ROBERT DEL VALLE — Over the past few months, I've had the privilege to speak to a number of people whose lives were changed either directly or indirectly by our area's growing importance as a location for shooting films. The talks ranged over a number of subjects (including, yes, George Clooney sightings), but the one topic brought up in each conversation dealt with the importance of the tax incentives. What I heard put a very human perspective on the issue … and the words came back to me after reading a variety of comments made by other individuals in Lansing and elsewhere.
Actor Jimmy Doom, for instance, made this observation after working on Kill The Irishman, a production with nearly all of its key scenes shot right here in Detroit. "The incentives are incredibly important,” says Doom. “The studios that make these movies are major corporations, and they're going to make them where the business climate is most agreeable. Having said that, it's been my experience that people who do make movies here fall in love with the place — and the people — and are eager to work here again."
Location scout Dave Krieger (who also worked on Kill The Irishman) concurs. "Without (incentives), Michigan would not be a place that Hollywood would even remotely be interested in … despite the fact that our landscape can double for 90% of the country,” Krieger explains. “Like any business, Hollywood is driven by finances. Anything that can make it easier to produce a film here will increase the likelihood of them bringing their productions over. And we need to develop this industry! We need to build stages for round-the-year shooting. We need to build a labor pool with solid experience. Once these goals are accomplished, then we can discuss reducing the incentives."
Actress Cindy Chu worked on Red Dawn and (among other delightful experiences) saw tanks rolling into the empty K-Mart HQ in Troy. "Look how many films have already been made here!” exclaims Chu. “I have so many friends who have launched their union film careers through working on projects in Michigan. It's given numerous people jobs … not to mention the huge boost for all the side industries that see the runoff — hotels, restaurants, catering companies, camera rental, truck rental and security teams. People are talking about how much money is being taken out of the state and given back to the production companies, but they're not looking at the big picture … that without these films here, there would be a lot less money coming into the state. We're no longer just the dying state that used to be an automobile empire; we're now the New Hollywood."
Yeah, you heard me — jobs! There are literally hundreds of stories like these — stories that are remarkably similar to the accounts given by people who first flocked to this area when our automotive industry was in its infancy. Think about it — wouldn't it be wonderful to see the words "Imported from Detroit" printed across movie screens across the globe? Just an idea. | PD