‘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 Cleveland.com 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, Cleveland.com 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 Cleveland.com 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.

2019 Oscars® Cleveland Connection

The 2019 Oscar® nominations were just announced, and there are
Cleveland connections to at least two of the nominees!

Nominated for Best Animated Feature, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’s local tie is Cleveland Native Brian Michael Bendis, former Marvel Comics writer and executive producer of the film. Bendis created the main character Miles Morales. Into The Spider-Verse also won a Golden Globe® this year for Best Motion Picture – Animated.

Paul Schrader, writer and director of Best Original Screenplay nominee First Reformed, has filmed in Cleveland twice over the years! Schrader directed the film Dog Eat Dog, which starred actors Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe, that shot in Cleveland in 2015, and he wrote and directed the film Light of Day which was made in Cleveland in 1987 and starred Michael J. Fox!

See all the Oscar® nominees HERE.

GCFC President Pushing for Big Tax-Credit Bump

Cleveland.com’s Jay Miller sat down at the beginning of the year with GCFC President & CEO Ivan Schwarz to talk about increasing the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit to $100 million this year, allowing for the creation of many more new jobs for the state, but more specifically, Northeast Ohio. ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

Ivan Schwarz

It took only until July 12, or 12 days after Ohio’s fiscal year began in 2018, for Ivan Schwarz to run out of money. In that short time, he said, the state distributed all of its $40 million annual film tax credit allocation to applicants.

It’s Schwarz’s job as president of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission to convince movie and television companies, as well as producers of commercials and industrial films, to bring their work to Northeast Ohio. He lures them with financial incentives from the pool of tax credits created by the Ohio Legislature.

But, he said, the $40 million cap constrains his plan for a robust, year-round film industry that creates good jobs in Northeast Ohio. Schwarz wants to push through legislation this year to increase the motion picture tax credit, arguing that every dollar spent by the state returns two dollars in economic activity, and that there is demand from producers to shoot in Cleveland.

In recent years, Northeast Ohio has been the backdrop for a number of movie and television productions. In May, a cast and crew shot in Ohio City and elsewhere around Cleveland for “The Last Summer,” a romantic comedy expected to be released on Netflix later this year. That same month, a production company was filming “I See You” in Chagrin Falls and Lakewood. No release date has been announced for that film.

A bill introduced by term-limited state Rep. Kirk Schuring of Canton (who is moving to the Ohio Senate) to increase the pool to $100 million died at the end of the last legislative session on Dec. 31. Schwarz hopes the next legislative session, which convenes Monday, Jan. 7, will make it happen.

“I feel 2019 with the new governor and Schuring moving over to the Senate and a lot of supportive members in the House, this is the year things will align,” Schwarz said in a Jan. 2 telephone call. “(Incoming Gov. Mike) DeWine has expressed support, where Kasich wasn’t always thrilled about tax incentives.”

Schwarz believes an increase in the tax credit can bring entertainment industry jobs, and a thriving year-round industry, to Northeast Ohio. An increase in film production could attract someone to build a film studio, he believes, which would attract even more jobs.

The legislation Schwarz and the five other regional film commissions in the state pushed, House Bill 525, would have raised the maximum amount of credits to $100 million per fiscal year. It also would have extended eligibility to live theater productions that were either in rehearsal or would be performed in Ohio for six performances a week for five weeks.

States have been using financial incentives to lure movie and television companies after productions started filming in Canada after 1997, when that country began offering incentives.

Schwarz said a larger tax credit allocation is key to building the Northeast Ohio entertainment industry he foresees, an industry that attracts creative talent to the region. He said the new School of Film, Television and Interactive Media at Cleveland State University also will be an attraction for, and will benefit from, additional production in Northeast Ohio.

Frederic Lahey, director of CSU’s new School of Film, Television and Interactive Media, supports Schwarz’s efforts to increase the tax credit.

“It’s critical,” he said. “One of the reasons for creating the film school is to attract and retain young creatives, and by having the work here, that makes for attraction and retention. One of the first things productions ask when they’re looking for places to shoot is, ‘What are the incentives?’ and then they ask about film schools. It’s infrastructure, and to me it’s key to economic growth for the area.”

The legislation stalled in the 2017-2018 session, Schwarz said, after Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned in the wake of revelations that the FBI was investigating his relationship with the payday loan industry. State government ground to a halt as Republicans fought over who would replace Rosenberger. (No charges have been filed, and Rosenberger has maintained that his actions as speaker were lawful and ethical.)

While Schwarz doesn’t talk about productions that are or may be coming to Northeast Ohio, much less the ones that got away, he told the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee in March that the state has lost more than $1 billion in production it could have had if the incentives were higher.

As it is, a 2015 study by Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development found that every dollar the state gave in tax credits pumped $2.01 back into the state’s economy. In Northeast Ohio, between 2011 and 2015, according to the study, film production created $50.1 million in labor income and $81.2 million in purchased goods and services — hotel rooms, restaurants, cleaning services, lighting equipment, vintage appliance rental and many other services. The production companies and their workers also paid $11 million in federal taxes and $4.8 million in state and local taxes.

The production of “Draft Day,” a 2014 football drama, spent $18.2 million in Northeast Ohio, according to the Cleveland State study.

