Despite the Great Recession and an increase in unemployment, Michigan is on the verge of going Hollywood. Since Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the Michigan Film Incentives bill as a law in April, forty-two percent in rebates on film money has been spent as one of the most generous film tax incentives in America.
This is paving the way for the state in developing a rising film industry, where upcoming films such as Drew Barrymore’s Whip It and the Ben Carson bio pic Gifted Hands starring Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. are being shot in Michigan. Several residents are getting the opportunity to get cast as extras in a mainstream picture, while most decide to strike out on their own in setting up their own production company or group to make their own films.
“We think trying to increase Michigan film production is certainly a worthy endeavor” said Tricia Kinley, director of tax and budget policy for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
However, working in front or behind the camera involves on-the-job training, acting classes, and internships from programs and universities — such as Holland-based TicTock Studios, which began offering classes in western Michigan and is now doing the same in Detroit. “We have to get the people trained and ready to go” states Dori Depree, head of its educational outreach. “If we have them trained and ready to work on a film, the producers are going to be pleased and want to keep coming back to make films. Realizing Michigan has so many people who have been laid off, this is just a perfect fit.”
Or is it? According to Kinley, “the incentives are so off-the-charts generous, and most of these tax refunds are going to go to companies that are unlikely to make Michigan their primary location.”
However, some disagree, for they believe that Michigan having a film industry is a good thing despite the possibilities of being expensive due to the decline in the economy. “For a lot of people,” said 20-year-old Wayne State student Ben Dresser, a production assistant, “it gives them a spark of hope that there’s a newer industry coming.”
A newer industry that is for everyone — either for jobs in acting, writing, producing, directing, or even something humbly. “This is an industry that can employ anybody” said 26-year-old Russell DeVriendt of Wixom, who was once unemployed but is now working full-time as a location scout. “Whether you’re an accountant or a carpenter, this industry has a job for you.”