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Lights, Cameras, Cleveland State

camera-snapFrom Captain America and the Avengers to Ralphie, the Old Man and a pitcher known as Wild Thing…Cleveland has long been a fertile filming ground for the motion picture industry. And now Cleveland State is poised to become a lead actor in future productions.

Realizing that a growing industry needs a growing talent pool from which to draw, President Ronald M. Berkman and Ivan Schwarz, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, convinced leaders in the Ohio state legislature to allocate $7.5 million to CSU to create a new stand-alone School of Film, Television and Interactive Media in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS.)

CSU will be the first university in Ohio – and one of the few between the east and west coasts – with such a school, which will be built upon the current program in film, television and interactive media, housed in the School of Communication. That program, founded in 2006, enrolls 205 majors, making it the second-largest undergraduate program in the College and providing a healthy foundation upon which to build a new school for an even larger program.

The project includes construction of a new facility to enable the growing population of film students to continue learning about the industry and gaining hands-on experience.

“Our goal is not merely to prepare our students to work in today’s exciting moving image industries of film, television and interactive media but to give them the tools to be successful in these fields as they transform over the next five or 10 years,” says Evan Lieberman, CSU’s director of film, television and interactive media.

“We look forward to working closely with the Film Commission and other partners in the community to create a unique opportunity for our students to make a smooth transition from the classroom to the movie set, television studio, editing room and creative offices.”

Alita Petras, founder and president of the Cinematic Student Union, says students are excited about the new film school.

“With Cleveland becoming such a prominent city for big budget movie productions, this is the perfect time for CSU to emerge with a program to develop filmmakers to eventually work on these studio projects. I’m looking forward to the new partnerships the film school will provide for current students and the job opportunities it will bring for graduates. The school will put Cleveland State on the map for film,” she says.

Over the summer, President Berkman, the Film Commission’s Schwarz and Greg Sadlek, CLASS dean, visited film schools at the University of Southern California and at Chapman University and met with Robert Bassett, founding dean who built the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman from the ground up. Bassett also visited CSU to assess resources, meet with students and offer input on the new school.

Among the first decisions to be made is where to build the school. University officials are considering space in Playhouse Square as well as on campus.

“With the solid growth of the film industry in Northeast Ohio, this school may just make it possible for CSU to become the most important film program in the Midwest,” notes Dean Sadlek.

Until recently, the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit stood at $20 million. According to a CSU economic impact study, since 2011 this tax credit has created the equivalent of 1,729 full-time jobs, more than $400 million in total economic impact and a return on investment of $2.01 for every $1 spent. More than 65 productions have been shot in Northeast Ohio since 2009, and 71 percent of all Ohio production dollars within the last two years were spent in Northeast Ohio.

This spring, the Ohio state legislature increased the film industry tax credit program to $40 million, which will likely grow the already significant presence of the film industry in Northeast Ohio. Next year, the Film Commission’s Ivan Schwarz hopes to convince the legislature to raise the tax credit to $75 million.

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