Ohio Film Commission To Shut Down

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state Department of Development is shutting down the Ohio Film Commission, which promotes Ohio as a location for movies, television programs and commercials, in the latest round of state budget cuts.

The commission, part of the Division of Travel and Tourism, will close Sept. 6 and will save the state about $100,000 a year. The tourism division will absorb the commission's job, said Gail Crawley, spokeswoman for the development department.

"(The division) will continue to be pro-active in promoting on-location filming in Ohio," she said. "Someone will pick up the responsibilities. The same resources will be made available."

As part of the state's budget woes, the department is eliminating 60 positions, mostly through early retirement and attrition. Eighteen jobs are being abolished right away, including that of film commissioner Steve Cover, who has run the commission as a one-man operation since 1999.

"I'm still trying to get over the shock," Cover said. "I've gone through frustration, sadness, anger."

Started in 1979, the commission was one of about 10 nationwide. Now, there are more than 300, including separate nonprofit film commissions in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Cover said he doubts the ability of the tourism division to handle his job.

"This is a specialized position that takes years of practice and training, not to mention all the contacts you build up," he said. "Plus, when these people call, they want something now."

The commission scouts locations, arranges support services and helps in-state filmmakers make and export their work. Cover, who has worked for the commission for 13 years, said the commissions in Cleveland and Cincinnati relied on him for referrals.

Kristen Erwin, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, said the closing will not affect how Cincinnati markets itself.

"We're still full-speed ahead," she said.

But the Ohio Film Commission was usually the film industry's first point of contact, and free-lancers and crew members in the area could see less of the work that Cover previously sent their way, Erwin said.

"I think the industry calls the state when it's not sure who to contact," she said.

Some of the films that have been shot in Ohio include "Traffic," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Rain Man."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)