Thursday, April 30, 2009

Luring showbiz means understanding business

By Olivia Pulsinelli | Michigan Business Review | April 30, 2009

Michigan's year-old film incentives have sparked debate in the state -- but it's sparked activity, as well.

Last week, Compass Film Academy's alumni board presented its 10th annual 24 Hour Film Festival in Grand Rapids, and advisory board member Ralph Winter was one of three judges at the event. Winter, a producer at 20th Century Fox for the past 10 years, has produced more than 25 films, including the "X-Men" trilogy and the upcoming "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

He spoke with Business Review reporter Olivia Pulsinelli about Hollywood's perspective of the film industry in Michigan.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TV contract approved for Howell's Parker Campus

By Leah Boyd • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • April 28, 2009

The Howell Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a contract that will allow a Ferndale-based entertainment company to use the district’s Parker Campus in Marion Township as a filming site for the TV series “The Wannabees.”

Three board members voted against the eight-month contract with Savvy Productions out of concerns the agreement would prohibit use of the school next academic year if an opportunity arose. The board also approved the agreement conditionally, calling for an amendment that would require both the board and the entertainment company to approve any necessary extensions to the deal. As written, the contract allows the company a six-month extension by giving a 30-day notice.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Film-industry professionals say state is well-positioned to draw projects

By Special Writer Anne Duffy | The Ann Arbor News | April 27, 2009

The film industry is exploding in Michigan, and Mike Kelly has helped light the fuse.

The Ann Arbor actor has the lead in two movies premiering locally this spring. He is in negotiations for two more films being shot in Michigan - one of them scheduled to begin filming in May in Ann Arbor.

With production companies like the $146 million Unity Studios coming to Allen Park and creating thousands of high-paying jobs for skilled workers, Kelly envisions Michigan's budding film industry contributing its fair share to lead this state out of its economic quagmire.

Christian Filmmaker Examines World Orphan Crisis Through Inspiring New Documentary

Source: | April 27, 2009

Holland, MI ( April 27, 2009 - Works of Heart Productions, L.L.C., a West Michigan film company, has launched a new documentary project entitled Every 2 Seconds.

Every 2 Seconds is the first-of-it’s-kind Christian documentary that explores not only the international orphan crisis but what’s being done to address the crisis and why it should matter. The project is a labor of love for Producer/ Director Kim de Blecourt and her Holland-based crew.

“Every two seconds another child becomes an orphan,” notes de Blecourt. “There are currently 143 million orphans worldwide, yet less than 1/10th of 1 percent will ever be adopted. Foster care and adoption are intimate ways to become involved with this worldwide epidemic, yet it isn’t only about increasing adoptions – that alone won’t resolve the magnitude of this crisis. It’s about addressing the issue of care for the world’s most vulnerable.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lack of Movie Production Has Hollywood Scrounging

By Lauren Horwitch | The Wrap | April 22, 2009

Not even a booming box office can offset the lack of new investors, the worldwide credit crunch and a suffering DVD and foreign sales market.


The slowdown hasn’t stopped Michigan and Louisiana from building multi-million-dollar production facilities. Producer Jimmy Lifton *announced plans last week to build a $146-million, 750,000-square foot production studio factory and village in Allen Park, Mich.

Michigan Bests Louisiana for $146-million Studio Project

Source: | April 22nd, 2009

Michigan’s aggressive film production attraction efforts have helped land Burbank, California-based Unity Studios to launch a $146-million state-of-the-art production studio in Allen Park, about 10 miles from downtown Detroit. According to reports, Allen Park beat out a location in Louisiana for the complex.

Unity Studios will be majority owned and operated by a group of investors from Los Angeles and Michigan, with Jimmy Lifton of California as the president. The associated Lifton Institute for Media Skills will implement one of the largest retraining programs ever enacted in Michigan. Out-of-work skilled and unskilled labor will receive on-the-set training and production experience, giving students production credits.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Movie studios tout job creation to lawmakers

Source: Reuters Tue Apr 21, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's major film and television studios on Tuesday began a new push to educate U.S. lawmakers about the entertainment industry by touting job creation in the recession and media's global trade surplus.

The lobbying effort by the Motion Picture Association of America , which represents the key film and TV studios in governmental affairs, comes after the U.S. Senate in February stripped $246 million in tax breaks for entertainment companies from President Barack Obama 's $ 787 billion stimulus package .

