Making Cleveland Kool Again, Film at a time
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent
International Business Network aims to stimulate the Northeast Ohio economy through engaged networking with businesses abroad by highlighting the value provided by this region. By hosting networking events, the group seeks to engage a younger and diverse audience and highlight upcoming trade missions and business visitors and provides advising to those seeking to do business in the area. The annual New Year’s event, co-hosted by the Ariel International Center drew more than a 100 guests on Jan. 17, 2013.
This year, the organization wanted to celebrate the city’s ‘kool factor’ said Bernadine van Kessel, Director of International Business Attraction at Team Northeast Ohio. Ivan E. Schwarz, the Executive Director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, fit the bill. Originally from Los Angeles, Schwarz first felt the draw to Cleveland in the late 1990s when he was scouting locations for films. “There is a sense of community here that I have never experienced before,” he said.
Six years ago he relocated his family to Cleveland, “and we never looked back.” In the city he found the opportunities and locations that filmmakers dream of at a cost only fraction of that paid anywhere else. He said when film agents arrive he doesn’t shy away from showing them around all parts of town, but one thing he doesn’t do is introduce them to the locals, “Because then they ask you things like: ‘Why would you come to Cleveland?’ I won’t tolerate that!”
Schwarz said selling the city to newcomers is easier, but establishing a film industry presence in the city will help locals appreciate it more. It took him less than three days to convince the directors of The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx, to shoot in Cleveland. “There was no reason for them to shoot in Cleveland, other than they fell in love with the city,” he said.
Radhika Reddy, Ivan Schwarz, Bernadine van Kessel, Lisa Wong and Don Esarove.
Making of the film Avengers in Cleveland as explained by Radhika Reddy
Through the Greater Cleveland Film Commission he advocated for the Ohio Film Tax Credit, which provides a refundable credit against the corporation franchise or income tax for motion pictures produced in Ohio, and a tremendous incentive for filmmakers to work in the state.
A Cleveland State University study credits the creation of nearly 1,143 full-time equivalent Ohio jobs and $35.5 million in household income from the 27 projects that took advantage of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit since its 2009 inception, and the tax incentive returns $1.20 into the Ohio economy for every $1 invested by the incentive.
He was also instrumental in bringing The Avengers to Cleveland. The movie was the second highest grossing film and spent nearly $87 million in Northeast Ohio. Schwarz said that it also changed the conversation of Cleveland’s desirability when promoting to film makers abroad.
“Only in Cleveland can you shut down E. 9th in broad daylight, during the summer, and baseball season and people enjoy it,” he said. He said the greatest challenge facing the city is retaining young people. “Doesn’t matter how many jobs or businesses we attract, if we don’t keep young people here we are done.”
The Greater Cleveland Film Commission is working on initiatives with Cuyahoga Community College to offer courses in various aspect of the film industry, from animation to technology to promote the possibility of pursuing film careers and to provide a local workforce for filmmakers as they come to the region. In 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier will return to Cleveland to shoot a sequel to the 2012 hit film.
He said with the right attitude and positive approach greater things will happen in Cleveland and the nonprofits need to work together rather than compete.
For more information on the Greater Cleveland Film Commission visit: http://www.clevelandfilm.com
To get involved with International Business Network visit: http://www.neoibn.org/