Two years spent shuttling between L.A. and New York for meetings on the project, while also working at NBC Universal — where he read an endless parade of cookie-cutter scripts — had led Chernow to grow cynical and experience a “loss of a lot of heart and soul.”

“But when I met with [GDE], I bought into their vision very much,” he said. “To me, their vision was a really exciting proposition. I mean, one that had me pack up my stuff and drive across the country.”

A Georgia state of mind

As far as other states drawing West Coast film companies, there may be no better model these days than Atlanta. After the state uncapped its film tax credit program in 2017, there was a mad rush of production companies and actors into the city, leading to an economic impact of $9.5 billion. FilmLA, the nonprofit film office for the city and county of Los Angeles, dubbed Atlanta the No. 1 Filming Location in the World.

That model is what film heads in Cleveland and around Ohio point to as proof of this region’s potential if the current tax credit’s $40 million cap is raised to $100 million. Film commission president Ivan Schwarz asserted that the credit is not just a perk for out-of-staters, but an absolute necessity to draw and keep new startups working in Ohio.

“Having the $100 million incentive is the difference between having an industry and not having an industry,” said Schwarz, the writer of the original tax incentive in 2009. “I swear, we have over $250 million worth of production wanting to shoot here, and we’re going to lose it mostly because our incentive is capped.”

A proposition for the $60 million boost as part of Senate Bill 37, Schwarz said, could not only encourage more events like “Captain America” shooting on Public Square— a production that spent $35 million alone on wages, creating 3,875 temporary jobs — but create a stronger environment for more startups like GDE, film distributor Gravitas Ventures and the nascent Dakar Studios, looking to fund projects here that use local talent.

Frederic Lahey, the director of Cleveland State University’s new film school, said he’s right alongside Schwarz as far as convincing state politicians goes. Even if the $100 million incentive comes through, however, he noted that production companies, whether temporary or stationary, are still going to be on the hunt for grips, assistants, lighting techs and postproduction talent at the ready. With applications to his program up 70% since last March, Lahey said his 290 students could fill production roles easily. He even wants to have GDE staff guest-teach a class someday.

“Meanwhile, we’ll be providing the farm team,” he said.

Although Atlanta’s Hollywood love affair seems solid, the outcome in Ohio isn’t guaranteed.

Critics of SB 37, such as Micah Derry, director of Americans For Prosperity — Ohio, claim that a $60 million increase to the incentive would actually have a negative impact on Ohio taxpayers. In testimony before the Ohio Senate in early March, Derry cited as examples Maryland and Michigan, states that made similar tax increases in the past few years that didn’t prove glowingly beneficial.

In Michigan, Derry noted, the “average job associated with film tax credits was an average of 23 days,” adding that such “subsidies” should be done away with — “fade to black on film tax credits” — to create “a stronger economic environment for all businesses.”

“I want 15 GDEs coming here,” he said. “I’m not talking minimum-wage jobs for a couple of months. I mean, I want an industry so big that a huge Marvel movie could take over the studio and make their move here.”

Into the spotlight

After three months in operation on Main Street, Good Deed is beginning to ease into its new digs.

Success has come in flashes. Andrew Myers, who moved with his wife and two kids from L.A. to become GDE’s creative executive, said GDE is in the process of taking on a “grounded” sci-fi script that will be shot nearby. Nikki Stier Justice, GDE’s chief operating officer since 2014, is prepping promotion of five GDE films set to show at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

And Chernow, just three months in, is set to shed his role of executive assistant and get more involved in all aspects of production and distribution.

“It’s one thing that I told Scott (Donley),” he said, naming GDE’s founder. “That I’m down to work here for life.”

In fact, Justice is deep-down enamored of the company’s new headquarters, which will soon feature a 25-seat screening room and a fully operational soundstage on the building’s third floor. They’ve even taken in four interns (one from CSU’s film program) to help with script screening.

A horror film set in Medina? Maybe a Christmas rom-com right on Main Street? It’s all possible in Ohio.

“The plan was always to have productions going in Ashland and the surrounding areas,” she said. “We wanted to create a new model, have multiple projects going per year. And building that studio infrastructure around the community here.”

Justice added, “And we wouldn’t even have to have the film set in Ohio. For us, there’s something here that just embodies small-town America. And what’s not to love about that?”

Read more from the Crain’s Cleveland Business “Building A Film Industry” Series
CIFF spreads the cinematic wealth
Cleveland’s Gravitas goes global
Dakar Studios’ coming attraction
Q&A: Robert Banks

43rd CIFF Features Local Films & Filmmakers

The 43rd Annual Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) will showcase
the talent of many local films and filmmakers this year!

Every year, CIFF showcases the best of local filmmakers in addition to those from across the country, and around the world.  The festival is featuring many local shorts and films made about Ohio, filmed in Ohio, or by Ohioans.

Check out some of the notable local films and shorts being shown at this year’s festival!

For more information on all screenings, visit

Julie of the Jury
Local Heroes Program 1
One woman’s day serving jury duty turns into a wacky eternity.

GCFC Production Coordinator Mike Wendt served as one of the producers for this local short film!


Local Heroes Program 1

A journey into a paradox question of what is.

Paradox is a music video by former GCFC employee Antonio Harper!



Two for Twenty
Local Heroes Program
A band of robbers must repay their debt.

2018 48 Hour Film Project Cleveland Winner:  Best Film 1st Place, Audience Award, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor – Jaz Securo, and Poster Contest – Group B.