In a study released on Tuesday, the MPAA said the entertainment industry employs 2.5 million U.S. workers and production is increasingly moving to states outside California and New York.

The movement away from the epicenters of film and TV is due in many cases to tax incentives that lure producers.

Allen Park unveils plan to build production studio

By Mike Hicks | The Michigan Journal | 4/21/09

Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka, Hollywood film executive Jimmy Lifton and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, announced at Allen Park City Hall their plans to build a $146 million media production studio factory and village. The studio will sit on 104 acres of land at Southfield Road and Enterprise Drive in Allen Park.

Unity Studios will be constructed in phases, with the first set to begin within 30 to 45 days and focusing on the building of soundstages and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills. The institute will mark one of the largest retraining programs ever enacted in Michigan, readying out-of-work skilled and unskilled laborers for careers in the entertainment industry. Up to 3,000 union jobs are expected to be created, with preference being given to Allen Park residents and laid off workers from across the region.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chatting with Mike Binder


Michigan has always been a muse for Mike Binder.

In films like "Crossing the Bridge" and "The Upside of Anger," the former Detroiter has woven his hometown into the fiber of his projects. He's doing it again, this time with a Fox sitcom pilot that could be picked up later this year.

"Two Dollar Beer," written, directed and executive-produced by Binder, is about a group of young, blue-collar friends in metro Detroit who are dealing with a changing world. Sounds about right, right about now.

Binder spoke about the sitcom from Los Angeles recently, where his hectic schedule fits the old axiom that dying is easy, comedy is hard. He also talked about Michigan's film incentives, for which he was a leading proponent.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Down River Studio Details | April 18, 2009

Above is one of the first renderings of the announced $146 Million Unity Studios project in Allen Park. The scope of this project is massive and once completed will be more like a city within a city. As I mentioned previously, the project will house offices, sound stages, production facilities, educational facilities, as well as retail --- a fully comprehensive film mecca.

The complex’s educational facilities will be home to one of the most ambitious retraining programs ever attempted. The goal is to help the 1000s of unemployed find skills and specialties in the film industry based on knowledge they already pocess. The project will add over 3000 jobs once completed. Downriver residents will receive priority hiring.

Although an official construction start date has not been announced, late summer or early fall seems likely.

Update #1: Inital pre construction prep could begin within 30-60 days.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Skilled labor, facilities key to Michigan's movie success

By Tom Long / The Detroit News / April 17, 2009

So far, Michigan's record of success at the movie box office is spectacular.

Of course, that's because only one of the 35 films shot in Michigan during 2008 has actually made it into movie theaters across the nation. That would be Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino," which cost less than $35 million to make and took in $146 million in North American theaters.

No other movie made here in 2008 is likely to have that kind of success. In fact, most of the film productions were low-budget affairs that could go straight to DVD if they surface at all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is Michigan film-friendly enough?

By Olivia Pulsinelli | Michigan Business Review | April 16, 2009

While Michigan's film-incentive program is still in its infancy, many in the industry say the state still has work to do.

"We just have to get moving," said Deb Havens, founding and current chair of the West Michigan Film and Video Alliance. "We're really not in any position to kiss this off. Michigan is in very big need -- and so is the rest of our country. It would be great if we could actually turn around some of this economic panic, and we've already gone so far."

In the one year the incentives have been on the books, 35 approved projects have completed their work in the state. According to the Michigan Film Office's 2008 annual report, refundable tax credits totaled nearly $50 million.

An economic-impact study Michigan State University conducted in February reported that, through a multiplier effect, film expenditures generated a total of $93.8 million in state output last year. The study predicts total expenditures will grow 187 percent from 2008 to 2012.

Cassis Praises Film Studio That Granholm Brought to Michigan

By Wizardkitten | April 16, 2009

Get a load of this. Cassis is happy that Unity Studios is coming to Allen Park, but she refuses to acknowledge what brought the studio here, instead giving all the credit to studio head Jimmy Lifton.

“This is one of the most exciting developments in recent years,” said Cassis, R-Novi. “It’s a tribute to the commitment, perseverance, and enthusiasm of Jimmy Lifton. He demonstrates the impact that one person with a clear vision can have on our economy.”

