Cleveland television's Leon Bibb stars in big-screen movie 'Made in Cleveland' premiering Thursday

'Made in Cleveland' puts city on the movie screen

CLEVELAND - There are butterflies in my stomach. If I could borrow the title from a much-acclaimed Hollywood film from the 1950s, I am nervous as a "cat on a hot tin roof." Elizabeth Taylor made reference to her feelings in that film.  She could have been speaking for me because the film in which I have a starring role is set to premiere Thursday.

"Made in Cleveland" is set to be splashed on the big screen of the Atlas Cinemas in Euclid.

The movie is an anthology of of eleven different stories, each able to stand alone, but each carries a theme of love. "Love of Country," I play the part of Thomas Williams, the father of a US Marine who is sent to the war in Afghanistan. The son's deployment sends a ripple throughout the Williams family.

"Love of "Country" was directed by Amy Swinderman, who helped me find deep emotions I could call upon in my real life to help me portray the father of a Cleveland family dealing with a variety of issues.

I have read of Hollywood actors who sometimes sit in the back of darkened theaters when their films premiere as they try to watch reactions of the people in the seats who come to view the movies.  I suspect I may be one of those actors because this marks my first venture into work where I actually have lines to speak on the big screen.

I have faced television news cameras in Cleveland on a daily basis for more than 30 years. In television news, I am comfortable. Although I have been on the stage in live theater, acting for the all-seeing eye of the movie camera was different. Still, I gave it my best in the several "Made in Cleveland" scenes which captured my words and actions.

I grew up watching many of the Hollywood greats on the silver screen. They have been among the many who have been my inspiration. During my participation in this part of "Made in Cleveland," I felt as if I were a big Hollywood star like those whom I watched as I sat in the darkened theaters of my life. There on the big screens, I watched Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Kirk Douglas and dozens of other stars. They and the superstars of today whom I watch are the people who inspired me to find deep meaning in the words of the screenwriters and suggestions of the director.

"I'm very excited about the film, which is the largest independent ever shot in Cleveland by a local crew," said Eric Swinderman, one of the producers. He, his wife, Amy, and Mark Pengryn have done a wonderful job of pulling together the different stories in the "Made in Cleveland" anthology.

After the premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday at the theater, "Made in Cleveland" will begin running for the general public June 21 on all five screens of the Atlas Lakeshore 7 Theaters.

On television during my newscasts, after an entertainment reporter's review of a movie, I would often tell the reporter to "save a seat on the aisle for me." I still hope to find a seat on the aisle where I can see the screen in all its scope. It will be a kick having a seat on the aisle and being on the screen at the same time. As the old song lyric goes, "Hooray for Hollywood." Let me add another thought: "Hooray for Cleveland!"

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