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.



‘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!

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

‘I See You’ Cleveland 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

Ivan Schwarz: Building An Industry

GCFC President & CEO Ivan Schwarz was a guest speaker at the recent CreativeMornings Cleveland talk hosted by the Cleveland Statue University School of Film & Media Arts.

CreativeMornings Cleveland started off their 2019 series by thinking about the SURREAL, the bizarre, and the extraordinary; what better way to start this series than by talking about the “Movie Magic” present in the  Cleveland film industry?

Ivan talked about the surreal as it’s captured for the big screen from the myriad of incredible locations found all across Northeast Ohio, and how Cleveland can be THE place for producing entertainment content if it wants to be.

From CreativeMorning Cleveland:
Moving from Cleveland to L.A., Ivan Schwarz has been on a mission to build the film industry in Northeast Ohio, and he’s been quite successful in attracting blockbuster film productions from the biggest Hollywood based studios. The work is, however, far from over with more jobs, industry, and infrastructure to be built. He talks about siloed leadership in our communities, craft beer, and the opportunity that is available if everyone works together to say yes, to everything.

The Fabulous Boomer Boys with Ivan Schwarz

Greater Cleveland Film Commission President & CEO Ivan Schwarz was recently the Special Guest of The Fabulous Boomer Boys, in honor of Oscars® week.  

The Fabulous Boomer Boys and Ivan had fun, discussing the Cleveland Film scene, Ivan’s career, and what’s in store for Northeast Ohio’s media production industry in 2019.  Ivan discussed the importance of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, and the GCFC’s renewed efforts to increase the inventive to $100 million.

About the Show
Co-hosted by Bob Snyder and Bruce Bogart, episodes of this rebooted radio hit can be viewed Tuesday’s beginning at 7:00 pm!  From the back room of the famed Corky & Lenny’s Deli in Cleveland, OH — join two life-long friends for talk, smiles and laughter.

Find The Fabulous Boomer Boys on YouTube & Facebook

‘I See You’ World Premiere at SXSW

Congratulations to I See You which will have its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March!

I See You was one of several films made in Cleveland last summer. Out of over 100 production cast and crew members, 60 were local crew, 50 were local extras, and 16 local actors were cast in speaking roles!  The production engaged with many Northeast Ohio businesses while they were filming, and booked 600 hotel room nights in local hotels.

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

Learn more about I See You in the recent article.

Going to SXSWI See You will be screened three times: March 11, 13 and 15.

That’s a Wrap: ‘Queen & Slim’

Congratulations to the film Queen & Slim cast and crew for wrapping
the Cleveland portion of their filming last week!

Universal Pictures’ Queen & Slim, starring Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Jodie Turner-Smith (Nightflyers), filmed scenes on the east side of Cleveland over four nights last week, despite the formidable cold.

Queen & Slim is the story of a couple whose first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over. The script is based on an original idea and treatment from bestselling author James Frey (A Million Little Pieces).

Directed by Melina Matsoukas (Insecure, Master of None) and written by Lena Waithe (The ChiBones), with executive producer Pamela Hirsch, the film is being produced by Hillman Grad Productions, De La Revolución Films and 3BlackDot. Andrew Coles and Michelle Knudsen are also producing.

We are thrilled that Fall 2018 GCFC Intern Cayla Koslen had the opportunity to work in the Locations Department during their short time in the CLE.

Queen & Slim‘s production now heads to New Orleans to finish filming, and we wish them the best!

Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit Gaining National Attention

From directors to make up artists, those who work and want a job in the film and television industry are waking up to the notion that Ohio could be their next home.

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission (GCFC) is spearheading work to increase the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit from $40 million to $100 million in 2019 that would bring more media production to the state than ever before.

On January 16th, published an article about the GCFC’s renewed efforts to raise the tax incentive limit, and what the change will mean for Ohio.

“We have people who really, really want to come and do business and leave their money in Ohio and hire locals, and they’re waiting for us to create the mechanism,” GCFC President Ivan Schwarz says in the article.

In Northeast Ohio alone, 2018 productions like the Sundance-opener Native Son,  Netflix’s The Last Summer and All the Bright Places, Helen Hunt’s I See You, and many others spent about $90 million and employed 50,000 people part-time (the equivalent of about 3,000 full-time jobs).

A recent Cleveland State University economic impact study found that the state yields a return of investment of $2.01 for the Ohio economy on every $1.00 spent towards the incentive.

On January 19th, The Associated Press also published an article, echoing many of the same observations and arguments in favor of an increase to the tax incentive; this promises to create more year-round media production work due to the larger number of productions that will be able to film in the state as a result of the increase.

Both articles also pointed out the expansion of the credit to include Ohio productions of Broadway shows, which would make it one of the most comprehensive in the U.S. In the heart of Downtown Cleveland, Playhouse Square is the nation’s largest performing arts center outside of New York, with the largest number of subscribers for touring Broadway shows in the country.

The Associated Press article took off like wildfire. The story was featured in news publications in all four directions; northern readers saw it in Milford, Connecticut, southern readers read about it in Miami, Florida, The Fresno Bee featured the story in Fresno, California, and even U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Times ran the story from the nation’s capital.

Do a simple Google Search for the story, and you’ll have to go to page 2 before the results change to a different article.

While the rest of the country waits to see the results of the GCFC’s work, filmmakers are already in pre-production for the next round of projects creating jobs and economic impact in Northeast Ohio.

Would you like to be a job and economic impact creator?  Join our mission to increase media production in Northeast Ohio by becoming a GCFC Member or Sponsor!

Cleveland Connection to ‘Desolation Center’ at Slamdance Film Festival

There’s a Cleveland connection at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival with the U.S. premiere of the documentary film Desolation Center. This documentary is the untold story of Reagan-era guerrilla punk rock desert happenings that are now recognized as inspirations for Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella.

Directed by the events’ organizer, Desolation Center is the true story of how the risky, and even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can lead to seismic cultural shifts.

Long-time GCFC supporter, and former Cleveland crew member, Carol Maple Oppenheim is credited (Carol Maple) as an Associate Producer on the documentary.  Over the past couple of years, she has been involved with the film as an early supporter, providing both financial and hands-on help.  Her son Jackson worked on the film as a PA, and is credited with Additional Camera.

In 1983, Carol was one of the 115 attendees at Mojave Exodus, the first Desolation Center desert event.

Another Clevelander, Production Sound Mixer Kip Gynn, provided archival photos used in the film and is credited with Still Photography. Kip and Carol both attended the 1983 event together, and some photos of them made it into the film!

The filmmakers hope to have a Cleveland screening of the film in the future, so stay tuned!

Read more about the birth of the modern desert music festivals in the New York Times Article:  Hundreds of Punks Hit the Desert. The Modern Music Festival Culture was Born.