Friends of the Gates Mills Library invite two local film experts to discuss the film industry in Northeast Ohio at the library’s annual dinner on May 9. President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission Ivan Schwarz and Director of the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival Mary Ann Ponce will share their expertise at the dinner, which will be held at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club in Gates Mills.

The film industry is thriving in the greater Cleveland region, Mr. Schwarz said, adding that the greatest frustration is the need to turn filmmakers away due to the current $40 million Ohio film tax credit cap.

“We want to raise the incentive to $100 million, but until then we’re overprescribed,” he said. “We have to turn companies away and rarely do they come back.”

One of the film commission’s roles is advocating for moviemakers to come to this region. High-paying jobs that have a low impact on the environment are easily found in the film industry, he explained, and those jobs help make Cleveland an attractive filming location.

Mr. Schwarz pointed out that productions touch many other businesses during the filming process. The annual local impact of the film industry is about $200 million benefitting hotels, car rentals, restaurants, beauty supplies, gasoline and lumber, he said.

“What’s unique is that you can do anything you want within 40 minutes of downtown Cleveland,” he said. “It’s beautiful here. We have covered bridges, farmlands, rivers, lakes and forests.”

Northeast Ohio is also notable for having the first standalone film school in the state, Mr. Schwarz said, referring to School of Film and Media Arts at Cleveland State University with 300 students enrolled when it opened in the fall of 2018. Mr. Schwarz is also the chairman of the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival board.

Ms. Ponce, who started the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Chagrin Falls in 2009, credits the local community for helping it grow over the last decade. Attendance has climbed from 1,800 in the inaugural year to 11,000 in 2018, she said.

“Support from Northeast Ohio has made it possible for us to come out of nowhere for this festival,” she said. “It has been stunning to us.”

The Chagrin film festival has grown because of its reputation, she said, and filmmakers spreading the word about the quality documentaries and guaranteed good time in the town. She said that the volunteers are excited and the audience members are enthusiastic, creating an environment that everyone enjoys.

Another incentive is the $16,000 in cash awards given to winners in several categories, she said. Many filmmakers even premiere their films at this festival.

“The festival has a very special spirit to it,” she said. “If we do this, we’re going to do it right and make sure you don’t forget it. The small town gives it a beautiful backdrop and a real ambiance that you don’t get in a big city.”

The Chagrin festival offers films on a vast array of topics including comedies, social awareness, human spirit and music. Ms. Ponce said that she enjoys bringing cutting-edge films to the festival because the audience is open-minded.

“I’m so proud of our audience. They always want new topics at festivals,” she said. “We know that our audience is open to learning new things.”

The Gates Mills Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library distributes films, including documentaries, according to Friends of the Gates Mills Library member John Hellman. He also is on the Chagrin film fest board.

Ms. Ponce said that the film festival impacts the local economy with about 93 percent of the attendees shopping or dining while in town. The festival brought people from 25 states and 140 Ohio ZIP codes, she added.

The 10th Annual Chagrin Documentary Film Festival is set for Oct. 2-6. Ms. Ponce said that she plans to “blow the roof off” with fascinating films and exciting events for all.

Ms. Ponce and Mr. Schwarz will discuss the film industry at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club, 7620 Old Mill Road in Gates Mills, on May 9 at 6 p.m. Those wishing to attend may contact Kim Brustoski at kimbrustoski@gmail.com. Cost is $45 per person.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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