time to rein in the film incentives in michigan?

According to Today’s “New York Times,” several states that have, in the last few years, promoted generous incentives in order to lure film producers, are now beginning to consider limits. Michigan, in case you’re curious, is one of these. A Michigan State Senate committee just moved to rein in the Michigan Film Office and cap the state’s film industry rebates at $50 million a year. Here’s a clip:

…Michigan, its own budget sagging, is in the middle of a hot political fight over a generous 40 percent rebate on expenditures to filmmakers that was carried out, with little opposition, only last April. Producers of films for studios like Warner Brothers and the Weinstein Company rushed to cash in, just as homegrown businesses were squeezed by a new business tax and surcharge. Rebellious legislators from both parties are now looking to put a cap on the state’s annual film spending, which some have estimated could quickly hit $200 million a year…

“It’s just horrible right now,” Mike Bishop, a Republican state senator, said of Michigan’s financial condition. Mr. Bishop initially backed the film incentive. But he grew alarmed at outlays that he estimated could quickly exceed $110 million a year to subsidize movies like “Gran Torino,” directed by Clint Eastwood, and “Youth in Revolt,” a comedy by the filmmaker Miguel Arteta.

Anthony Wenson, chief operating officer of the Michigan Film Office, said the actual amount of credits granted was only about $25 million so far. The annual number is impossible to reckon, he said, because plans for future projects are in flux.

In any case, Nancy Cassis, another Republican who was the only Michigan senator to oppose the incentives when they began last spring, said she expected to see them capped with bipartisan backing later this year. And she does not look for Hollywood to hang around when the money dries up.

“These are not long-term jobs,” Ms. Cassis said. “If just one state offers more, they’ll be out of here before you can say ‘lickety-split.’ “

So, I guess we can stop wondering whether or not any big production companies are going to acquire the Visteon plants in Wixom and Ypsilanti with thoughts of turning them into sound stages, as has recently been rumored.

I know things could still turn out for the best, but right now it looks like I’m soon going to be in a position to say, “I told you so.” For what it’s worth, I won’t enjoy it. I’d like nothing better than to see the film industry set up shop here and put down roots. I just don’t see how it’s likely.

Another thing… According to the article, 40 states now offer inventive packages for the film industry. And my guess is that most of those were in place well before the Michigan incentives were announced a few months ago, in April. Is it just me, or does it always seem as though Michigan’s late to the party? (See the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor.)

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4 Comments

  1. Doug
    Posted October 13, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    rein

  2. Paw
    Posted October 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I was going to tell him last night, but I didn’t have the heart.

  3. Paw
    Posted October 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    We should have incentives for the film industry, but just for those companies making “adult” films. Hell, Nailin’ Paylin could have been filmed here!

  4. Doug
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=727

    Just a fun read at one of the consistently best blogs in the multiverse.

    D

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