It's great to have a movie like The Avengers shooting in town, but what Cleveland really needs is to develop its film industry as a whole, according to Ivan Schwarz, executive director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.
"People get excited about The Avengers. We're trying to create jobs and economic development here. It's about creating a film industry here that's 24/7, 365 days a year," he told members of the Mayfield Area Chamber of Commerce at a lunch meeting.
Schwarz was working as a location manager on Band of Brothers in 1999 when he scouted Cleveland as a possible location. He really enjoyed his time here and decided this is where he wanted to live.
"I was working on Entourage when I left Los Angeles. Once the city dissolved in my rear view mirror I said good riddance and I've never looked back," he said. "It's so obvious why anyone would want to live here."
But Cleveland needs something to keep young people from moving away and he sees the growth of the local film industry as a step in that direction.
"We need to capture and keep young people involved in our community. The average age here is 40. I think that's too old. We need to get the 18- to 25-year-olds to want to stay here," Schwarz said.
About 2,000 people were here working on The Avengers. A typical movie crew is about 100 to 150 people, he added.
"There's no reason all of these people shouldn't be coming from Cleveland," Schwarz said.
To that end, he's been working with the Cleveland school district to make students aware that they can have a career in films. He also would like to see soundstages built locally.
Schwarz said what drives him isn't the celebrity aspect of film, but the economic benefits – $87 million in northeast Ohio in the last two years.
"That's not economic impact, that's not fiddling with the numbers – that's direct spending," he added.
He said there are local businesses that might not be around any longer if not for the revenues coming from movies shot here. He also heard from a man who would not had been able to keep his house if not for movie-related work.
"That fact that you impact someone's life directly …," Schwarz said.
However, filming has dried up because state tax incentives have been used. That's why he was in Columbus earlier this week pushing for the pool of money available to double from $10 million to $20 million a year.
"When you're out of incentive money, those jobs go away," he said.
Although he prefers to talk about building the film industry rather than relying on individual blockbusters like The Avengers, Schwarz said he's most often asked about things like what the next big movie will be.
"I don't know where the next Avengers is," he said. "People like the celebrity of it. But the celebrity of it doesn't create jobs."
But it does create awareness. A chamber member asked what impact the new casino and medical mart will have on Cleveland and Schwarz said those are not things that make much difference outside of this area.
"The Avengers has given more global awareness to Cleveland than all of those things combined," Schwarz said.