Them That Follow
Tucked away in the mountains of Appalachia, Mara’s isolated community is completely centered around the church…the kind of fundamentalist church that involves speaking in tongues and handling venomous snakes during sermons. As the preacher’s daughter, Mara (Alice Englert) is seen as a prime example of purity in her religious society…but Mara has a secret that might tear her town apart. Though she’s committed to marrying a devout and well-respected Garrett, her heart lies with her childhood sweetheart, Augie (Thomas Mann), who has strayed from the church. Though Mara has always placed her faith in God’s plan, as her own life starts to unravel, she begins to question the morality of what she’s been taught. Featuring an incredible cast including Olvia Colman and Walton Goggins, with a surprisingly serious role played by Jim Gaffigan, THEM THAT FOLLOW is a captivating drama exploring blind faith and its dangerous consequences. – G.S.

While filming in the Youngstown area, Them That Follow created jobs for about 40 local crew members, required over 200 local extras, and engaged with many local businesses and hotels.

My Skin is Grey
After Hours Program 1
A dark thriller with overtones of obsession, confusion, and murder. Josh must comply when a crazed woman from his past holds his wife captive.

2018 48 Hour Film Project Horror Winner: Best Film 1st Place, Audience Award, Best Lead Actress – Lina Edwards, Best Original Song, Best Directing, Best Editing, Best Sound Design, Best Use of Prop, Movie Poster Contest – Group A.

I See You
Filmed in neighborhoods surrounding Cleveland, I SEE YOU stars Helen Hunt as Jackie Harper, whose affair has just been discovered by her husband, Greg, and son, Connor. And neither can stand to look at her. To take his mind off of his wife’s infidelity, Greg turns to his career as a detective, as their town is in a panic after a recent rash of kidnappings that eerily resembles the work of a pedophile rapist who terrorized the community a decade ago.  Meanwhile, Jackie begins to notice strange things happening at home. Her family thinks she’s crazy until they start witnessing the hair-raising occurrences for themselves. There’s some kind of dark presence toying with them, and it’s becoming increasingly more hostile. In order to solve this bizarre mystery, they’ll need to look at things from an entirely different perspective. I SEE YOU begins as a thriller but skillfully morphs into a brilliant blend of numerous genres. When it comes to edge-of-your-seat plot-twisters like this, it’s cliché to say you’ll never see the ending coming. But for this walloping mind-bender, it’s undeniably apt. – E.F.

Directed by Adam Randall, produced by Cleveland based Matt Waldeck and his company Zodiac Features, and stars Academy Award Winning actress Helen Hunt! While filming in Cleveland, the production created over 100 jobs; of those, 60 were local crew members, 50 were local extras, and 16 local actors were cast in speaking roles.  The production engaged with many local businesses during their shoot, and booked over 600 hotel room nights in local hotels.

Local Heroes Program 2
Two lives collide and are changed forever in a moment’s time – and year’s later the consequences of their decisions are revealed.

This short film was the culmination of the Tri-C Intensive Film Crew Training Workshop in the spring of 2018.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Local Heroes Competition
Toni Morrison’s endless accolades – the Nobel Prize in Literature, Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and Presidential Medal of Freedom – are evidence of her seismic influence on literature and American culture. However, Morrison’s climb to preeminence was not an easy one. and recognition from the literary establishment was slow to arrive.
Her life began on the racially integrated streets of Lorain, Ohio in a home with parents who strongly encouraged her interest in reading and education. But it was quite a culture shock when she experienced institutionalized segregation as a Howard University student when off-campus in Washington, DC. Morrison subsequently held a series of teaching positions before landing a L.W. Singer editing role, which changed the trajectory of her life. Her work led her to become the first black woman senior fiction editor for Random House. Morrison’s instinctive influence helped bring black fiction authors into the mainstream while encouraging autobiographies by activists such as Angela Davis and Mohammed Ali. Meanwhile, she began writing her own work and published The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Son of Solomon (1977), and Tar Baby(1981) with a focus on inspiring an African American audience. Broad acclaim did not arrive as quickly, and there was an outcry by dozens of black critics and writers after her 1987 epic novel, Beloved, failed to win major book awards. But many factors, including that protest and ongoing praise and engagement of Morrison’s work from such people as Oprah Winfrey, steered her to the universal praise she always deserved. TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM offers an intimate portrait of an American icon whose early life was shaped here in Northeast Ohio. – Patrick Shepherd

‘I See You’ Premiere at CIFF

I See You will have its Cleveland premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF)!

The thriller filmed in Cleveland last summer, just one of many films and TV shows that used Northeast Ohio as their film set last year.

With a production of over 100 cast and crew members, 60 were local crew, 50 were local extras, and 16 local actors were cast in speaking roles! I See You also engaged with many Northeast Ohio businesses during their shoot, and booked 600 hotel room nights in local hotels.

Produced by Cleveland-based Matt Waldeck and his company Zodiac Features, I See You stars Academy Award Winning actress Helen Hunt (Twister), Jon Tenney (The Closer), and Judah Lewis (Demolition).  Adam Randall (iBoy) directed the film, and Devon Graye wrote the script.

I See You had its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, and will be playing at CIFF on Friday, March 29th at 8:15 pm at the Capitol Theater, and at Tower City Cinemas on Saturday, March 30th at 1:25 pm and Sunday March 31st at 4:10 pm.

All showings are now on stand-by!  This doesn’t mean it’s sold-out, this will require you to go to the theater 1 hour before the screening to get in the stand-by line. 

Use the Promo Code: GCFC to save $1.00 on your ticket