by Jeff Niesel
Ivan Schwarz, the president of the Greater Film Commission, used a speaking engagement at a Cleveland Executive Association luncheon today at Lockkeepers in Independence to advocate for a higher cap on the allotment of the film incentive that the state offers to filmmakers who bring their projects to Northeast Ohio. Schwarz, who moved from Los Angeles to take over the film commission in 2006, talked about his background in the movie industry and the experience he had before he moved to Cleveland. He also spoke about the need to provide some kind of infrastructure in order to attract even more projects.
“When you raise the cap, you can start building new infrastructure and bring more people to Cleveland,” he said in advocating for a permanent studio soundstage. He added that he was currently negotiating with a producer involved with the animated film Rango to bring an animated feature to Cleveland.
Schwarz also said he regularly travels to L.A. to drum up business.
“I meet with anyone who is a decision maker who will talk to me, whether it’s a writer, producer or studio executive or attorney,” he said. “I want to build the industry here. You have to be in front of people all the time.”
He said that the city’s ability to accommodate filmmakers by shutting down streets and providing security has been key to attracting big-budget movies.
“I can go to Avengers and make a promise to close down East Ninth and then call the mayor with some confidence that he can get it done,” he said. “Big things that wouldn’t be done anywhere else. When we closed down East Ninth, it was not only a great experience for the film crew but also for the city. It was fun to watch things going on. People ask me if it was cool having the film in town. The cool part for me was watching the reaction from everyone who was watching. That’s what resonated with me.”
Films such as Draft Day and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are slated to open next month. Both were primarily filmed in Northeast Ohio. Schwarz says that with a permanent sound stage, more studios will come here to film.
“I don’t think the film business is the savior," he said, "but I do think it will keep large numbers of young people engaged with our community and excited about working in our community.”