Film Studios in Michigan: Maybe I Was Wrong

In July of this year, I had the following to say about Michigan’s generous incentives for the film industry:

…While I’m thrilled that our little town, which has been beaten to hell by the recession these past several years, is experiencing a little bit of joy due to the presence of Barrymore and friends, I can’t say as I’m all that supportive of the aggressive Michigan incentives that brought them here. While I like the idea that we might be able to pick up some of the film industry work leaving Canada due to the unfavorable exchange rate, I don’t see as how it’s likely to have any long-term impact. It’s not as though studios will be building sound stages here, and really putting down roots… Generally speaking, I’m in agreement with Michael Shuman that corporate incentives don’t make good financial sense…

Well, it looks as though I might have been wrong. According to the Detroit News, a second film studio is now slated to open in Michigan. This one will be in downtown Detroit, in the former location of the MGM Grand casino, and, when up and running, they’re claiming that it could employ as many as 4,000. Here’s a clip:

…A former Pontiac auto plant and the defunct MGM Grand Casino will be converted into film production studios that will create 4,000 new direct jobs in Metro Detroit, boosting one of the state’s few fast-growing industries.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm will formally announce plans for the new studios during her State of the State address tonight.

An $86 million digital animation and visual effects studio to be called the Detroit Center Studios will set up shop in the former MGM Grand Casino downtown, and is set to open by the end of the year. In Pontiac, a $54 million film production studio called Motown Motion Picture Studios will be built at General Motors Corp.’s former Centerpoint plant, according to Granholm’s spokeswoman Liz Boyd…

I’m still a bit dubious. Just a few months ago, State Republicans were talking of capping the generous – “we’ll give you 40 cents back on every $1 you spend in Michigan” – incentives that have, according to the Michigan Film Office, now brought over 25 productions, and $100 million in revenue to the State. My sense was, given the State’s dismal budget situation, that the program was doomed, but it would seem that at least a few investors have been convinced by the Governor to invest in the infrastructure necessary to service the industry. (According to the Detroit News, the State is also offering a, “25 percent tax credit to companies investing in new film and digital media studios,” which may account for some of this new activity.) Anyway, I just thought that I should mark the first occasion of my being wrong with a post. For whatever reason, it looks like we might actually be attracting the infrastructure investment necessary to actually build an industry in Michigan. Here’s hoping that it works. And here’s hoping that we manage to keep at least some kind of a film industry here once another state adopts incentives more aggressive than ours.

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23 Comments

  1. Paw
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    According to the article producers shooting in certain distressed Michigan communities get an additional 2% on top of the 40%. Does anyone know if Ypsi’s on that list?

  2. tommy
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    You weren’t wrong. As soon as other states dissect Michigan’s ‘success through incentives’ as it currently stands, they will offer up bigger and better ones. When that happens, the film industry will drop Michigan like a prom dress and move on. They are no different from any other business in that they will seek out and find the most efficient (cheapest) way to produce a good or service.

    Gaining jobs in this state is a good thing, but what I see in this is a temporary gain at best.

  3. Posted February 4, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I must confess, I did a little time in the film/TV industry as a makeup artist. It has its perks (people are impressed with your job, free travel, free room and board, free food, adventure, set comradery, good pay if you’re good), but I enjoy NOT working in it far more than working in it, personally. There’s a lot of hypocrisy, bullshittery, status consciousness, sycophancy, unnecessary strife/drama, lechery, long ass hours, lack of appreciation, burdens on relationships, and overall stress for a job that essentially is just throwing tons of money at playing make-believe. I’d do it again if I were desperate for cash, but the glitz and glamor of it wears thin pretty quick. At least for me. Obviously plenty of other people like it just fine, or there wouldn’t be any makeup artists.

    So don’t worry, you can always find something to hate about the film industry in Michigan, even if it’s wildly successful and fixes everything.

  4. Posted February 4, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Not to mention the incomprehensibility of how many really awful scripts and painfully stupid ideas get produced.

  5. Paw
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    How about this for a movie idea:

    A ragtag group of neighborhood buddies in the rustbelt set out to revitalize their ailing economy by exporting free-range, smoked, cabbage-fed groundhog meat? It would be kind of like The Full Monty, but with groundhog slaughtering instead of stripping.

  6. Posted February 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    There’s someone who’s never tried to make a realistic looking fake thing involving fur or hair.

