Front Row Center Newsletter from the Greater Columbus Arts Counsil

july13_columbus_film_featureMaking Columbus a Film-Friendly City

By Jennifer Sadler

Columbus is getting ready for its close-up!  As more and more cities across the globe are looking to capitalize on the flow of film, television and media business away from Hollywood, Columbus is working to position itself as a nationally-recognized film-friendly location.  With the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit that began in 2009 and recent funding to strengthen the role of the Greater Columbus Film Commission (Film Columbus), the city is making incremental changes that will allow us to showcase the unique qualities and talents our city possesses that make us an attractive destination for film producers.

It’s no secret that film production companies drop a lot of money in a short period of time in any community in which they are shooting and this is extremely profitable to local merchants and professionals.   Have you ever been to the cinema and sat through the credits and wondered over the sheer number of people and businesses it took to make the movie?  Typically, the vast majority of the work on productions is done by locals.

When a movie shoot comes to town, they don’t bring much; they bring what the film industry calls the “above the line,” or key players such as the directors, the producers; the people who are setting the creative vision. Most professional crew members “below the line” are hired locally because of the convenience and to save the productions money.

Film, television and media productions can have a strong economic impact on state and local communities by providing high-paying jobs for crew, actors and support staff. The scope of production activity is broad, resulting in substantial expenditures with local businesses as goods and services are purchased like  hotels, restaurants, property rentals, art supply stores, lumber and paint companies, equipment and party rental stores, costume shops, thrift shops, fabric stores, sign shops, car rental companies, coffee shops and carry-outs–and too many more to list.

Columbus has all of these types of businesses and services, as well as a great wellspring of creative talent and people who work in the film and media industry.   Columbus is rife with historic neighborhoods and businesses such as hotels, restaurants, caterers, prop shops and more that cater to the industry’s needs.  Columbus also has the reputation of being a city where you can get almost anywhere in town in about 10 minutes.  When you put all of these advantages together, shooting in Columbus opens up an amazing array of creative possibilities that can provide an efficient and satisfying filming experience.

Columbus is also fortunate to have organizations that foster local talent such as WOSU Public Media, an organization that not only produces award-winning TV shows such as ArtZine, in partnership with GCAC, and the acclaimed documentary series Columbus Neighborhoods; they also, through WOSU@COSI, provide client production services including satellite uplinks and video/audio production services.  Columbus also boasts some of the most comprehensive media companies such as Mills James and  Vital Film Works, among many others.

But if there are so many places that can offer the same, why do movie producers pick certain towns in which to shoot?  It’s not just the tax credit that allows the studios to cut filming costs, the unique backdrops or the local talent that makes an area an attractive destination.  It takes a film commission with a strong infrastructure in place with the means to promote a city’s unique qualities that film producers seek out, and also the skills to organize and communicate with local businesses and industry professionals.

What Exactly Does a Film Commission Do?

It’s important to have a solid structure of resources in place for big production companies who plan on bringing a crew to film in a specific town.  A film commission is primarily concerned with promoting your area to the film industry; to maintain clear and consistent communications and develop good working relationships with individuals and businesses locally and with key people within the film industry.

A film commission helps to facilitate on-location film making within a region by offering production companies a complete range of pre-production services through a central contact point.

Film commissions provide accurate and timely information regarding local film procedures, permits and guidelines. They also serve as a liaison with governmental departments and agencies, connect them with local communities and assist in arranging for filming on public and private property.

A film commission also serves as a general resource and clearinghouse for information throughout the region and assists with the following services: site location photography, location library, regional scouting services, liaison with government departments/agencies, and logistical information regarding crew, talent, facilities, stages, equipment and support services.

