Actors Keith Gerchak, a former Clevelander, and Marisa Guterman met when auditioning for a “short funny Jewish character” for a television pilot. The show never made it to air, but their newly formed partnership took off immediately and sparked the creation of their movie, “Lost & Found in Cleveland.”
In the time it took for the duo to finish their coffees after the audition, they came up with the idea for their feature-length movie, which follows five story lines that all revolve around a traveling antiques show where their items, and themselves, are appraised.
Gerchak said the movie is similar to “Best in Show,” which follows multiple story lines ending at one grand event, without the mockumentary style, mixed with the traditional storytelling of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We wanted to explore something that’s really character driven,” said Guterman, who attends University Synagogue in Los Angeles.
Although the pair lives in Los Angeles, they didn’t want to shoot a film there because it’s “boring.”
Gerchak, who is also an architect, sold his home in Lakewood last year, but he returns to visit family and was part of The Temple-Tifereth Israel’s High Holy Days choir in Beachwood. During these trips, he would bring Guterman, a Los Angeles native, who quickly fell in love with the city, leading to the decision to film on location.
“I’ve fallen madly in love with the city and I think it’s important for people to see what the city really is,” Guterman said.
The film travels throughout the city, highlighting Slavic Village on the southeast side of Cleveland to the lobby of The 925 Building in downtown Cleveland, which will host the traveling antiques show.
Soon after their decision, Gerchak flew to Cleveland to visit his mother and they both explored the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton together for the first time. Among the dinosaurs and planetarium, he found two animatronics and a “Wizard of Oz” exhibit explaining how the story represented different values of the American Dream. That’s when the idea to update the story to fit today’s theme popped into Gerchak’s head.
“We explore some very serious things in modern America – racism, ageism, homophobia – all of them are embodied in these objects and those objects can embody our hopes and our dreams.” Gerchak said. “And that’s the overall theme of the film that in today’s social-economics, what I think audiences are looking for is hope.”
Although the pair tackle some heavy topics, there’s still a “smart humor” to the movie, which Gerchak said helps explore the serious issues of everyday life.
The cast hasn’t been revealed just yet, but the pair said they want to start shooting “before the snow flies.” An open casting call will take place for locals to have a chance to appear in the film.
“It’s a coming home story,” Gerchak said.
“Keith always described Cleveland as a phoenix of a city, it has the potential to rise again,” Guterman said. “We’re targeting Cleveland at such an interesting time where there is so much going on, there’s so much flourishing in the city. ... We just think it’s important to show that to the rest of the country. Cleveland is inspirational.”