Hollywood in Michigan: Yay or nay?

By |2018-01-16T04:04:35-05:00October 1st, 2009|Entertainment|

Could glitzy red-carpet appearances like Drew Barrymore’s become everyday events here in Michigan? With large tax incentives and a growing community of film-industry professionals, it seems to be a possibility. But that comes with increasing concerns about the economic benefits of the Hollywood invasion.
In 2008, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a package of bills that give filmmakers a 40-42 percent tax break for doing their business here. The move has already attracted several huge projects, with the Michigan Film Office reporting over 35 new films last year alone.
One of the first big productions was the Lifetime biopic “Prayers for Bobby,” in which Sigourney Weaver plays a uber-religious mom who becomes a gay-rights crusader after her queer son commits suicide. The film was shot in various Detroit-area locations, including Royal Oak and Ferndale, and was an Emmy-nominated triumph that put both Michigan and the LGBT community in the spotlight.
On Monday, shooting began in Holland on screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Milk.” Other projects like “Whip It!,” Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” and “Youth in Revolt,” starring Michael Cera, have also brought temporary jobs to thousands who are desperate for work, as well as an influx of spending to struggling businesses. A recent Michigan State University Study says that the film incentives brought $65 million in spending to the state. And the Michigan Film Office reports at least 10 new films to begin shooting in the coming months, and over a dozen in production now.
That means more money for local businesses, like when Drew Barrymore and her crew shot for a few days in Ferndale, holding base camp at AJ’s Cafe and filming a critical scene inside Mother Fletcher’s vintage clothing store. “They rented the building for three days, and they also bought a lot of stuff,” said owner Eric Fletcher.
There is, however, increasing opposition facing the booming film industry here. Conservative think-tank The Mackinaw Center has been critical of the incentives since they began. “At first, the criticisms focused on the pure principle of the thing: state government has no business trying to pick corporate winners from losers in the marketplace,” said Mackinaw Center communications specialist Kathy Hoekstra in a recent online post. Hoekstra goes on to criticize the MSU study, which does not factor in the costs of the tax credit in determining the amount of income. She says that the Film Office has not released enough information to the public, and chronicles problems with abuse that have happened in other states, though there are no such allegations in Michigan.
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