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Lack of funds creates cloud of uncertainty for film commission



Published: Fri, May 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The director is looking for work elsewhere.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- With no money, no telephone service and no active Web site, the future of Western Reserve Film Commission is uncertain.

"The whole thing is in jeopardy at this point," commission director Richard Ouzounian said Thursday.

Phones were shut off and the Web site was taken down Monday, Ouzounian said. A local screening of the movie "Horrors of War," parts of which were filmed here last year, also has been canceled for lack of money.

Ouzounian's office space in the Ohio One Building downtown remains intact. The rent is so inexpensive that he paid a year in advance, he said. That won't help out-of-town filmmakers who may be trying to reach him, he added. They include the company that's supposed to return here next week to film "My Soul to Take 2" on empty floors of Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Funding

The film commission has been funded so far with county lodging tax proceeds, which are not part of the general fund. Ouzounian received $65,000 in 2005 and asked for $150,000 this year.

County commissioners have told Ouzounian that the new Mahoning County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau will make decisions about his budget. The CVB received bed tax dollars. All three commissioners had served on an interim CVB board that previously gave Ouzounian money.

Commissioners aren't members of the new board, which was created after the county stopped funding Youngstown/Mahoning County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau.

"There's basically nothing I can do until that board meets," Ouzounian said.

Commissioner John McNally said no CVB board meeting is scheduled at this time. Commissioners are still reviewing the group's suggested bylaws and rules and regulations, he said.

If commissioners were to give money to the film commission, it would come from the general budget, but that's not something they want to do, McNally said.

'Overwhelming evidence'

Ouzounian believes there's "overwhelming evidence that a film commission works in this area," he said. Five movies were at least partially filmed here in 2005.

Meanwhile, Ouzounian said he's producing a corporate video for a client and asking friends in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles about job possibilities.

Ouzounian is willing to continue the film commission's work if his funding is approved soon, but "in some ways I've already moved on," he said. "I can't afford to sit and wait to see what they're going to do."

shaulis@vindy.com




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