Who's vision Nancy? That one person this time was Jennifer Granholm - and if you want to get real technical, the biggest push came from Republican Bill Huizenga, and this actually started many years ago. Back in 2004, the West Michigan Film Video Alliance formed to promote Michigan's movie potential. After "The Road to Perdition" and "8 Mile" were shot in the state, people began to sit up and take notice of the money and jobs that accompanied production. By September 17th of 2005, an editorial in the GR Press endorsed the idea - with the tax incentives of places like Canada, Louisana, and New Mexico already set as our target.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

State of the art film studio coming to MI | April 14, 2009

LANSING -- The following is a message from Gov. Granholm:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced Michigan’s aggressive film production attraction efforts have helped land Burbank, California-based Unity Studios to launch a $146-million state-of-the-art production studio in Allen Park. The project is expected to initially create up to 121 new jobs, including 83 directly by the company. At full operation, Unity Studios, factoring in related business and film and television productions, expects to employ up to 3,000.

“We are working hard to build a diversified economy and create good-paying jobs for our talented workforce,” Granholm said. “As a result of our aggressive film incentives enacted just a year ago, we are not only bringing new investment to the burgeoning film production community in Michigan, we are putting in place the infrastructure for an industry that will support long-term job growth and opportunity in new, creative sectors.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Senator raises pressure to spell out film spending

By Christopher Behnan • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • April 13, 2009

The state Senate Finance Committee has directed Michigan Film Office Director Janet Lockwood to provide a breakdown of the money individual film companies spent in the state while filming here last year.

Committee Chairwoman Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, has requested that Lockwood provide the information by April 27. Lockwood is scheduled to appear before Cassis' committee three days later.

Cassis said Lockwood omitted that information from the film office's scant, three-page annual report. The report did say that film companies will receive a total of $48 million in rebates for those movies; spent a total $125 million in Michigan; and created 2,800 temporary jobs on 35 films in 2008.

TV sitcom for tweens to be shot in Michigan


The Ferndale-based S3 Entertainment Group announced plans today to produce and film a television series entirely in Michigan.

Titled “The Wannabes,” it’s described as a tween sitcom filled with singing and dancing. It’s set to star members of a real-life teen group called Savvy.

S3EG is partnering on the project with Stern-LeMaire Productions, a Texas-based company that manages Savvy, whose members also are from Texas, according to online biographies of the group’s members.

Shooting is supposed to start in June. Jeff Spilman of S3EG said today that he expects to have a virtually 100% Michigan crew.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Filmmakers in need of the perfect locales


You don't find the filmmakers; the filmmakers find you.

So what locales catch their eye?

"It just depends on the story," said Mike Grabemeyer, head of locations for the Michigan Film Office, who has found himself looking for sunflower fields one week and town squares with courthouses the next. "I can't predict in two months what I'll be looking for."

The film office has more than 1,700 locations for producers from its research and from submissions from people and businesses. Grabemeyer always is looking for more, with an emphasis that pictures must be submitted on a disc.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Letter: Leave Michigan film credit law alone

by Rep. Roy Schmidt | Grand Rapids | April 10, 2009

The Press editorial "Don't pan movie law yet" is absolutely dead on. The jobs created by the film and entertainment business are entry level positions that are for the most part taking the place of industrial jobs we have lost. It is good work, provides re-training on-the-job and pays a livable wage.
In my district alone, we have seen a huge increase in the demand for stage and theatrical workers. Experienced hands are being sought which leaves a hole in our supply of loaders, stage hands and some skilled positions for shows and conventions at the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place. Grand Rapids has made great progress in developing entertainment sectors and boasts of not only the Van Andel Arena but the Walker DeltaPlex and downtown's now famous Intersection. Plans are to build an amphitheater and expand the B.O.B. Other entertainment venues aren't far behind.
To cut short the growth in this industry would be shortsighted and have enormous implications as we all work so hard to get people back to work in Michigan. I will ask my House colleagues to vote no on this bill should it be introduced. Thanks to The Press for seeing and expressing this issue so clearly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

lm Industry comes Up North to Michigan

By Patty Lanoue Stearns | Traverse Magazine | April 8, 2009

Pam Yee got her casting call and jumped in her car. The Benzie County artist was due on the set—actually a Leelanau County RV park—at 10 a.m. as an $8-an-hour extra for the film, Youth in Revolt, starring Michael Cera (Juno), Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta and Fred Willard, to be released by MGM sometime in 2009.

