Film and Government

They were hidden in the tax code

January 3, 2012
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That’s literally how Gov. Rick Snyder’s office described the late, great film industry tax credits (aka incentives) that he replaced with the stroke of his pen Dec. 21 as he signed into law Senate Bill 569.

Now known as Public Act 291 of 2011, it established a new Film and Digital Media Production Assistance Program that will be run by the Michigan Film Office and will expire in 2017.

The first change from the Granholm-era film incentives is an increase in the minimum amount a film producer must spend in Michigan: from $50,000 to $100,000. The 2008 law provided a refundable tax credit of up to 42 percent on money spent in Michigan, but the new law offers the following smaller rebates for films that are “state-certified qualified productions”:

  • 27 percent for direct expenditures.

  • 32 percent for Michigan personnel, dropping to 27 percent after 2014.

  • 25 percent for crew, 20 percent after 2012, 15 percent after 2013 and 10 percent after 2014.

  • 27 percent for “qualified personnel,” dropping to 12 percent after 2014.

  • 3 percent of direct production cost and Michigan personnel cost incurred at a “qualified facility or postproduction facility” in Michigan.

**Pay for a producer who lives in Michigan cannot exceed 10 percent of the film’s production and personnel expenditures. If the producer isn’t a Michigan resident, make that 5 percent.

And gone are the days when the Michigan Treasury will dole out as much as $70 million a year to the film industry (2009). Based on information on the Michigan Film Office website, $46.7 million was paid out in 2008, and 2010 projects have received about $7.7 million.

Twenty-five million dollars has been allocated in the FY2011-12 budget for the state’s film assistance program ending Sept. 30, 2012. The legislative analysis notes that the $25 million is “one-time funding” for a film incentive program during that fiscal year.

Snyder’s announcement about the law also notes that the MFO “must also create a publicly available performance dashboard,” which will include the amount of each incentive. Becoming a state-qualified, pre-certified production won’t be a snap, either, because the focus will be more on “Michigan-centric projects,” as noted by a member of the MFO Advisory Council at its June meeting.

Hopwood DePree, a Holland native and movie producer who works frequently on the West Coast, is also a member of the Advisory Council. He said the new legislation “is a change from what had been in place under Gov. Granholm, which was one of the most competitive incentive programs in the country.” DePree said there was a dramatic rise in the number of movies shot in Michigan once Granholm’s program was in place.

“This is not nearly as competitive as that, but it definitely is a start to try to maintain a lot of the work we’ve done to bring the film industry here,” added DePree.

The $25 million annual allocation would limit the amount of production in Michigan, he conceded.

So what happens next year when the Legislature considers the next annual appropriation for the film industry assistance?

Watch for the sequel to find out.

The name game

Here is a little insight into our culture. The most-chosen name for baby boys born at Spectrum Health last year was Mason. (Yes, as in the jar.) Or, as in the cute little Kardashian kid that everyone under the age of 25 seems to adore. Rounding out the top five were: Lucas, Jackson/William (a tie, not Jackson-William with a hyphen), Jacob (the 2010 champ) and Logan.

The top five names for baby girls were Olivia, Sophia, Emma, Isabella and Ella. Ever wonder why so many female names end with an “a?” Like Karla, Donna, Theresa, Melissa, Christina and Tina. Those names weren’t on the Spectrum list. They just work here.

Susan Krieger and Bruce Rossman, communications gurus at Spectrum, sent us the names and also said there were 7,312 babies delivered at Butterworth Hospital during the last fiscal year. That’s 20 a day. By the way, of that total, 3,867 were boys, while 3,445 girls were delivered. Of the girls, 2,917 were give a name that ended with an “a.” Not really, we’re just guessing because Eva was the seventh most-chosen name for girls.

The greatest gift

Didn’t get everything you wanted for Christmas? Bet the folks at Plante Moran did. One of the best gifts we heard of this holiday season was the gift of time, which is what the Plante bigwigs gave their 1,600-plus employees — including approximately 225 accountants and staff in West Michigan.

The accounting and business consultancy firm gave all of its staff the gift of an extra day off, to be used through Jan. 15.

Used for what? Well, anything qualifies. Full-time staff can schedule an eight-hour day off to return gifts, use those gift cards, take down the holiday lights or partake in a college football bowl frenzy. And for you Scrooges out there, this was a new perk this year and over and above any regular bonuses and other holiday goodies the staff may have received.

We’ll grant you that

Here’s one you don’t often see. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation recently awarded a $3,500 grant to Family Outreach Center, a local nonprofit that promotes health family living by reaching out to underserved populations. The grant is to be used to contract with … a grant writer.

Confusing? Not really. The BCBS Foundation hopes a professional writer can assist in the identification and development of proposals to increase access to integrated health care services for those with little or no ability to pay.

The Zingerman’s are coming

The buzz somebody heard on the street was that Rob McCarty played a role in getting the 2012 BALLE conference in GR May 14-18, which will be a major moment in the limelight for the local Local First organization.

McCarty, one of the principals at The Image Shoppe, a marketing/creative firm in town, has been an active member of Local First and has attended the last two national BALLE Business Conferences: in Bellingham, Wash., last year, and in Charleston, S.C., the year before that.

The buzz also had it that the BALLE Conference coming here is going to be big — really big. Maybe, even, as big as ArtPrize?

McCarty isn’t prepared to go quite that far. However …

“This conference isn’t going to be that,” he said, but added that it is going to bring “some of the coolest, most innovative business entrepreneurs — pioneer-type leaders — from around the country” to Grand Rapids.

“We’re talking about the Zingerman’s of the world,” he said. (If you’re from Ann Arbor, you know all about Zingerman’s Deli. They have an army of loyal customers, including online.)

“Bellingham and Grand Rapids are two of the smaller venues where you would see this conference,” he said. “The reality is, we’ve got a great opportunity to show people … that we really are great at what we do, and it’s a great place to do business.”

On the national level, “people don’t really know about Grand Rapids,” said McCarty, although he concedes “they’ve heard about it.”

But the BALLE Conference, he said, will really show the small business community across the country that “there’s a very cool thing happening in the middle of Michigan, on the western edge. It’s something people should check out.”

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