An upper Midwestern state has gone to great lengths to make itself a sought-after movie location — and the entertainment industry is taking notice.
A legislative package recently passed by the Michigan legislature provides incentives to lure filmmakers to the Wolverine State. And with broad tax breaks, cash rebates, and a low-interest loan programme among the new Michigan film production benefits offered by this sixteen-account initiative, aspiring and established filmmakers may find Michigan’s offer hard to refuse. The bill has already attracted attention in Variety, a popular film industry resource, and Michigan natives such as actor Jeff Daniels and author Mitch Albom travelled to Lansing to argue for the bill’s passage.
Gazette of the United States Patent Office
But there’s nothing new about Michigan’s relationship with film. Even before the Michigan legislature decided to offer a 40% refundable tax credit to filmmakers who spend more than $50,000 making a film in the state, plus additional incentives to film in one of the state’s 103 counties.The state of Michigan, through state-designated core communities and other opportunities (a full list and application package are available online from the Michigan Film Office), has contributed much to the world of contemporary film.
Most obvious is the long list of Michigan-born artists who have done significant work in film. As of 2008, that list includes the aforementioned Daniels, who starred in Dumb and Dumber and then returned to his native state to satirise the mores of the Upper Peninsula in Escanaba In Da Moonlight. It also features Sam Raimi, who revolutionised horror films with The Evil Dead (a student production made in the woods of Michigan) before gaining popularity with A Simple Plan and the Spider-Man trilogy. David Goyer, who was born in Ann Arbor, changed the way superhero movies were made. He also helped write the stories for Christopher Nolan’s popular Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
But it’s like a setting that Michigan may have really shone. After all, it’s the only state where you’re never more than 85 miles from the beach, yet it offers craggy, mountainous sites; diverse and thriving cityscapes; sparse or densely wooded forests; enough flat farmland to cover any Midwestern state; and, of course, those sand dunes. Does your script require an urban locale? Go to Detroit, where parts of Semi-Pro, Four Brothers, The Island, and Transformers were shot, all of which made up the 8 Mile locations. How about a beautiful, cultured student city? Try Ann Arbor, set for parts of the recent Jumper and the upcoming Youth In Revolt. The Michigan forests inspired Ernest Hemingway—and they also lend some of Raimi’s inimitable eerie charm. s Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. A Detroit suburb becomes a major supporting presence in John Cusack’s classic black comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, and of course, we haven’t even mentioned the state’s beaches, small towns, or the craggy Porcupine Mountains, about the German-imitating tourist town of Frankenmuth, or the Scottish festival that puts little Alma on the map (and then takes it away) every year. Because of its geographic diversity, Michigan can replace almost any state in the union. about the German-imitating tourist town of Frankenmuth or the Scottish festival that puts little Alma on the map (and then takes it away again) every year. Because of its geographic diversity, Michigan can replace almost any state in the union. about the German-imitating tourist town of Frankenmuth or the Scottish festival that puts little Alma on the map (and then takes it away again) every year. Because of its geographic diversity, Michigan can replace almost any state in the union.
The Fresh Coast Film Festival
In fact, movies have been made in Michigan for almost as long as anywhere else. Such early silent shorts as Baby Lund and Her Pets (1899) and Cadet Cavalry Charge (1900), starring the Cadet Battalion of the Michigan Military Academy, were shot in Detroit. (Back then, movies were typically less than five minutes long and usually featured small snippets of real-life events, so the titles of these movies more or less summed up their content.) In 1908, Michigan set the stage for an eight-minute long version of The Count of Monte Cristo, which appears to have been the first draught of that oft-filmed piece. This version is mostly a collection of scenes from the popular play based on Dumas’s book at the time.
And with the birth of feature films came a series of classics set and/or partially filmed in Michigan, such as the Upper Peninsula-based mystery Anatomy of a Murder, Eddie Murphy’s breakthrough hit Beverly Hills Cop, the John Belushi-starring Continental Divide, and the teen cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Renowned screenwriter Paul Schrader has used his experiences in Grand Rapids and Detroit for films like Blue Collar and Hardcore (which parodies and also flatters the Dutch Reformed subculture of West Michigan), and RoboCop, The Untouchables, and Road to Perdition, all use Michigan locations too. And anyone who’s seen the classic Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour novel Somewhere In Time knows all about Mackinaw Island’s potential as a movie set.
Are Michigan officials ready to support the new influx of filmmakers they’ve courted? Certainly, the state already has its own official film agency, has an experienced tourism bureau, and provides filmmakers with a transportation company for filmmakers with decades of experience assisting local and national productions with everything from bringing daily newspapers to the developer to picking up that special star or starlet from the Detroit Metro Airport.