Based on the bestselling teen-angst novel by C.D. Payne, Youth in Revolt was shot last summer in Interlochen, Frankfort and Leelanau County, one of about 32 film and television projects that came to Michigan in 2008, thanks to enticing tax breaks announced last April.

Landmark backdrop for movie shoot - with photo gallery

By Christopher Behnan • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • April 5, 2009

Actress Hilary Swank's film shoot in Howell on Saturday hardly captured the excitement of Steve McQueen's car chase scene in "Bullitt," but still drew some 45 people to the set of "Betty Anne Waters."

Swank plays the title role in the film, which tells the true story of a woman who puts herself through law school and eventually represents her brother, later found to be wrongfully convicted of murder. (photo gallery)

The two-time Academy Award winner wore a green coat and black slacks, walked from west to east on State Street, up the side staircase of the historical Livingston County Courthouse and inside — five times.

Moviemakers expect $5.7M break

By Christopher Behnan • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • April 8, 2009

Parallel Media, the California-based production company for the film "High School," expects to receive as $5.7 million, taxpayer-funded rebate for shooting the film in Michigan and will offset a total budget of roughly $19 million.

That figure came from "High School" producer Ray Markovich in an interview with Kathy Hoekstra, spokeswoman for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy think tank in Midland, who has followed the state's generous film incentive.

Hoekstra said the overall rebate for "High School" — a high school stoner movie primarily shot at the Howell Public Schools Parker Campus in Marion Township late last year — averaged around 30 percent.

The Steam Experiment,' starring Val Kilmer, to debut in Grand Rapids on May 5

By John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press | April 08, 2009

"The Steam Experiment," which filmed in Grand Rapids in September, will show locally at Celebration Cinema North starting May 5.

Rick Hert, director of the West Michigan Film Office, said the first screening will be invite-only, for local cast and crew members, with "some general showings after that."

He said the screenings will benefit the West Michigan Film and Video Alliance.

"The people at Celebration have been terrific about helping us arrange the fundraisers," Hert said.

More details are yet to be announced.

"Steam" stars Val Kilmer and Armand Assante and was directed by Philippe Martinez, head of Georgia-based Cinepro Pictures. The Cinepro Web site currently teases a $25 million-budgeted thriller titled "Tribes of October" as Martinez's next project.

At the "Steam" premiere at the Gasparilla Film Festival in Tampa, Fla. in March, the director said he was considering bringing the project to Grand Rapids, but no details have been made public yet.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Editorial: Don't pan Michigan's movie law yet

by Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board | April 06, 2009

State lawmakers need to see the full picture before editing the tax incentives for film makers. Senate measures that would reduce the tax credit and cap the total amount of credits given among other changes are premature. The film incentives law has only been in effect a year. It's too early to determine whether there's been so little economic benefit to the state that the incentives should be cut. Michigan clearly has made inroads into the motion picture industry and that bodes well for diversifying the economy. Flipping the script now could kill momentum. The Legislature should give the law more time.

Film industry incentives provide up to a 42 percent refundable tax credit for film or media entertainment projects in Michigan. The nation's most lucrative tax incentives did draw economic activity and jobs. The package has states including California rethinking their incentives to compete with Michigan. The new law is popular with producers, financing box office hits such as Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated "Gran Torino" and smaller flicks. The film was planned for Minnesota. The tax break is very generous, so it's certainly understandable why some lawmakers are concerned the incentives won't offset program expense. But the state is trying to lay a foundation for a new industry. The incentives are estimated to cost $100 million this year, and $200 million in 2010.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

West Branch movie could be a possibility says Michigan producer

By Eric Young | Ogemaw County Herald | April 5, 2009

WEST BRANCH — Over the past year, the West Branch Area Film Assoc-iation has been working to try to bring film crews to Ogemaw County to shoot a feature film. And, according to Michigan movie producer and director Rich Brauer, they’re on the right track.

“West Branch has a lot to offer, as does a lot of Michigan communities,” Brauer said. “The difference here is the enthusiasm and excitement, from students to seniors.”

Brauer, president of Brauer Productions in Traverse City, was in town April 4 to lead a workshop on writing screenplays for the upcoming West Branch Children’s Film Festival in July. He said if hard work gets rewarded, he wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a feature film come to the West Branch area.

