From ‘The Avengers’ to ‘Shooting Stars’, Bill Garvey brings Hollywood to Cleveland
CLEVELAND, OHIO — Northeast Ohio is ready for its close-up once again as filming for “Shooting Stars” begins in parts of Cleveland and Akron this month. Based on LeBron James’ autobiography of the same name, the Universal release is based on the NBA superstar’s childhood years, focusing on a close-knit group of friends who overcome the challenges of growing up in the middle of the city. town and find refuge together from time to time. the tribunal.
• Related: LeBron James biopic ‘Shooting Stars’ to film in Cleveland and Akron, needs extras
The project is the first major Hollywood production to come to the region since the Netflix movie “White Noise” (also known as “Wheat Germ”) starring Adam Driver wrapped in November. It’s also the latest win for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, the nonprofit that works to attract film and television productions to the area. The production will be here in June and will inject $25.5 million into the local economy, hiring crew members, partnering with local vendors and businesses, and booking hotel rooms.
To put that into perspective, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” shot here in 2019, had a slightly lower budget of $21 million and hired 118 local crews and over 3,000 extras, worked with 60 local companies and booked more 1,000 hotel nights during his stay.
“LeBron James is very loyal to northeast Ohio,” said Bill Garvey, chairman of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. “I think he always saw it as a project that had to shoot here. But ultimately those projects depend on an upcoming tax incentive.
Garvey is referring to the Ohio Film Tax Credit, which provides productions with a 30% tax credit on their costs in the state. The state limits the maximum amount of incentive granted to $40 million per year. “Shooting Stars” takes $7.6 million.
“We have a steady stream of content produced here, but we also have more projects that are being turned down due to restrictions in our tax incentives,” he said.
Garvey said the state had to turn down $224.5 million from film and television projects in the past year due to caps on available tax incentives. In his view, these are opportunities the state cannot afford to lose.
“We want to take advantage of the streaming wars arms race that has led to an exponential increase in the amount of production that’s happening around the world,” he said. “There are more opportunities than there have ever been in an industry that is growing more than any other industry right now.”
Originally from Queens, New York, Garvey has worked in the film industry for 26 years. Prior to his current role attracting projects to the region, he worked on the other side of the equation as a stage manager, finding locations for filmmakers to shoot their films and then working out the logistics to make it happen.
His interest in film began when he was a business student at the University of Notre Dame. Needing a choice, the self-proclaimed cinephile took a course in film production. Fate then intervened when “Rudy,” the inspirational 1993 sports drama, came to campus to film scenes. Director David Anspaugh addressed the class. Garvey was hooked.
“Here is this director in front of me telling us how he makes a living, doing something he loves. It was a foreign concept to me,” he said. “It opened my eyes.”
After bouncing around the country, Garvey and his wife moved to Cleveland in 2008 to be close to his mother, who was suffering from cancer. He soon realized that he didn’t need to be in Hollywood or New York to continue what he loved to do. Shortly after he arrived, a producer hired him to scout locations for a super-secret project. It was a big-budget film set in New York City with elaborate action sequences that would be impossible to film in a city of eight million people.
The movie turned out to be “The Avengers”. Marvel originally planned to shoot it in Detroit, but those plans fell through. Fortunately, Garvey knew of a place where you could easily shut down the streets so Captain America and Thor could fight off an alien invasion, and also replace Stuttgart, Germany, where Loki might cause trouble. It was his new adopted hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
“That movie was kind of the calling card that put Cleveland on the map and started a pipeline of other projects to come here,” he said.
Garvey went on to bring “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “The Fate of the Furious”, “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “White Noise” to Cleveland. These efforts, along with his existing relationships with companies including Marvel, Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros., led to him being named head of the GCFC last September.
Instead of the buyer, he is the seller now. His speech is quite simple. With its unique and varied architecture, topography, and climate, Cleveland can be anywhere the film needs it.
“Every time I’m with a director or producer from out of town and take them on tour, I show them all of this amazing architecture and say it’s never been in a movie. They are shocked because everywhere they went, everything was on screen,” he said.
He also sells them at the cost of living here. But the city’s greatest asset, according to Garvey, is its people.
“I’ve shot in many places and you don’t get the warm reception we get here,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be able to go to a community, spend money and people enjoy it.
Still, studios aren’t going to spend millions of dollars just because we’re nice to them. There are 4,000 projects currently in development and to attract some of them, Garvey said Ohio needs to stay competitive with places that offer tax incentives higher than Ohio’s $40 million annual emissions. States like Pennsylvania ($70 million), Kentucky ($75 million), New Mexico ($100 million) and Louisiana ($150 million).
“When the tax incentive disappears, the expenses also disappear,” he said.
Garvey is working with state lawmakers and other stakeholders, trying to increase Ohio’s movie tax credit and make it more flexible. Since its creation in 2009, the incentive has generated $1.1 billion in economic benefits and created more than 6,000 jobs. The ultimate goal, he said, is to replicate the success in Georgia, which doesn’t cap the amount of tax credits it hands out or limit when entertainment companies can claim them. only twice a year like Ohio does. The result: film and television production has become an important part of Georgia’s economy with $4 billion in annual spending, leading to the creation of an infrastructure that now includes around 100 sound stages across the state. .
“That’s why they’re the new Hollywood,” he said.
Garvey believes the Northeast Ohio film industry also has the potential to become a sustainable, year-round business. Some pieces of the puzzle are already in place. Studio projects such as “White Noise”, “Cherry”, “The Marksman”, Oscar-winning “Judas and the Black Messiah”, and smaller projects such as “The Hunting” and “The Enormity of Life” have given local actors, craftsmen and the precious experience of technicians on set. Film programs at Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College, and the Cleveland Institute of Art are producing the next generation of filmmakers.
“We have a pipeline of these kids doing these jobs, but we want more of these jobs for more of these kids,” he said.
This pipeline includes a few productions that are expected to arrive after “Shooting Stars” ends. Garvey can’t say more about them, but he’s particularly excited about a Warner Bros. feature. which will be partially filmed here and another project which he describes as “high end”. Stay tuned.
For now, his goal remains to grow the film industry here and throughout Ohio. He was encouraged by the progress made so far.
“There have been so many silos over the years and my main goal is to break down the silos and get everyone to cooperate as a filmmaking community,” he said. “Once we have a higher tax incentive, we can have multiple projects shooting in multiple locations at the same time. This is what creates stability and longevity.