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Issue Date: April 2014 Issue


Lights, Camera, Action: Dynamic Set

If you make a movie in Cleveland, chances are you'll end up having one of these experienced professionals on your crew. Meet the locals who jump off tall buildings, compose songs, transform spaces, scout locations and film the whole thing for you.

Richard Fike

For more than 25 years, the former military special ops officer has been throwing punches, crashing cars and blowing up buildings — all safely, of course. With credits in more than 95 movies and TV shows such as Welcome to Collinwood, Take Shelter and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Madison resident now owns the special effects and stunts company Stunt Predators USA and SFX.

Team Player: Fike got his first taste of the film industry in 1986 when he worked on a 15-minute action video modeled after Conan the Barbarian for the Cleveland Browns called Masters of the Gridiron. "It had all the major players during that time — Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Mack, Hanford Dixon — you name it, they were on it," he says of the film that sold 40,000 copies locally. "They were in search of the ring of power, which was obviously the Super Bowl ring."

Movie Misconceptions: "The biggest thing about stunt performers is that we are not daredevils," he says. "Daredevils take unnecessary risks. They take it for the fun of it or for the attention. We take calculated risks." After reading the script, Fike breaks it down for special effects and stunts and figures out how to coordinate those scenes from rolling cars to catching fire to falling off of roofs safely.

Screen Time: His favorite fight sequence to coordinate was from A Better Way to Die shot in 1999 with Lou Diamond Phillips and Andre Braugher. "There was a 12-hour setup for a three-minute fight scene. We rehearsed it and rehearsed it before even training the actors and stunt doubles," he says. "It's very quick. But it's very satisfying to see all the techniques you rehearsed being used on screen."

Action Packed: The martial artist has senior black belt rank in multiple systems such as karate, judo and jujutsu. He even developed his own system, built on eight martial arts, called sanchi-ryu in 1977. "It's a common sense way of stopping an attack," he says. "Our philosophy is to avoid confrontation, but if we are attacked there are ways to deflect it. But if, finally, we have to, we fight back."

Biz Tip: Be the fall guy. "Learn to take the hit and the fall so that you make the stars look good," says the Tri-C Film Crew Tech Training instructor. "Develop your skills to make the other person look better."



Keith Nickoson

The Parma native has worked his way up from a grip — a technician who works with lighting — on movies such as Welcome to Collinwood and Draft Day to cinematographer on The Yank, a romantic comedy recently shot in Cleveland. He's also a composer and screenwriter for Parallel, a time-travel indie filmed in Cleveland that he hopes to wrap this year.

Kung Fu Fighting: Nickoson fell in love with moviemaking at the age of 14 when he learned his father had purchased a video camera. "He got home, and [my brother and I] just hijacked his camera and started making these terrible ninja movies," he recalls.

Roped In: "Meg Ryan may have hit on me — I'm not sure, but I think she did," he says of the star who portrayed real-life female boxing promoter Jackie Kallen in 2004's Against the Ropes for which Nickoson was a grip. "She was talking to me about my tattoos." He didn't make any moves. "I'm a professional."  

Game Changer: Nickoson's most memorable gig was working in Pennsylvania as a grip on Unstoppable. He lived out of a hotel for four months and made a bunch of money, which he invested in equipment. "It gave me the kick in the ass to go after what I intended," he says, "and being a grip wasn't doing that."

Moving Up: Nickoson continues to take brief grip jobs, but he finds working as a cinematographer on films such as Parallel more fulfilling. "I'm able to use my mind creatively and make more of the decisions that make the movie what it is," he explains.

Music Man: Nickoson won a regional Emmy for the theme he composed for Red Tail Reborn, a documentary on the restoration of an aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. He composes on the piano, but wrote some of the music for Parallel on the violin. "I would just pick it up and ... just let the music come out," he says.

Biz Tip: Succeeding in film takes time. "You've got to get screamed at, yelled at, beat up, beat down," Nickoson says. "You have to have all those things happen to you so that you can be good in any situation."



Bill Garvey

Call him an urban explorer. From a Revolutionary War-era Virginia plantation to an abandoned NASA nuclear test reactor facility in Sandusky, the New York transplant has spent more than 20 years seeking out the most obscure, interesting locations for movies, TV shows and commercials such as The Sopranos, National Treasure and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The Haunting: Garvey admits his job sometimes feels like an episode of Ghost Hunters. He spent months roaming Massachusetts to find mental hospitals for Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. "I remember going into one of the insane asylums, and it was like they just turned the lights off and left for the day," says Garvey, who now lives in Cleveland. "All the straight jackets were hung up on the wall. The operating room had the lobotomy probes still there and the straps on the operating table."