New Funding for the Greater Columbus Film Commission (Film Columbus)

Thomas McClure serves as the executive director of the Greater Columbus Film Commission (GCFC, now in the process of being re-branded as “Film Columbus.”)  McClure’s experience in the film/TV industry started as a talent agent with one of the largest talent agencies in the Midwest. By the time he departed the agency, he had become the director and partner. Continuing to be a key player in the industry, McClure kept several doors open by either booking as talent, casting projects, or coaching while also founding a non-profit organization, CMH Fashion Week. McClure has worked with major companies such as Lionsgate, Dreamworks, Nationwide Insurance, Wendy’s International, Microsoft and many others. McClure has great hopes for bringing more film and TV opportunities to the Capital City, and he looks forward to taking Film Columbus to the next level.

McClure joined GCFC in 2011 at a time when it was not very active and needed a jump start.

“After I was brought on as the executive director, my first task was to revamp the website to make it more user-friendly and have it really showcase Columbus,” said McClure.  “My next task was to obtain city funding, after I met with Mayor Coleman’s office throughout 2012 to come up with a good strategy for the betterment of the GCFC and the city.”

Since then, the GCFC has worked to revamp the board to include other major players with a passion for film in Columbus.  McClure said that with these main elements in place, the GCFC and the city can now achieve other goals that have been set, which include luring bigger budget and independent films to be made here.

McClure reminds us that Columbus and Central Ohio have had several major films shoot here, such as: Teachers, The Shawshank Redemption, Tango and Cash, Traffic, and most recently Parker (Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez) and Liberal Arts (Zac Efron and Josh Radnor).

“Also, let’s not forget that we have many major commercial shoots here, like Safe Auto,” said McClure.

And he also reminds us why the city funding for the GCFC is so important.

“As a non-profit organization, our mission is to promote the city of Columbus and Central Ohio as a filming destination. With city support, we can do much more,” said McClure.  “With cities like New Orleans, Austin and Atlanta becoming the next best thing to Hollywood, industry professionals are realizing that they don’t have to shoot their films in Hollywood. They can bring them to other locations around the U.S. and save a lot of money!”

The city funds will be managed through the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit

Film producers also seek out the states that offer tax incentives so they can save money.  The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which increased credits for eligible productions from $20 million to $40 million, was first established in 2009.  The expansion of the incentive has sent a clear message to the film industry that Ohio is open for business and has helped to attract dozens of film productions to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, among other locations in the state.

Since the tax credit began, according to Shoot Publicity Wire, the Ohio Film Office has provided more than $52 million in tax credits to Ohio productions, which have employed more than 19,000 Ohioans and contributed nearly $205 million to Ohio’s economy.

Eligible productions must spend a minimum of $300,000 in the State of Ohio and may include feature-length films, documentaries, sound recordings, music videos, video games and more.

The Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) Locations Show and Why It’s Important for Columbus

With the right knowledge, Columbus can begin to truly compete for the dollars being spent in the film, TV and media industry – and the AFCI Locations Show offers a wealth of opportunities for exposure and to learn more.

The AFCI Locations Show 2013, the go-to event for the global production industry, will be hosted in Los Angeles this weekend—and for the first, Columbus will have representation at the event and an opportunity to have face-to-face communication with industry professionals.

The Locations Show brings together hundreds of global production VIPs from independent filmmaker to industry veteran to media to film commissioner, while showcasing an unbeatable display of incentives, production locations and business and support services.

Not only is GCFC exhibiting our city’s locations at the showcase, our film commission will have opportunities to learn from other industry professionals.

Our film commission will be complemented on the show floor by dozens of service industry partners emphasizing even more compelling reasons to come and shoot in Central Ohio.

For more information on the film industry in the state and in Columbus:

The International Film + Video Festival
Home Chris Awards and the longest running independent film festival in North America.  Here’s a link to their blog.

Mid-Ohio Filmmakers Association (MOFA)

Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video

Ohio Film Office

Ohio Film Festivals

Film Festival of Columbus (FFOCOL)

A Movie-Goers Guide to Film Credits:  What Do Those Titles Really Mean?



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