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Uncertainty over Ohio's motion picture tax credit sends Cleveland based film out of state

Anthony Russo
Posted at 10:17 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 23:12:54-04

CLEVELAND — When it was announced that noted film directors Anthony and Joe Russo would be bringing Cleveland author Nico Walker's novel "Cherry" to the big screen it seemed all but certain that the Cleveland born directors would shoot the movie, which is set in Cleveland, in Cleveland. That however will not be the case.

"We're going to shoot it this fall, unfortunately not here in Cleveland because of the issue with the tax incentives," Anthony Russo told News 5.

In preparing the state's two-year budget this spring the Ohio legislature removed the $40 million Motion Picture Tax Credit that has been bringing movie production to the state since 2009.

Ivan Schwarz, then head of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, was stunned by the move arguing at a hearing in May.

"Let's be clear, very very clear, no projects, zero, will come to Ohio without a motion picture tax credit," he said. "For every dollar spent on the program $2.01 goes back into the economy of Ohio."

The legislature would later return the $40 million to the budget but Russo said that created something that those putting millions into a picture don't like, uncertainty.

"The Ohio Legislature has been pulling it out of the budget then they put it back in the budget and that's caused a bit of panic and uncertainty in terms of how people can plan production so unfortunately I think it's hurt production a little bit briefly here but hopefully in the long term there will be a stronger commitment to the tax rebate and you'll see that in the benefit of film production going forward," Russo said.

Schwarz in his May testimony talked of how since 2009 the tax incentives have led to the creation of the equivalent of over 5,000 full time jobs in the industry in the state. "If the program is discontinued most of these people will have to seek employment in other states," he said.

With an increased commitment Russo, who was in Cleveland as part of a thank you tour tied to the in-home release of "Avengers Endgame," argued the legislature could cement the state's movie making position.

"I think Cleveland is right on the verge, we have enough production here to really convert it into something more permanent where we're starting to build facilities to support long term film production but again the key to all of that is a very aggressive and supportive tax incentive," Russo said.

Production of "Cherry" will reportedly begin in October, what city will play the role of Cleveland in it has not been announced.