City to Consider $2M Float Loan for Filmmaker

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City Council will consider a $2 million float loan to support film production work that could begin here as soon as August.

The legislation, which would go before council at a special meeting Wednesday, would authorize the Board of Control to negotiate terms and enter into agreements with Odyssey Motion Pictures LLC and Alpha Pictures for the loan.

The loan would be offered for ¼% fee for a period of 12 months and secured by an irrevocable letter of credit, according to the proposed ordinance.

Principals in Santa Monica, Calif.-based Odyssey include filmmaker Marc Clebanoff and actor/filmmaker Louis Mandylor, co-star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Alpha Pictures is an overseas-based business partner that handles finance, legal and investor relations. Odyssey handles production and distribution aspects of the business.

Clebanoff has been an independent producer and director for 15 years, he said. He also has worked on video game titles such as Call of Duty.

“Our business model is designed to maximize production and distribution efficiencies so we are planning to do a small ‘micro’ budget production on the heels of each larger production,” he said.

“Our first tent-pole production is the sequel to a successful independent action film that was released in 2010,” he continued. “Since it is a proven franchise, it makes sense for the business. Off the heels of that we are planning a small six-figure-budget horror film that will be vetted for Redbox.”

Clebanoff, who visited Youngstown twice earlier this year, said he and his partners were “taken with” Youngstown. He came here after meeting with Fred D’Amico, director of the Youngstown Regional Film Commission, and Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Ray, who attended the American Film Market in November 2015.

“It offers a diverse setting, easily allows for period shooting and we get a lot of bang for the buck,” he said. “It’s ideal for us because we can execute such a wide variety of content there.” If all goes according to plan, Odyssey could be in town to prepare for shooting as early as August, with an eye on a release in the second quarter of 2017, he said.

The loan would be a departure from the kind of traditional manufacturing or other brick-and-mortar project the city has assisted in the past, acknowledged T. Sharon Woodberry, the city’s director of community planning and economic development.

“The float loan is a big piece of the puzzle so approval is essential,” Clebanoff said. “Our first big production was originally intended to be shot in Eastern Europe but the float loan program is what enticed us to rework the logistics for Ohio.”

The project would mean an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 in spending on local goods and services, not counting the income tax to be paid by individuals directly working on the film, Woodberry said.

Odyssey would hire the majority of the productions’ below-the-line crew locally as well as background talent and some day player roles, Clebanoff said.

“Our principal cast we would bring in but smaller speaking roles we would try to cast locally to keep costs down,” he said. “Regarding crew, we would be looking to hire everything from construction and electricians to wardrobe, production staff, personal assistants, catering, etc.”

“We’re treading into new territory but it’s important for the city to look at different avenues in terms of investment,” Woodberry said. Because the letter of credit puts the city at no financial risk, the project is “something that makes sense and we want to take a look at it,” she said.

The question of whether the films would move forward isn’t if but how soon, Clebanoff said. The project has “a lot of moving parts,” he said. “We are dealing with overseas finance, production entities in both Dallas and Los Angeles, Youngstown as a city and the state of Ohio, all of which are moving at different paces.”

Odyssey also is seeking state film tax credits, Ray said.

“Our money is guaranteed so if that closes the deal to bring them to the area,” it is worth it, Ray affirmed. The project could “lead to other big things,” he added.

“If this first round proves to be mutually beneficial to us and the city, then we are planning to be back with another large action film production next year as well,” Clebanoff said.

Also Wednesday, council members will consider whether to approve a local-supplier preference for bidding contracts. According to the ordinance, in determining the “lowest and best responsible bid,” a local bidder would receive a credit of 2.5% of the lowest bid submitted by an outside-the-are bidder, not to exceed $10,000.

In addition, council will vote on whether to forward petitions submitted for a part-time workers bill of rights and the community bill of rights proposed by opponents of oil and gas drilling in the city, their sixth attempt at such an amendment.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.