As a matter of fact, he said, he might have a couple in the works that could fit the area nicely.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

An Evening with Michael Moore

By Anton Anderssen

Academy Award-winning American filmmaker, author and liberal political commentator Michael Moore will be speaking at the Democratic Club of Taylor on May 2 at a fundraiser supporting Michigan Peace Team. He is the director and producer of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko, three of the top five highest-grossing documentaries of all time. Born and raised in Davisburg, Moore attended the University of Michigan – Flint, and never lost touch with his Michigan roots. When Michael Moore speaks, people listen.

The Lansing-based Michigan Peace Team was founded in 1993 by Father Peter Dougherty and a handful of his friends. “While working on nuclear disarmament strategies, the first Gulf war began, bringing with it carpet bombing in Iraq. Our goal was to go to Iraq and put our bodies in the way, to help deter the bombing. We went to Bosnia during the four years’ war there, and we’ve also worked domestically in places where hate groups have surfaced,” said Father Dougherty.

 “Michigan Peace Team is committed to promoting non-violent alternatives to militarism and violence through empowered peacemaking,” said Kimberly Redigan, one of the co-chairs of the Evening with Michael Moore. “We place well-trained domestic and international peace teams in areas of conflict, and we also offer nonviolence trainings and educational programs on a variety of topics related to nonviolence.”
In addition to Bosnia and Iraq, MPT has placed teams in Chiapas, Mexico, Israel/Palestine, and the U.S.-Mexican border. Closer to home, MPT has placed violence reduction teams at the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the Gay Pride Fest in Lansing, a Klan rally in Ann Arbor, and the 2009 Republican Convention in Minneapolis.

 “We are grounded in the spirituality of non-violence, namely nurturing the interconnectedness between all people and all things,” explained Father Dougherty.  “We reach out the humanness of the adversary. We go humbly into other communities, walking with the people who are suffering in given conflicts.”
The Michael Moore event is a fundraiser to further MPT’s work for a more just and peaceful world.  The dinner and program, including a silent auction, is scheduled for 6:00-9:00 P.M. at a cost of $50 per person. Attendees are also invited to attend a pre-program wine and cheese reception with Michael Moore from 4:30 – 6:00 at a cost of $100. Donations over $18 per person are tax deductible.

For further information about “An Evening with Michael Moore” or to reserve a seat or table  visit

For more information, contact Kim at 313-520-7465 or Liz at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Films offer flicker of hope for state

April 2, 2009 |

Not many can argue that this state is in need of more jobs, revenue and respect. The film incentives rolled out in 2008 encourage Hollywood filmmakers to “Say yes to Michigan” and assist in securing all three. With one of the most competitive tax incentives at 42 percent, our state and local economy has already begun to reap the benefits of film production. According to the Michigan Film Office, 71 projects have been approved, with 37 films already complete.

Legislation introduced early this week could change that. The need to retain this incentive and not cap the credit is very apparent. Since the inception of the incentive in 2008, a flurry of activity has brought $125 million to our state. It has also provided the opportunity for:

n Creating jobs and retaining talent. Several universities are realigning their curriculums to prepare and train students for emerging jobs. Wayne State University has added new production broadcasting and animation courses and Madonna University built a $20 million science and media building that is planned to open this fall.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rockford Chamber hosts luncheon series

Rockford Independent | April 1, 2009

The Rockford Chamber of Commerce will feature Rick Hert as part of its bi-monthly Luncheon Series. Hert is executive director of the West Michigan Tourist Association and he will be discussing the West Michigan film industry and the impact it will have on the Michigan economy.

The event will take place on Monday, April 13 from noon-1:30 p.m. at the North Kent Golf Course, located at 11029 Stout Ave. The course owners, Dave and Kathey Klein, are excited to be hosting the event and Kathey is planning a special lunch designed to delight the guest's taste buds.

Please RSVP by Friday, April 10 by e-mailing Jeannie at membership@ or call (616) 866-2000 with your reservation. Cost for the event is $15 for chamber members and $20 for non-members. Please note, if you are unable to attend the luncheon and have reserved a spot, call the chamber office before the luncheon to avoid being charged.

The luncheons provide significant networking opportunities, so guests are urged to bring plenty of business cards to share.