Mancini Talks to County Leaders about Film Studio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Even before he moved back to Youngstown last year after living two decades in California, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini knew the area could be a stand-in for other locales on the silver screen.

“I was at The Lake Club with my wife looking out at Lake Evans,” the retired boxer turned film producer told the Mahoning County Commissioners Tuesday. “I asked her, ‘If we weren’t sitting right here, where would you think this is?’ ”

The answer, he said, could be any lake from New York to Wisconsin. Mill Creek Park, he noted, could be used for forests throughout the Midwest. The farmland filling much of the county could be used as a stand-in for almost any farm in the country.

That scenery is part of the reason why Mancini is looking to start a digital media studio in downtown Youngstown, he told the commissioners. What he needs help with, he continued, is funding.

“I don’t know much about funding, whether it’s city, county or state,” he said after the meeting. “If there are sources, they’ll have to deem it feasible, though. It will brings jobs, so it should be.”

The commissioners – David Ditzler, Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti – all offered starting points for Mancini, including city officials to contact, possible grants and potential tax abatements.

A movie production studio in Youngstown, he told the officeholders, would offer a creative outlet for those in the area who don’t have the means to travel and meet with film executives elsewhere.

Mancini’s company, Champion Pictures, will focus mainly on producing independent films, he said.

“I’ve talked to my producing friends at big studios and they say they’re looking for places with the four-star restaurants and five-star hotels. Youngstown doesn’t have that yet,” Mancini said. “But for indie films, they thought we’re perfect.”

Should the studio get going, Mancini said it could offer a similar purpose as the Youngstown Business Incubator, offering people with ideas a place to start.

“I think by doing a digital media studio, it’s not too different from what’s going on there,” he said. “It creates synergy by putting people together in one room.”

The studio would also generate revenue by renting out space to filmmakers, Mancini told the commissioners. Rates for a sound stage, he explained, would be cheaper than in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, where several major motion pictures have been filmed in recent years.

“All a sound stage is,” he said, “is an empty building. And we’ve got some of those around.”

Mancini said he wasn’t sure about how many jobs the studio would create, noting that film workers such as grips and cameramen are usually independent contractors hired for a specific film.

“Once production begins, once a company starts shooting, then you start seeing the jobs. It could be 10 or 20 for a smaller project up to 50 to 100 for big budget,” Mancini said.

Even though he left the commissioners meeting with just a few contacts and future meetings in the works, Mancini said he is hopeful for the future of his project.

“I’m open to anything and they seem to be open to anything. My knowledge is in the entertainment world and they seem to be open to that,” he said. “I think they see that it’s a viable opportunity to create an economy here.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.