Eligible productions receive a tax credit equal to 30% of the amount spent in Ohio on cast and crew wages, as well as goods or services purchased and consumed in Ohio. The credit may be taken against personal income or the commercial activities tax.

In 2018, 31 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands offered film incentive programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That’s down from 44 states in 2009.

States that eliminated the credits usually did so because of a lack of economic benefit to the state. West Virginia, which ended its tax credit in 2018, had an annual cap of $5 million but issued only $15 million over 10 years, according to the NCSL report. At the same time, however, Pennsylvania increased its annual incentive cap by $5 million to $65 million for fiscal 2018, though several legislators have proposed raising the cap to as much as $100 million or even eliminating the cap altogether.

Although Schwarz attributes the failure of HB 525 to turmoil in the Ohio House, the bill did have some opposition. Both the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank, and Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal advocacy group, question the value of the incentive.

Wendy Patton, senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal advocacy group, told the House committee that a study by FilmLA, the Los Angeles film office, contended that state tax credits for motion picture production were a response to filmmakers fleeing Hollywood for Canada and cited a study suggesting federal legislation to put an end to the interstate incentive competition.

In May, Greg Lawson, a research fellow at the Buckeye Institute, included the motion picture tax credit in testimony about the proliferation of tax expenditures — ones he called “tax loopholes” — that make the state’s tax system “more complex, less transparent and less equitable.”

But to hear Schwarz talk about it, producers want to shoot in Ohio, but they have to follow the incentive dollars.

“There is more content being made than ever before,” he said, referring to the increase in production caused by streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. “There is so much opportunity, it’s going to go somewhere.”

2019 Golden Globe® Cleveland Connection

Congratulations to executive producer Graham Yost for The Americans 2019 Golden Globe® win for Best Drama Series.

Graham was a special guest at our Behind the Camera with Band of Brothers Reunion Event on November 10th, 2018. Graham wrote two episodes for the HBO series, which won six Emmy® Awards and a Golden Globe®.

Graham also joined Band of Brothers casting director Meg Liberman for an exclusive, sold-out workshop the morning of the main event. Graham and Meg gave a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the show, and discussed screenwriting, producing, and casting for film and TV.

See more from our Behind the Camera Events with Graham, Meg, and cast members HERE.

Cleveland Films ‘Native Son’ & ‘Them That Follow’ Selected for Sundance

Congratulations to Native Son and Them That Follow
for being selected for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival!

Native Son has been chosen as one of the films which will open the festival. 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 earlier this 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.

Them That Follow will also have its world premiere at Sundance. Directed and written by Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, and produced by Bradley Gallo, Michael Helfant, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, and Danielle Robinson, Them That Follow was filmed in 2017 around the Youngstown and Salem area.  Inside a snake-handling church deep in Appalachia, a forbidden relationship forces a pastor’s daughter to confront her community’s deadly tradition. The cast includes Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Alice Englert, Jim Gaffigan, Walton Goggins, and Thomas Mann.

Them That Follow created jobs for about 40 local crew members during production.  The film also required over 200 local extras and engaged many local businesses in their time here. 

Both films are among the 16 narrative feature films to compete in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition. This year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition boasts a diverse number of voices between the films in this category; 53% of the directors are women, 41% are people of color, and 18% identify as LGBTQIA+. We wish both films the best of luck!

Ohio’s First Stand-Alone Film School is Now Open!

Ohio’s First Stand-alone Film School is Now Open!

“We are primed to be a player in this industry if we choose.”

President and CEO Ivan Schwarz spoke passionately yesterday about the potential of the Cleveland film industry, and the importance of the CSU School of Film & Media Arts.

The new school had its official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday; a culmination of years of hard work on the part of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Cleveland State University leaders, and Ohio and city representatives.

CSU student Thyra Chaney

“Everybody’s going to be ready to go into the workforce”, says student Thyra Chaney.

Originally from California, Thyra captured it perfectly. The next generation of filmmakers are gaining the skills, knowledge, and experience they will need in order to work in the fast-growing Cleveland film industry.

The school’s first 300 students are already fully immersed in the film and media curriculum in the brand new classrooms, which include state-of-the-art animation and editing labs, a motion capture space, a mobile operations simulator room, and soundproofed shooting stages customizable to any project

See more about the film school and the GCFC:
President and CEO Ivan Schwarz’s Dedication Speech
WKYC – Cleveland State dedicates Ohio’s first free-standing film school
Cleveland.com – See behind the scenes at Cleveland State University’s new School of Film & Media Studies
Cleveland.com – Cleveland’s film industry could be an economic blockbuster

Students in the first class of the new CSU School of Film & Media Arts


From the Left: CSU School of Film & Media Arts Director & Professor Frederic Lahey, Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, GCFC President and CEO Ivan Schwarz, and Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli


Former CSU President Dr. Ronald Berkman discussed the amount of work and dedication on the part of the GCFC and others required to bring this new school to fruition

That’s A Wrap: ‘The Last Summer’

We want to say a huge thank you to the cast and crew of the The Last Summer, which recently wrapped production!!

Movie’s like this help keep the spotlight on Northeast Ohio’s media production industry, providing jobs for our local professionals and generating economic impact.

Hear what the crew had to say about the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and filming in Cleveland!