City seeks role in business of filming

New state legislation increases tax credits to movie studios that produce films in Ohio — and city officials want Springfield to have a bigger role in the multimillion dollar industry.

Dan Martin last week asked city leaders to look into putting Springfield on the map when it comes to feature films in Ohio.

“I think it would be good to coordinate our efforts to have a visible presence there,” Martin said. “We need to at least be on the radar screen if someone wanted to do a feature film.”

The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive provides a refundable credit for production studios that film in Ohio, pumping in nearly $130 million into the state’s economy over the last four years and more than $38 million so far for the current fiscal year, according to the Ohio Department of Development.

In 2011, more than $63 million was spent on 16 different productions in Ohio, including the feature films the Avengers and The Ides of March, television series One Born Every Minute and a commercial for Safe Auto car insurance. The industry employed 9,579 people in Ohio, which provided approximately $16.9 million in tax credits.

Gail Mezey, coordinator for the Ohio Film Office, said studios now follow the tax credits rather than shooting where a story may be located.

“You can make Ohio look like almost anywhere in the United States,” Mezey said. “The incentives are important to bringing them here. If the incentives weren’t here, they probably wouldn’t come. ”

The Ohio Film Office’s website has a database of locations listed in different cities across the state. Only one Springfield location — the Westcott House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — is listed as a possible film set location. Martin hopes to change that.

“If we’re not in the game, then no one is going to see us,” said Martin, who got the idea after recognizing locations in downtown Cleveland in the Avengers movie.

Martin said Springfield’s many historical buildings, like the Heritage Center and the Westcott House, and natural settings, like the Buck Creek corridor, could be ideal locations for filming. The city’s compact setting — with everything from an urban downtown area to cornfields in a few-mile radius — could also help attract productions.

“We’ve got a lot to offer to someone wanting to do a movie shoot,” Martin said.

FilmDayton, a non-profit organization tasked with growing the film industry in the Miami Valley, has worked with local arts leaders to help combine their efforts, according to FilmDayton executive director Megan Cooper.

“We’re in the process of building our infrastructure,” Cooper said. “Though the name of the organization is FilmDayton, we very much consider ourselves a region initiative. I’ve had conversations with people in Springfield to make sure on the FilmDayton website, we’re showing off the beautiful assets that exist in Springfield to make sure our entire region is represented.”

Cooper said FilmDayton is in its infancy, while film commissions in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, who’ve had infrastructure in place, are seeing the biggest growth concerning production.

Cooper said the region has had productions like commercials and reality TV shows shot in the Miami Valley, but nothing as visible as the Avengers. She used the two former hospitals in Springfield — the former Community Hospital and Mercy Medical Center — as examples of great locations for production to take place.

Cooper said the pieces are falling into place for the Dayton and Springfield area, but there’s more work to be done. The key to being competitive, she said, is to work together to create an infrastructure in the area and finding more funding.

“In order to play with the big dogs, we need to build a budget,” Cooper said. “We need to make sure we’re able to be competitive.”

The economic impact would be far-reaching, Martin said, and would also be a positive portrayal of the community.

“Just imagine if the Heritage Center or the Westcott House were in a feature film and people saw it and said, ‘That looks interesting, let’s drive to that Frank Lloyd Wright house in Springfield’,” Martin said.

Marta Wojcik, executive director and curator of the Westcott House, said she was contacted by FilmDayton a few years ago about having the museum added to the state’s list of locations. She said any type of film shot at the Westcott House would likely have to be period-specific, but she’s open to the possibility.

“Any creative endeavor that could happen in the Westcott House, I think would it would really showcase our region and what we have to offer,” Wojcik said. “It would be really exciting to us.”

Chris Schutte, the director of marketing and special events for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said the immediate economic impact to the area could be huge, depending on the type of shoot, and in the long-term could help the city brand itself.

“It immediately puts you on the map with tourism and travel,” Schutte said.

He used the example of Mansfield and Ashland in northeast Ohio, where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed in 1994.

“It’s what they’re known for,” Schutte said.

Mezey hopes the tax credit will continue to grow to bring more films to the area.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll keep growing it and growing our crew base and Hollywood will want to come here to shoot here more and more.”

Mezey said it’s not unrealistic to believe all types of production work could some to the area, especially with the tax credit in place.

“There are just as many stories set in smaller towns as there are in bigger towns,” Mezey said.

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