Michigan film Industry expects comeback with new Multimedia Jobs Act

It’s because of the Multi-Media Jobs Act, and it’s sponsors sit on both sides of the isle.
Newly introduced legislation at the state capitol would provide tax incentives, with similar goals to those offered in Michigan from 2008 to 2015.
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 6:51 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There’s an effort to lure the film industry back to Michigan. Newly introduced legislation at the state capitol would provide tax incentives, with similar goals to those offered in Michigan from 2008 to 2015.

Michigan’s old film incentives brought projects like Batman V Superman, Real Steel, Transformers, and a Miley Cyrus music video among many others. However, critics of the old tax cuts called them “Hollywood Hand-outs.”

Now, that old law has been re-worked and re-introduced, to specifically benefit Michiganders. In the past, film productions brought thousands of jobs to Michigan, and that could be coming back in the near future.

Supporters of the new bill say they’re feeling really good about getting the spotlight back on the Mitten. Their bill is called the MultiMedia Jobs Act, and its sponsors sit on both sides of the aisle.

While the old law drew criticism, a writer for the new bill says it’s nothing like what came before it.

“We have one of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country. We have lakes and rivers, we have urban and we have rural, we have all four seasons. We have probably the best physical location you can shoot at,” said Alexander Page, who helped draft the MultiMedia Jobs Act through the Michigan Film Industry Association.

Hollywood and Michigan may seem worlds apart, but Michigan was one of the hottest destinations for filming blockbusters for a short period of time.

“You know you could go to the bakery in Ann Arbor, and Drew Barrymore would be there getting scones when she did her directorial debut here. The state of Michigan allowed Michael Bay to shut down sections of our highway, and do huge stunts,” said Curtis Hall, a Senior Producer with Ahptic Productions, “We did a music video with Miley Cyrus, and it was a very large production.”

He says Cyrus was in Michigan shooting the movie “LOL” with Demi Moore, and ended up shooting a music video here as well. He says the music video didn’t receive any of the tax breaks and was just one indirect impact of the big names being in town. He also recalls Robert De Niro and Edward Norton filming in a decommissioned Michigan prison.

Ahptic Productions, where Hall works, is based in Lansing. They made a big shift to commercials once the old incentives were repealed. However, they’re currently wrapping up a documentary and have done a number of feature films and music videos. He says to this day, Steven Soderbergh still comes to here to film, emphasizing the uniqueness of Michigan.

Hall recalls the 7 year period of tax cuts as a very exciting time for everyone. Movie studios were built, unused factories were re-purposed for many months at a time, and big Los Angeles movie producers fell in love with Michigan. These movies brought jobs and tax revenue worth millions of dollars through their demand for hair salons, production assistants, construction workers, hardware stores, security guards, catering companies, hotel rooms, and much much more.

“All of those people all benefit because when a movie comes into a community, it’s a cash influx. We spend tons of money and it goes directly into their pockets,” said Hall.

The previous tax cuts offered big refunds for big productions that came from out of state. Hall says a major reason the bill didn’t stick around, was because some people were unhappy with Michigan’s money being sent to places like California, and others had a hard time understanding the indirect impacts of the incentives. In order to bring back Hollywood and prioritize Michiganders, the new bill focuses on more than just film and offers better incentives for Michigan-based companies.

“We’re gonna try to stop the brain drain here, and it’s prioritizing Michigan jobs, Michigan labor.” said Page.

The new bill includes nearly all media types such as commercials, films, TV shows, corporate videos, and digital media. It also offers Michigan-specific tax credits instead of refunds or rebates. Page says hiring Michigan workers would get 30% in tax credits, whereas hiring out-of-state labor gets 20%.

Aside from the entertainment, Page says this act can benefit industries like Michigan’s automakers, who typically shoot ads in other states. Page himself has spent roughly 25 years at a commercial production company in Flint and says they don’t do much filming in Michigan.

Hall says there’s a lot of excitement in Michigan Media to hit the ground running, right where they left off in 2015.

“It can really thrive, and I think that would be an exciting thing for everyone in the state of Michigan, to have something here that’s interesting and fun, and brings joy and money to the state,” said Hall.

All of the states highlighted on this map currently offer film incentives. Those who wrote Michigan’s new bill, worked with these other states to include their best elements.

Michigan lawmakers say you can expect to see more action on the proposed incentives in the fall.

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