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On Location: Michigan to Hollywood -- 'Get off my lawn'


Like the Clint Eastwood character in the Detroit-area-set movie "Gran Torino," the new governor of Michigan is telling Hollywood to get off his lawn.

Rick Snyder, a Republican who was elected governor of the Great Lakes State on a platform to curb spending, wants to gut Michigan's film tax credit program, one of the most generous in the country. In his $45-billion budget plan, unveiled Thursday, Snyder proposed reducing or eliminating various state tax credits, including those awarded for filming.

If approved by the state's legislature, the move would be a blow to Hollywood, which has flocked to Michigan in recent years to take advantage of the generous tax break. Snyder has proposed setting aside a meager $25 million for film incentives from a jobs fund. In 2010, Michigan approved more than $100 million in film tax credits.

Since offering a film tax credit of up to 42% in 2008, the state has attracted more than 100 movie and TV productions, including “Transformers 3” and the new ABC cop drama “Detroit 1-8-7.”

Spending on film productions in the state has mushroomed to $224 million in 2009 from $2 million in 2007, according to the Michigan Film Office.

“The Michigan Film Office remains open for business and will continue our work to grow Michigan’s film industry,'' Michelle Begnoche, a spokeswoman for Michigan Film Office, said in a statement. "Under the governor’s proposed budget, $25 million would be allocated for film incentives beginning in 2012. We will work within this framework to make our film incentives more Michigan friendly for homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs while continuing to attract key projects to the state.”

Scrapping the current film tax credit, however, will make it hard for Michigan to stay competitive, said Jeff Begun, a partner in the Incentives Office, which advises companies on film tax credits. "Michigan is going to be relegated to a minor role in the film industry," he said.

Although wildly popular with filmmakers, Michigan's film program has come under fire as of late. A report by the Michigan Senate's Fiscal Agency last year concluded that nearly half of the expenditures that qualified for the state's media production credits did not affect the Michigan economy.

While most states have retained their film tax credit programs, and in some cases actually increased them, film subsidies are drawing more scrutiny as states grapple with massive budget deficits.

New Mexico's newly elected Gov. Susana Martinez recently proposed reducing the state's film tax credit to 15% from 25% as part of a plan to balance the state's budget.

Ohio Film Office Director Jeremy Henthorn was asked to resign last month as new Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. Iowa's new Gov. Terry Branstad plans to dismantle the state's incentives in the wake of a scandal there. Nick Paleologos, head of the Massachusetts Film Office, also recently resigned in a cost-cutting move.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Credit: Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros.


Michigan report questions value of film tax breaks

Hollywood on the Huron: Michigan now a film mecca

New Mexico Gov. calls for big cut in film tax credit program

Iowa tax credit program racked by scandal 


Comments () | Archives (13)

Film Tax Incentives remain available in many states and around the world. Contact Film Budget.com for advice on where to shoot. http://filmbudget.com

Even with reduced Tax subsidies, Michigan is still extremely cheap to make films. Other States have cut their incentives even more:
You have the ability to shoot anywhere(incredible City-scapes) for almost nothing(the whole place is nearly empty). Then combine the midwestern work ethic and the ability to get things done on short notice, and you get on-schedule shoots. Plus, SAG has no presence there, so you get limitless extras at minimum wage. Michigan is still way up there.

Michigan doesn't seem to know much about Hollywood anyway. In Detroit, they are trying to get a statue built of Robocop to commemorate that film series, considering the cyborg was a Detroit police offer.

But funny enough, all 3 Robocop movies were filmed in either Texas or Georgia. The filmmakers never stepped foot in Michigan. Why on Earth would they want to erect a statue there?

Rick, Rick, Rick...what have you done! You cooked the California Goose before it laid its Golden Egg! What happened to your campaign promise to "look at the numbers?" Just another two-faced politician. The extra set of eyes does nothing for vision when your head is up your...

With apologies to Miss Muffet


Little Rick Snyder,
Had no insider,
To help him along the way.
He cut the incentive,
Called it inventive,
While Edison turned in his grave.

(Thomas Alva Edision was a close friend of Henry Ford and inventor of the motion picture camera)

I hope you are right, Movie Guy. I just wonder why half of $224 million isn't good enough.

Let's face it, every dollar saved by the film studios goes into the producer's pockets so that they can buy a bigger home in the hills.

Absolutely and good points Movie Guy.

1. This announcement is just a proposal. It must go thru legislature which
generally supports the Michigan Film Incentive

2. Michigan crew rates are very low.
3. Location costs are extremely low, and beautiful.
4. Michigan has amazing locations for every setting requirement
5. 60% of residents support the incentive so it will remain in some form

Time will tell the tale but the Gov. is cutting with broad strokes everywhere.

http://filmbudget.com - The international leader in worldwide film budgets and schedules and global film tax incentives.

Having just done 3 movies back-to-back in Michigan, I can say that they have the most generous filmmaking incentive (if also perhaps the most complicated). And that's exactly why a bunch of people were filming there. However, it was probably TOO generous to last in its current form. This is an old story however- happened in Lousianna too.

BTW outside of LA, NY, and a few other large cities your extras aren't going to be SAG anyways.

Filmed in Flint, Michigan, in September 2009, Independent feature, Year of the Rat, Hired 90 percent local cast and crew, denied film credit. Film office backdated, fabricated documents, in order to cover-up their incompetence and favoritism. Contacted and corresponded with Michigan state senator Cassis who was sympathetic and wanted to go after film office for showing favoritism to bigger players, who rarely if ever employed local hires for paid positions. Finally told Mi. film office to shove their rebate, that I didn't need any state welfare to film my movie. It's about time the state of Michigan wised up to a rebate system that was nothing more that state sponsored welfare for the biggest media players. Raised all the money necessary to film and complete my movie through proceedings from stock market investments in one of the worst economic downturns in US history. All editing, post, effects and additional scenes to be completed in California. Even though I met some great people while filming In Flint, I'm hesitant about ever going back after my experience with the Peoples Republic of Michigan's film office. Good riddance.

Ron Campise
Exec Producer, Cosmicon LLC
Year of the Rat

Someone, somewhere with the financial journalistic chops, will pull back the curtain to reveal what a ripoff this is for the ordinary citizens of states that offer tax incentives. Friends of mine in physical production in studios are continual agog at what the states like Michigan allow them to get away with.

FilmEmerge Asks for Your Help to Keep the Michigan Film Incentives

Gov. Snyder told us yesterday as he delivered his budget proposal “This is a defining moment.” That is an understatement for those of us that are invested in Michigan’s emerging film industry. Most agree that the tax incentives needed to be tweaked, but to completely pull the rug out from the industry just as it begins to gain some real traction is ridiculous. The film incentives are not some entitlement program that needs to be trimmed. They represent investment in a new industry for the state. They represent personal reinvention for thousands of Michiganians. They represent an investment in the development of a creative class to diversify and enhance our manufacturing based economy.

Show your support for the Michigan film industry by telling us your story by email or video at info@filmemerge.com.


Hmm?. The place is always empty and you can get scores of extras for minimum wage. Way to sell tax credits to the people of Michigan Movie Guy. No wonder the glamour of Hollywood is fading fast there.

Every dollar spent on film production in either Ohio or Michigan provides more jobs for residents of each state.


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