CLEVELAND — It’s been quiet on set for the film industry in Ohio since the pandemic shut down production across the state last year.
Rolling in his camera equipment, Ryan Forte is ready for a shoot inside Creative House Studios and Cleveland Camera Rental.
“We’re in a white cyc studio right now, and you’d shoot a lot of like commercials or music videos or if they were doing scenes of a movie, it would be like small, cut-in scenes or studio stuff,” said Forte.
The 28-year-old camera operator said film has been his career path ever since he graduated from Cleveland State.
“I would say that I’ve always loved movies growing up which is the most typical answer that you’ll ever hear anyone say. But when I was in high school, I had an obsession with standup comedy and Judd Apatow films. I don’t know if that’s weird or not, but something I’ve always enjoyed," Forte said.
Forte has had a lot of success in his young career, including working on the Russo Brothers film Cherry, starring Tom Holland. He was in production for a Netflix film when every set had to say, “cut."
“I got a call from the producer and he said, ‘Hey, just to let you know, the entire movie's being shut down. The movie is no longer there; we’re shutting the entire production office down, and as of now, everyone is relieved of their duties and (everyone) is (no) longer employed on this film.’ And I was like, ‘Oh,’ and I just happened to be out to eat with my wife and my kids, and I was kind of just sitting there like, ‘Wow, so I was just officially laid off of a movie,’" Forte recalled. "That was the beginning of the pandemic for me."
The loss of work and income was tough on the married father of two.
“I had some confidence it was going to work out, but overall, I was kind of preparing for at least three to four months of no income. And it was scary," Forte said.
Many in the film industry were out of work when the pandemic led to shutdowns in March. But Forte said commercial production began picking back up in the summer. That was good news not just for him, but also Assistant Camera Operator Travis Cleary, who’s looking forward to getting busy again.
“(In) March, it went from like 100 to zero in like two days. And then there was absolutely nothing until about June, and then it kind of slowly picked up. July then picked up even more, we kind of had a busy fall and then the second wave kind of hit, and it kind of like put things back into a slump just a little bit. Not like it was before, but it definitely slowed off again. Now this spring, it’s really starting to pick up again, so really looking forward to getting back to work," said Cleary.
And as restrictions lift and some new projects are in the works, Forte hopes to see feature films back in Cleveland with him on set following his passion.
“What I love about this industry is the unique opportunities that you get to work with people — people you work with on set in terms of the actors and people like Travis and directors that are in town,” said Forte. “Everything from small commercials all the way up to the Russo Brothers giant features that come in here, I would say that you always have a unique opportunity and no job is exactly like another.”
An industry slowed down but not ready to give up on the lights, camera and action.