Lights. Camera. Action... in Ohio?
That's what some lawmakers and state development officials are hoping for. Their proposal would create a state film office to scout shooting locations for movies, and at the same time offer tax incentives to people who invest in major productions shot in the state.
The Ohio Film Commission was eliminated in 2002 to save money, but before it got the ax it had generated $134 million after its creation in 1976. Scenes from blockbusters such as "The Shawshank Redemption," "Spider-Man 3" and, of course, "Major League," have all been shot in Ohio.
High labor costs in California are driving more and more moviemakers to search for alternative locations. And while Ohio is not home to many stunning natural locales, what it does offer are a wonderful city skylines in places not nearly as expensive to shoot as New York, L.A. or even Chicago. "Spider-Man 3" is the perfect example. Though the film takes place in the Big Apple, many of the downtown action shots were filmed in Cleveland.
However, local film agencies rarely have enough money to wine and dine the movers and shakers who live on the coasts. A film commission, coupled with all important tax incentives, would level the playing field. More than 40 other states offer such tax credits.
While the Ohio Tax Commissioner opposes any loopholes he says will weaken the tax system, the reality is tax credits are some of the most powerful and useful tools local governments have to attract businesses. For example, Norwalk Economic Development Director Bethany Dentler said she tries to help companies find possible tax abatements to make the city a more attractive destination. Why should the state not do the same?
A tougher sell is the re-creation of the film office, an annual $400,000 investment for two staff members and a marketing budget. However, if Ohio is serious about tapping into this revenue source, it must be willing to compete with other states that do have film departments.
And, if done correctly, the return on investment can be outstanding. Louisiana used a package of tax credits and incentives that has lead to the creation of more than 15,000 jobs paying more than $25 an hour.
Anything with the potential to create a lot of high paying jobs in Ohio must be undertaken.