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MAHONING COUNTY Funds approved for film panel



Published: Sat, July 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two-day shoot has pumped in more than $300,000 to local vendors.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Richard M. Ouzounian, president of the Western Reserve Film Commission, says the fact he helped attract a Hollywood film company to shoot scenes in the Mahoning Valley for an upcoming movie is proof the commission's work is worth funding.

The board of the Mahoning County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau also was pleased and agreed to give the commission $5,000 to continue its work.

The CVB board had a special meeting Friday solely to address whether to give any funding to the commission. The bureau gets its money from 1 percent of the county's 3 percent lodging tax on hotels and motels. The other 2 percent goes to the Western Reserve Port Authority, which oversees operation of Youngstown-Warren Municipal Airport in Vienna Township.

The CVB's budget for 2005 is slightly more than $129,000.

Ouzounian gave the board a letter he sent to commissioners that showed the economic impact the filming of the movie "Walker Payne," has had on county businesses.

On-site filming

Three scenes for the movie are being shot at a county strip mine today and Sunday. The story line for the film, which stars Jason Patric, is about an unemployed strip miner forced to make different decisions about his two daughters.

Most of the film has been shot in South Carolina, Ouzounian said.

He said the film crew scouted locations and looked for automobiles and equipment from the 1950s, which is the time period for the movie.

"The production company has booked hotel rooms, rented cars, paid location fees, hired local vendors, and is spending money in our restaurants," Ouzounian's letter says. He said the total economic impact to the Valley exceeds $383,000.

"Understand that this amount is being spent for only three scenes in the movie. Had the entire movie been shot here, we would have had direct spending of almost $5 million," Ouzounian's letter says.

He said 325 people showed up to get jobs as extras in the movie, and that number will be whittled down to between 25 and 30.

Ouzounian said there are film commissions in other states and countries because of the positive economic impact these commissions can bring to their communities. He said the Valley needs to market itself to other Hollywood filmmakers and that marketing requires funding.

Private contributions

Ouzounian said he and his wife and private contributors have put in $50,000 to meet the commission's expenses. He said he has spent $1,000 alone to get the "Walker Payne" film crew to come here.

One goal of the film commission, which also serves Trumbull and Columbiana counties, is to eventually have the necessary film equipment and expertise here for use by production companies, Ouzounian said.

He also supports a bill pending in the state Legislature that would grant tax credits for those who make commercial films in Ohio.

George McCloud of Youngstown State University, a CVB board member, suggested it might be helpful for Ouzounian to work with the commissioners' special projects staff to develop a forward-looking approach for future film commission projects and what appropriation the commission would need for those projects.

Commissioners said that suggestion likely would be followed.




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