Big Spender: Part of Garvey's job is taking producers and directors around the city while the team is deciding where to film. After they have selected Cleveland, he scouts locations, negotiates contracts and plans for logistics to get hundreds of crew members to one spot. "I spend a lot of money paying stores and businesses and the city of Cleveland for the privilege of shooting here," he says.

Hot Spot: "The [Superior] Viaduct captures what the age was back in the trolley years," he says of his favorite Cleveland location. "It has that patina of age we always look for."

Study Aide: As one of 10 film professionals who teach a four-week Tri-C Film Crew Tech Training program, Garvey helps students learn the basics of the film industry. "I walked into my first job not knowing anything about the film business," says Garvey. "The kids going through the program are at an advantage."

Biz Tip: Think about your image. "It's important to be clean-cut, wear clean clothes, to have a confident, professional appearance and to look people in the eye when you talk to them," advises Garvey.



Jennifer Klide

A former elementary school teacher, Klide began her film career with an unpaid job as a costume designer in Zoli's Brain, a film that was never released. In fact, she racked up more than 1,000 hours before landing her first paid gig. Since then, the Cleveland resident has worked in props, costume, production design and art direction for movies such as Fear Clinic, Miss Meadows and The Kings of Summer.

Festival crowd: Klide served as production designer for Miss Meadows, starring Katie Holmes, which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this month. She's also worked with Cleveland producer Tyler Davidson on The Kings of Summer and Take Shelter (she saw the latter on the big screen at the Cannes Film Festival). "I feel so lucky to be where I am in this small market that's turning out some really great films," she says.

No fears: One of her favorite projects was transforming the cafeteria in Medina's Sophia Huntington Parker Home for Pythian Sisters into a laboratory for Fear Clinic. "We built walls around it," she says. "The center divider wall had a big piece of glass so that you can observe from one room into the other. The laboratory wall was all tiled and painted — same thing with the floor."

Prop tops: With few big prop houses between Chicago and New York, crews rent heavily from the Cleveland Play House's collections. "It's such a treasure for us," she says. She also raids flea markets and antique stores, posts ads on Craigslist or borrows items from friends and family. "I oftentimes bring so many of my own things. So when I watch a film, it just cracks me up," she says. "I see my grandma's tablecloth there or this little figurine that's my favorite."

celeb gazing: Klide admits to being starstruck by Cicely Tyson during the filming for Alex Cross in 2011. "It was fantastic," she says. Then there's notorious jokester Shaquille O'Neal, who Klide has worked with on commercials for Comcast. "He'd pick on me just because," she says. "He'd sit on the couch we were trying to move."

Biz Tip: Diversify. "Most crew members in town do more than one thing," Klide says.



Adam White

While the lakewood resident has worked as a grip on Draft Day and as a camera operator on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he and his wife Kara Martinelli own 15-year-old Hemlock Films. The production company focuses on producing historic aviation documentaries such as Red Tail Reborn and The Restorers, a five-episode series White and Martinelli are shopping to broadcast distributors.

Water Boy: White worked as an unpaid on-set intern on the 1991 TV movie Babe Ruth. "They were shooting at the old Cleveland Stadium," he recalls. "It was very hot when we were shooting, and they had a couple hundred extras, all dressed in wool. So my job was to serve drinks to all the extras to keep people from passing out."

Money Talks: Having a tax incentive to film in Ohio has really helped boost the industry, says White, who is an instructor for the Tri-C Film Crew Tech Training program. "If you want to be a part of the film industry or have any sort of reoccurring theme to it, a tax incentive is really a requirement now. A producer can stretch their budget farther. They can make more movie for less dollars."

Flying High: The subject matter of White's documentaries reflects his interest in aviation — he's licensed to fly single-engine airplanes. "The ironic thing about it is that I have way more hours hanging out the back end of a B-25 bomber filming than I have actually flying," he says of making Rise Above, a 2011 documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen.

Biz Tip: Be willing to work outside Ohio. "If you wanted to be a cold-cut specialist, you might have to travel a little bit to be able to work on a consistent basis," White says.


Comments:
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 1:13:16 AM by Richard Fike
Thank you Cleveland Magazine for the high quality "attention to detail" articles highlighting the film industry in the Cleveland area. We need more super quality media coverage like your Magazine to promote what Ohio has to offer regarding our local film industry infrastructure. It truly is a team effort if we wish to compete for our share of feature film and television projects.

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