Hollywood transplant Len Hartman formed the business in 2015 with help of G. Gilbert Cloyd, a retired executive of Procter & Gamble.
From healthcare to higher education, Columbus supports a wide range of industries. Filmmaking, however, is not a field usually associated with the capital city. Just ask Len Hartman, the co-founder and president of the Ohio Film Group, which provides post-production services for film projects, often those that have been shot in the state. When he tells industry colleagues the location of his business, “There’s usually a little silent pause right after that,” he says.
Since its formation in 2015, the Ohio Film Group has aimed to change that perception.
From its 12,000-square-foot facility at the Columbus College of Art & Design, the business offers production companies and studios all of the things needed after the cameras stop rolling, including color correction, visual effects and the processing of “dailies,” footage captured during a given day’s shooting. The Ohio Film Group has provided services for such major motion pictures as Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog (2016) and the biopic Gotti (2018), starring John Travolta.
“We’ve done mostly work for projects that are coming in state to utilize the [Ohio Motion Picture] tax credit, so they can then extend their tax credit into post-production,” Hartman says. “Anything that has to do with finishing a movie or a TV show or a commercial.”
A native of Leavittsburg, Ohio, Hartman grew up as a film buff. Without a clear path to the industry, however, he turned to football. “For me, sports was also something that was more accessible, and you saw more of it and you could understand the process going forward,” says Hartman, who was an offensive lineman at Ohio State University. There he received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1992.
After earning a master’s degree from Ohio State in 1994—and briefly teaching and coaching at a high school near Akron—Hartman headed west. He studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and then launched his career. His screenplays, which include the Matthew McConaughey Civil War drama Free State of Jones, have been sold to such studios as HBO and Universal.
Despite his success in the business, Hartman felt the pull of home. “My wife and I are both from Ohio,” he says. Plus, Hartman realized a significant number of Los Angeles-based animators and visual-effects artists had trained at institutions in central Ohio. “There are so many Ohio State graduates and CCAD graduates that are out in Hollywood working in this space, but particularly animation,” says Hartman, who decided to capitalize on the local talent.
After settling in Granville, Hartman was introduced to G. Gilbert Cloyd, a retired research and development executive at Procter & Gamble. Hartman was interested in starting an animation studio, while Cloyd saw promise in using talent from area schools.
“My initial interest was driven largely by the student opportunity, pre- and post-graduation—give them an opportunity in the entertainment field,” says Cloyd, who made an initial investment of about $1.5 million in what became Ohio Film Group. He now serves as the CEO of the company, which is currently at a break-even point. In addition to the Ohio tax credits, the company benefits from offering more affordable services than coastal competitors.
Going forward, Ohio Film Group leaders want to emphasize creating animated content rather than simply providing post-production services on others’ films. “It’s the perfect interface of creative artistry and technology, both of which are constantly improving,” Cloyd says of animation. In November, the Ohio Film Group announced its first animated feature, Sneaks, which is being developed by the company’s animation arm, Lengi Studios.
Although the Ohio Film Group and CCAD are distinct entities, the two are joined at the hip. The company’s studio is leased from CCAD, and, among its nine full-time employees, three are graduates of the school. CCAD animation chair Charlotte Belland sees the relationship as beneficial to aspiring animators in the school. “It offers a window into the potential of what a student could do,” Belland says.
Visual-effects artist (and CCAD alum) Steve Hubbard worked around the globe on such projects as The Lego Batman Movie and Peter Rabbit, but he recently returned to his native Columbus to become the Ohio Film Group’s visual-effects supervisor.
“Work can be done anywhere,” Hubbard says. “I really hope that we can put Columbus on the map as far as a major production hub.”