  7. Dirtgrain
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    What happened with the MGM Grand Casino ? Did it just go out of business?

    If the movie industry is convinced to invest in Michigan, build some infrastructure for movie making, then perhaps it would be more difficult for other states to compete?

  8. Steve Swan
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Wait. Can you make groundhog merkins?

    If you can provide them reliably, and in good numbers, I may be interested in Asian distribution.

  9. Edward PH
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    MGM is still here. They just built a new facility.

    And I can’t tell from the article, but it doesn’t sound as though there’s much, if any, Hollywood money in these local “studio” projects. For the most part, it looks like Michigan business people hoping to get into entertainment.

  10. Emma
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti is on the additional 2% list:
    http://cityofypsilanti.com/services/administration_services/planning_and_development/Economic%20Development/Resources%20for%20Starting%20a%20Business%20in%20Ypsilanti/Michigan%20Film%20Incentives

  11. Sue
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    The jury is still out. If these companies are here only because of the incentive, you can be sure someone else will trump us soon. And since we don’t seem to have the natural attributes necessary for a strong film industry, I’m assuming that is exactly what will happen.

  12. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    While lots of places might compete with Michigan for film industry dollars, don’t count us out as not having the “natural attributes necessary for a strong film industry.” (And please explain what that means. I’m going to take a guess here.)

    One thing all this investment will do is create an installed base (buildings, skilled workers, etc.). It’s hard to turn away from that once you pour the money in. We have being first and being aggressive going for us.

    We have a hard-working, friendly work force. Sure, so do lots of other places, but where else will thousands of over-qualified people line up for a couple of crappy jobs at Meijer or Target — or a film studio? We’re ready to supply workers by the boatload right now. (Hell, they lined up by the hundreds just to be extras in the most recent cattle call. Not too shabby.)

    We have the most fresh water coastline in the freakin’ world. I’m pretty sure celebrity types like to get out and play. Yeah, it’s pretty damn cold sometimes, but not nearly as bad as some places. And we do have at least some skiing, if not the best in the world. Up and comers can buy a big lodge up north for a fraction of what they would have to spend to impress their friends out west.

    We have land, lots of it, virtually free. How ’bout: You improve it, you can have it. Seems like a fair deal.

    I guess since we’ve lost all clout in Washington and have no money or jobs left, we are here for the taking. We offer ourselves for exploit. That’s gotta count for something.

    Any other resources?

  13. Posted February 5, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s pretty silly to put all of Michigan’s eggs in an industry as volatile as the film industry. Just my opinion.

    If you suggest doing that, why don’t we just open up a few more casinos to double the volatility?

  14. david krupin
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering if anyone knows how I might go about getting catering contracts for these movie locations.

    Thank you

  15. Irate
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I made Robert DiNero a sub sandwich and I’d like to know where to deliver it. Can someone help me out with that?

  16. Sandra A. Sapienza
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I am very interested in getting into the movie industry. I never grew out of wanting to be a model/movie star. At this stage in the game I would be very interested in TV Commercials. How do I get started in this through honorable channels. I am older now I was thinking maybe a Viagra commercial. LOL I resemble Sandra Bullock and have been asked for my autogragh. Just so you know what my look is.

  17. A thought
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Check out Hollywood 48101

  18. Posted June 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Sandra, there used to be a director that would leave comments here. I believe his name was Steve Swan. If you want, I could pass along your contact information.

  19. amused1
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Curt, don’t forget Michigan offers a good variety of architectural styles and landscapes.

  20. Cali
    Posted January 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    So, are they still making movies in Michigan? I haven’t heard anything in a while.

  21. Andy C
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    The summer was pretty good. It’s always kind of quiet over the Winter.

  22. RiyaButler
    Posted May 25, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Hey there,
    I am an American. I prefer to Set up an Animation Studio in India. Currently i’m exploring for artists. I selected India for the reason that it is more cost effective as compared with U.S. I need to know the methods for starting up a small business in India, especially an animation studio.

    Can you guys please help me out?

  23. Riya Butler
    Posted May 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi there my friends,
    Just joined the gang. Hope to have good time here.

    luv
    Riya

One Trackback

  1. […] still inclined to say that the incentives are bad policy, but, having seen what the film industry did for Baltimore, I’m willing to keep an open mind. […]

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