New report shows Michigan film incentives work, backers say

By Olivia Pulsinelli
Business Review West
April 8, 2010

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of Michigan’s film incentives, and supporters are encouraged by the growth the industry has experienced in that time.

“We are seeing progress on a lot of different fronts that are very encouraging,” said Ken Droz, communications manager for the Michigan Film Office.

Gov. Granholm cited this progress in her weekly radio address last Friday.

“Michigan’s film incentive program has made our state one of the top three in the nation for the production of all types of media,” Granholm said. “An entire new industry is emerging in Michigan, one that’ll help keep our talented young people here.”

In its 2009 annual report released March 1, the Film Office stated it received refundable tax credit applications from 126 companies and approved 62 last year. Of those approved, 46 completed work in 2009.

“Filming expenditures in Michigan have increased from $125 million in 2008 to an estimated $223.6 million in 2009,” according to the report.

That figure was just $2 million in 2007.

More than 4,000 jobs for Michigan crews were created in 2009, and another 4,000 were created for actors, including extras and day players, the report stated.

The total estimated credit paid by the state also increased from nearly $48 million in the 2008 report to $68.7 million in the 2009 report.

Critics of the incentives have called for changes to or elimination of the tax credits at various times over the past two years. But Droz and other supporters say the state needs to let it play out for at least three to five years to see the industry’s roots take hold.

“The incentive program has been a success insofar as film production is concerned,” the report stated.

Although Hangar4 2 in Walker and 10 West Studio in Manistee were established — and five other studio projects are in the works — no infrastructure credit has been claimed yet.

Local investment in film is one of the next elements Droz would like to see grow in Michigan, along with infrastructure.

“But if the studios are built tomorrow or not, the infrastructure’s beyond the four walls and a ceiling to shoot inside,” he said, noting that infrastructure includes things like equipment suppliers, decision makers, artists, writers and directors.

The Film Office also is working to diversify the industry beyond film to increase the amount of full-time jobs created.

“Video games are the next step; television is the next step,” Droz said. “If we can get more episodic series here, (there will be) more continuity, more full-time employment, more annualized employment. That’s starting to take shape.”

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