Making Michigan FilmingFriendly

February 2, 2004
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LANSING — Instead of just going to the movies, State Rep. Bill Huizenga has his sights set on getting more movies filmed here in Michigan. The Zeeland Republican plans to introduce a package of bills this spring that will offer tax incentives to production companies, enticements that he hopes will add millions each year to the state’s economy.

“This is one way to help stimulate our economy. Money from moviemakers flows to hotels, restaurants and caterers, along with local carpenters and electricians who build the sets,” said Huizenga.

The filming of “8 Mile” was estimated to have brought in roughly $7 million to Detroit, while “Road to Perdition” was worth several hundred thousand dollars to Ottawa County from the scenes that were shot in and around Holland.

“We need to make sure we are doing all we can to remain competitive with other states,” said Huizenga, a member of the advisory board of the Compass Arts Film Academy in Grand Rapids.

According to the Michigan Film Office, three states give moviemakers tax breaks and Huizenga is basing much of his proposal on what Louisiana offers. His package would give income tax credits to production companies that hire Michigan residents and those firms would be exempt from paying sales and use taxes during filming.

“We know there are going to be at least two bills, quite possibly there will be four. There are two concepts that we want to pursue and there are two more that we are kicking around,” said Dale Hull, chief of staff for Huizenga.

Hull told the Business Journal last week that they would have a better idea of what the bills would include after they meet with more state officials and film producers.

“We’re going to see how we can get the (Michigan Economic Development Corp.) involved to lure production here. We’re also going to try to see if there is anything that we’re lacking as far as facilities or specific skilled labor that they need that we don’t currently have here,” said Hull.

Hull said they learned from earlier talks with the film office that the state has the film production capabilities and talents for the most part, but was lacking in incentives for filmmakers. One of the producers Huizenga will be speaking with recently finished filming in Louisiana and Hull said the representative was eager to learn what role those incentives played in the film.

Exempting production firms from the sales and uses levies are seen as the key factors to getting more movies made here. Hull explained that if state firms were relieved of paying those taxes, these companies could submit lower bids and have a better chance to win some contracts.

“That is one way we can help as a state,” said Hull.

Michigan isn’t a stranger to moviemaking, as some fairly well known films have either been made in the state or scenes have been shot here. Among those are “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Escanaba in da Moonlight,” “Hoffa,” “True Romance,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Roger and Me” and “Presumed Innocent.”

The state film office, which has been around since 1979, provides producers with help in getting location clearance and photographs, securing a crew, studios and equipment, and contacts with government officials and business leaders. But the office doesn’t lease a helicopter because the state doesn’t have one.

Hull said Huizenga plans to introduce his package before the Easter recess, hopefully by the end of March.

“What makes this legislation so attractive is that it is revenue neutral, and in fact should increase revenue for the state,” said Huizenga. “This is tax revenue we wouldn’t have had in the first place.”

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