Cleveland Film Commission vying for $100M tax incentive to up Hollywood shoots

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Crews for Native Son, based on the 1940 novel by Richard Wright, had the perfect day to wrap up their filming at Edgewater Park. And as soon as they leave town, two more movies are coming to film in Northeast Ohio.

ICU, starring Helen Hunt, and the romantic comedy The Last Summer are all set to film in Cleveland in the coming weeks. The productions help the economy, but of more importance might be a debate in Columbus about the motion picture tax credit.

House Bill 525 would increase the cap on the 30 per cent tax credit from $40 million per year to $100 million for Ohio. Greater Cleveland Film Commission President and CEO Ivan Schwarz says the state is tapped out for tax credits this year and can't attract any more films until the new budget begins July 1.

Schwarz says expanding the credit to a $100 million cap would create a sustainable film industry in Ohio and bolster the estimated $500 million economic impact the credit has already created. According to Schwarz, 3,000 full-time equitable jobs have been created in the Cleveland area for the film industry. And while the average salary in Cleveland is $22,000, these jobs have an average salary of $60,000.

Another goal of the film commission and Schwarz is to keep young people in the city. Cleveland State started a film school and has seen their applications rise 250 percent since its' inception. With a more robust industry, Schwarz says college students in the film industry will stay here rather than leaving for New York or Los Angeles.

Opponents to House Bill 525 say it's essentially a "race to the bottom" for states that offer the credits because the film crews simply go where the credit is the highest. Another argument is that the additional $60 million in state funding should be used in other ways like education and health and human services, rather than solely a tax break for the entertainment industry. States have had varied results in their experimentation with credits for motion pictures. The expansion and revision of the tax credit would include Broadway plays to visit venues like Playhouse Square and others in the Cleveland theater district.

Schwarz says all it takes for the industry to grow is a commitment. He says it's become a $6 billion industry in Georgia with nearly 1,000 full time jobs in and around Atlanta. He also touted other industries that benefit in addition to rental cars, food service and hotels. Painters and paint suppliers benefit along with lumberyards and office supply stores benefit from movies that usually employ 200 vendors while filming in town.

The state legislature has been listening to testimony on House Bill 525 since it was introduced in February. If approved, the bill would become law in 90 days.

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