State of the Arts: Producer Finds Hollywood Success While Living in Cleveland

Oct 19, 2018

The new film "Galveston" opens in theaters and on streaming platforms this week with some serious Hollywood star power, including Ben Foster, Elle Fanning and Beau Bridges. But the film’s producer doesn’t reside in California, instead he lives and works in Northeast Ohio. On this week’s State of the Arts WKSU’s Mark Arehart talks with producer Tyler Davidson about shooting many of his movies locally and why he chooses to stay in the Cleveland area.

"Galveston" is a gritty, violent and austere film about criminals on the run. Low Spark Film's Tyler Davidson spent years working on the project, but has chosen to leave the chaotic world of Hollywood behind in favor of his Cleveland-area roots. But why?

"That's a good question," Davidson said.  He's a Chagrin Falls and Aurora native, who went to school on the East Coast and lived for a time in Los Angeles earlier in his career.

He came back to Northeast Ohio, in part, to raise his two sons. But he said Ohio had a lot to offer professionally, as well.

"Not many people associate Cleveland with movie making."

He points to the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, a number of diverse shooting locations and an abundance of actors and film crew living in the region as reasons he can live here and still work with Hollywood actors and directors.

"But there's no question the industry is centered in Los Angeles and New York." 

Hollywood Dreams

Davidson got his start in moviemaking by helping to adapt a novel his uncle wrote about a group of young people living in the shadow of the Kent State shootings of 1970. 

"At that point I thought, 'OK, I have to move to L.A. That's what every film producer does. I did do that. I lived there for five years."

After moving back to the region in the mid-2000s, he made a commitment to continue his Hollywood dreams from the Cleveland area. 

"But it actually turned into an advantage. I was able to focus in a way I was never focused in Los Angeles, in terms of shutting out a lot of the distractions and the noise of the industry. My career really took off once I moved back to this area."

Shooting in Ohio

Though his new film "Galveston" was shot in Georgia, Davidson has shot several films in Northeast Ohio. 

"A real breakthrough film for me was a film called "Take Shelter" that we shot South and West of Cleveland, primarily in Lorain County.

That film won the Critics' Week Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival. 

The movie helped to launch the career of director Jeff Nichols and actress Jessica Chastain. 

"Almost all of the filmmakers, the directors and writers that I've worked with have gone on to have really strong careers with big Hollywood movies, and a lot of actors who were emerging when I cast them are now household names. It's something I'm really proud of."

Davidson's filmography also includes several movies shot in the area like "The Kings of Summer," "My Blind Brother," "The Land" and "The Signal."