Since April 2008 the number of film productions in Michigan has skyrocketed. Never before could you experience three months in Southeast Michigan when such established stars as George Clooney, Robert DiNiro, Edward Norton, Christopher Walken, and Val Kilmer all made their way to our home state for projects. Simply, Hollywood is coming here. Stories of movies being filmed in Jackson, Novi, Brighton, and Detroit aren’t rumors – they are facts. For a variety of reasons, our beautiful state is making a name for itself as one of the best place in the country to make movies.
Most people know that the state passed legislation in April of 2008 that enabled Michigan to offer the highest tax incentive on film production in the country (40 to 42 percent dependent on the community in which the work is completed). The film incentive was established to bring revenue into Michigan and to get our residents working. With the highest unemployment rate in the nation, we need industries that can hire our citizens right away. Very few industries can set-up shop and begin work immediately like film productions can. Within weeks of the legislation passing, crews were on the ground filming in Michigan and the work has kept coming.
As word has spread throughout the industry about Michigan’s film production incentives, the number of film endeavors in the state has significantly increased. Now that more work is coming in, more and more Michigan residents are finding that they have skills that can transition nicely into the filmmaking industry. From actors and models to carpenters and artists, the skills required to participate in movie production are incredibly diverse. Each film production employs anywhere from 50 to 200 employees, and the goal of the incentive, and for all of us in Michigan, should be to have as many of those jobs filled by Michigan residents as possible.
The good news for all of us is that the feedback in Hollywood about Michigan’s film industry is overwhelmingly positive. We have an incredibly talented, skilled, and committed workforce that is ready and able to work. As a talent agency, we personally have had our actors working on all of the films such as “The Irishman” with Val Kilmer, “Stone” with Robert DiNiro, ”Whip It” with Drew Barrymore, “Gran Torino” with Clint Eastwood, “Up In The Air” with George Clooney, “Betty Ann Waters” with Hillary Swank and the upcoming Rob Reiner film, “Flipped.” These are all Michigan-based actors that, even as recently as two years ago, did not even dream that such opportunities would exist in their home state.
The producers that have used Michigan talent have been thrilled with their performances and work ethic. What does that mean for aspiring and current Michigan talent? That with increased confidence, Hollywood producers and directors may choose Michigan actors as featured performers in future productions. By establishing Michigan as a market with talented performers, films will be less inclined to hire talent from out of state and fly them here for filming. Instead, they will take advantage of the wonderful actors we have here in our state and hire Michigan residents.
The same goes for our crew base. It has been said that Michigan has to have a qualified crew base in order to inspire film production in our state, and that is absolutely true. When a film production comes into town, they need to know they can fill all the positions they will need on set, from camera and boom operators to sound technicians, accountants, hair stylists, and wardrobe specialists. It is a credit to the great educational institutions in the state that have been working diligently to get training programs up and running, qualifying the Michigan workforce for jobs in this emerging industry.
I have met with former engineers, autoworkers, and even attorneys who were once unemployed due to the economic downturn that are now benefiting from Michigan’s film industry. The film incentives have stimulated economic activity in our state unlike any other industry in the past two years.
The excitement for Hollywood in Detroit and the buzz around our film industry is growing every week. We believe that the productions in the state will keep moving forward and enable our Michigan stars to shine. We look forward to watching it all unfold and sharing the evolution of Michigan’s film industry with you in the weeks and months to come.