Valley well represented in Hollywood

An editorial cartoon published in last Sunday’s Tribune Chronicle shows something quite remarkable. On the day of the 85th annual Academy Awards, Editorial Cartoonist Rick Muccio depicted the Mahoning Valley natives – just the ones that Muccio could think of, mind you – that have made it large in cinema.

The cartoon featured 13 caricatures. They range from the ultra-famous like Chris Columbus, the Warner Brothers and Ed O’Neill, to the sort-of unknowns like Angelo Graham, John Zabruckey and Linda DeScenna, and everybody in between.

Looking at the assemblage on Muccio’s cartoon and one thing that comes to mind is, wow, what a film festival the Mahoning Valley could host.

Just one or two of these Valley natives making an appearance along with just one or two more sending surrogates would serve as an anchor. Add history and performing arts professors from local universities providing lectures. Add film showings (featuring the Valley natives) in strategic venues such as Powers or Stambaugh auditoriums or Packard Music Hall or on the side of a downtown Youngstown building, or on a screen erected on the Warren Community Amphitheatre stage. And add dinner, hotel and other entertainment packages. Pretty soon, we have a pretty big event.

The film festival could be just he beginning.

The Youngstown Business Incubator has found nationally recognized success by using a concept called the Youngstown Diaspora. The Diaspora – the scattering of any people from their place of origin – in YBI’s case targets Valley natives who have succeeded in the business world. YBI taps into their expertise by appealing to their natural connection to home and desire to help those here.

Rather surprisingly, the Mahoning Valley has a healthy Diaspora whose common background is in cinema. Check out Cartoonist Muccio’s complete list:

Warren JFK graduate Columbus, one of the most heralded movie directors in Hollywood today.

Youngstown Ursuline and Youngstown State graduate O’Neill, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors.

The Youngstown-born Warner Brothers., whose legacy is now one of the biggest motion picture empires in the world.

Warren G. Harding graduate Graham, winner of the Academy Award for Best Art Direction in ”The Godfather: Part II.”

Howland native DeScenna, nominated for Academy Awards for Best Art Director in ”Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” ”Blade Runner,” ”The Color Purple,” ”Rain Man,” and ”Toys.”

Harding grad Zabruckey, set designer for ”Battle Beyond the Stars” and ”Are We Not Men?”

The late Earl Derr Biggers, another Harding grad, best remembered for his Charlie Chan novels and who had many novels and plays adapted for the big screen.

Danny Ondrejko, a ”greensman” for 48 movies including ”Forrest Gump,” ”The Avengers,” ”Jurassic Park” and ”X-Men: First Class.” As an actor he got to play himself in ”Lethal Weapon 2.”

Jeff Schaffer of Howland, writer and director of the movie ”EuroTrip.”

The late Elizabeth Hartman, a Youngstown-born Golden Globe Award winner for best actress in ”A Patch of Blue.”

Austin Pendleton, yet another Harding grad, who won many Broadway awards and who has also appeared in more than 30 films.

Maureen McGovern of Boardman who sang the Oscar-winning renditions of ”The Morning After,” from ”The Poseidon Adventure,” and ”We May Never Love Like This Again” from ”The Towering Inferno.”

Dominic Sena of Niles, director of films starring Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, Robert Duvall, Angelina Jolie and David Duchovney.

Everybody in Trumbull and Mahoning counties can take a lot of pride in the talent the Mahoning Valley has produced. A reunion of that talent could become a major tourist draw. People entrusted with promoting the community should consider organizing a film festival featuring our native sons and daughters.