Captain America: The Winter Soldier – How It Makes Cleveland Look

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Captain America

What the Marvel Blockbuster Means to the 216


“You need to keep BOTH eyes open.” – Nick Fury, Captain America: The Winter Soldier


I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in its opening weekend. Having arrived in Austin not even a week prior to, I was excited to watch the movie for several reasons, not the least of which was to see how the city I called home for a decade looked on the big screen.


When The Avengers team came to Cleveland, a friend and I scoured every alley, rooftop and even production HQ to check out the sets and the shooting. If you love movies, watching directors and crews shoot film is sometimes even more exciting than the watching of the final thing.


Last summer, when native sons the Russo Brothers brought the Captain America: The Winter Soldier production to Cleveland, they faced some obstacles. A large population was all up in arms as to how dare they shut the Shoreway down. When the Hollywood big names would express admiration for the city, some were brushed off by the locals who would verbally disrespect their own city. Finally, there was a week or so when critical shooting was at the mercy of the rain that wouldn’t stop.


While we can’t predict Mother Nature, I never understood all the negativity. Cleveland isn’t that hard to get around and lots of alternative routes are available. I was teaching at CSU that summer semester and instead of taking the Shoreway, I took 90. And found it faster. Besides, when politicians come to campaign here during election season or, when say, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade blocks massive blocks of the city, no one seems to be all up in arms over those big event street closings. That people seem to embrace. I wonder if the same people that were so vocal during the two weeks of Shoreway filming are the same ones who are supporting its demolish in favor of a slower boulevard?


Cities change. Industries change. And decisions to stay small or to become big force some shaky growing pains between the “this is how we always do it” death spiral vs. the natural evolution of things.


So, a year after all that, it was interesting to me to go see how it all looked. How did Cleveland look?


I went to see it with a friend I recently made here, Priscilla Schilling; a friend that was introduced to me by a mutual friend we have in Cleveland. She’s a big Marvel fan and after we got our big bucket of popcorn, we sat in the third row, center.


In every major scene I saw the Cleveland I knew. I saw The Statler, the building where I lived when I first moved in 2003. I saw West 6th, just one block north of Studio Palmieri, where Rosa did my hair for six or seven years. I saw a car chase scene with Samuel L. Jackson that covered every block where my Statler neighbor Sonia and I used to walk on our regular Sunday excursions. I saw the stunning atrium of the Cleveland Museum of Art, which stands in for the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ main lobby.


Like a kid in a theme park, I had to restrain myself from constantly pointing to the screen and telling Priscilla, “Oh, that’s…!”


Watching Winter Soldier was like this multi-sensory overload where you begin to truly understand that sometimes when you look at things a different way, they really do begin to look differently.


There is nothing small about Captain America: Winter Soldier. It is the antithesis of small. It has a huge budget, huge stars and it makes Cleveland look like a giant. What I saw on the big screen was a city that looked beautiful, looked cultural and looked very sexy. When else does a city get a 136 minute and $176 million p.r. campaign?


After the film, I asked Priscilla, who is originally from Iowa and is now a longtime Austin resident, what she thought. “I’ve never been to Cleveland. So when I think Cleveland, I think brown brick buildings…That (CMA) atrium is really cool!”


I also asked Ryan Searles to chime in. Ryan is a former Tri-C Screenwriting student of mine, who, like Priscilla, is a massive fan of Marvel. While a current resident of Cleveland, he grew up in bucolic Ohio.


“Growing up surrounded by Northwest Ohio farmland, superhero comics were one of my first indicators that all the action does in fact happen on the coasts. So as a relatively recent transplant to Cleveland, it’s exciting to have arrived at roughly the same time as Marvel Studios. Having seen Cleveland stand in for New York and now DC, I now know how Toronto residents must have been feeling for years. It should break my sense of immersion, and in a way it does, but it’s worth it to see Nick Fury battling it out in front of my local library.”


In other words, what Ivan Schwarz and his team at The Greater Cleveland Film Commission did with Captain America: Winter Soldier, which opened #1 at the box office, is make Cleveland a global star.


Now that the whole world is watching, have local, skeptic eyes finally opened?



Reprinted with permission and gratitude from

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