Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communications Media

First Advisor

Mary Beth Leidman, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Nurhaya Muchtar, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jeff Ritchey, D.Ed.


The purpose of this mixed methods dissertation was to comparatively explore the impact of the film industry in three Rust Belt cities. In doing so, this study creates a regional composite of the film industry as an engine of economic development in the Rust Belt. Additionally, it assesses the effect of state sponsored film production incentives on regional economies. Qualitative analysis of interviews with regional film commissioners was synthesized with Geographic Information Systems analysis of the regional film industry to evaluate the need for, and effectiveness of, film production incentives. The qualitative data consisted of five interview transcripts that resulted from interviews conducted using the phenomenological method. The primary quantitative data was drawn from public databases made available by the United States Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Secondary sources included governmental and non-governmental economic impact studies of the film industry and film production incentives. Three primary themes emerged from this study: Film production has an impact on economic development, in the context of employment and infrastructure; regions hoping to incorporate media production as part of an economic development strategy need to cultivate a positive experience for media producers who have myriad location options; and production incentives play a critical role in fostering film-friendly environments in nascent media producing communities. Finally, this dissertation allowed the researcher to analyze three media producing communities at various stages of maturity, which resulted in the creation of a media production matrix that outlines a framework for non-traditional media locales to develop stable cultures of media production.