Ohio film industry leaders call for more investment | Ohio News | Cincinnati

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Film Cincinnati advances film production in Cincinnati.

According to data from the Ohio Film Office, Ohio film productions have received more than $164 million in tax credits since 2010. Now, some film industry leaders are calling for even more investment in the sector.

“We’ve had relative success for the limited resources we have,” said Bill Garvey, president of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. “We’ve built a pretty strong business, but we can be so much more.”

Over the past decade, Ohio has served as a location for various film projects. These range from commercials and short films to big budget blockbusters The Avengers.

But according to Garvey, states like New Mexico and Louisiana have a tax incentive cap of at least $100 million, and Georgia has no cap at all. Ohio, on the other hand, has a cap of $40 million.

This means that, compared to other states, Ohio is not spending as much money to get movie studios to film in the state.

“When we talk about $4 billion spent directly from production filming in Georgia, we love that,” Garvey said.

Garvey has only been with the Cleveland Film Commission for six months, but before that, he already had plenty of experience working on movie sets. “For the last 13 years, I’ve worked exclusively in Ohio on movies, so I know how great we can be,” he said. Now he’s overseeing new projects in Cleveland, like a LeBron James biopic.

The state should invest more in film production, Garvey argued, because of how it positively impacts local businesses.

“The amount of work it generates and the amount of revenue it generates for local businesses is unreal,” said casting director Angela Boehm.

For nearly a decade, Boehm has helped cast productions in Cleveland, from big-budget Marvel movies to shorts and commercials. Along the way, she has seen how much businesses can benefit from film productions.

“(Producers and directors) take us to a local restaurant, or get us (Cleveland Guardians) tickets, or rent out the Rock Hall for a final party,” she said. “Sometimes they get their clothes from LA on costume trucks, but a lot of times they’re shopping locally.”

Cincinnati, Columbus and other parts of the state also see local film and television productions.

John Daugherty, executive director of the Greater Columbus Film Commission, said that while Cleveland has the upper hand over Columbus when it comes to attracting film studios, the entire state is learning from its success.

“The Cleveland Film Commission has been around a lot longer than we have, so they have a bigger crew base,” he said. “The bigger the crew base, the more productions will come your way.”

Cleveland’s geography may also be more appealing to filmmakers. “It’s easy for Cleveland to double for New York City sometimes, with some of their old bridges and old areas and things like that,” Daugherty said.

However, film commissions throughout the state strive to work for the good of Ohio as a whole. “Bill (Garvey) and I have always talked about it, the better we all do and the more we work together, the better it is for the whole state,” Daugherty said.

In recent months, the Ohio legislature has pursued anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion laws. A similar situation occurred in Georgia when that state imposed new restrictions on postal voting and vote counting in March 2021. In response, many filmmakers and actors called for a boycott of film productions in the state. Daugherty is worried the same thing could happen in Ohio.

“Some of these things can hurt business in the long run,” he said, “not just in the film industry, but the whole business.”

Despite these setbacks, Garvey and Daugherty still remain optimistic about the future of Ohio’s film industry. Right now, they are working to pass House Bill 599, which would expand Ohio’s film tax program. The legislation would create new tax credits for building new film sets and hiring crew members and students. The state will be allowed to issue more of these tax credits each year, up to $20 million in 2028.

“I think if we were able to increase that momentum, it would mean a world of difference for us in Cleveland,” Boehm said. “Not just for those in the film industry, but for those who support the film industry.”

If HB 599 passes, it could further demonstrate Ohio’s potential as a filmmaking hub. “There’s a lot to like here and a lot that Ohio can use to be successful in this business,” Garvey said.

This story was originally published by the Ohio Public News Service and is republished here with permission.

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