Industry group lobbies for Michigan to restore movie incentives


MICHIGAN — Over the next few weeks, film industry executives plan to visit Michigan and push lawmakers to pass legislation that encourages productions made in the state after initially failing to gain traction in Lansing.

In February, a small group of lawmakers introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would create a two-tier tax credit for any film, television, streaming or commercial production shot in Michigan.

However, two months later, the bills are still sitting in committee.

Josh Sikkema hopes the stalemate will end as soon as possible.

He co-owns Black Pigeon Studios in Grand Rapids, but lives in Los Angeles because it’s the heart of the film industry.

“I prefer to shoot in Michigan and work with my friends, my family and boost the local economy that I love so much,” Sikkema said.

Sikema explained that while Black Pigeon Studios brings its customers back to Michigan to shoot their movies, companies would likely come to him if lawmakers pass movie incentive legislation.

“It will now entice those producers and financiers to start looking at Michigan again, not only based on our relationships, but also the incredible tax initiative that’s in place right now,” Sikkema said.

Invoices include:

  • A basic 25% tax credit with an additional 5% granted for the inclusion of a “Filmed in Michigan” logo
  • A commitment from production companies to spend at least $50,000 per advertisement and $300,000 for productions longer than 20 min.
  • A tax credit of 30% for hiring Michigan residents and 20% for non-residents
  • A requirement that qualified Michigan suppliers provide proof of physical presence, have inventory and full-time employees. Companies and intermediary transactions will not be eligible; and
  • Accountability requirements for independent verification of approved expenditures.

Sikema believes the proposed legislation resolves issues people had with the state’s original movie incentive program that offered up to 42% tax relief. It ended in 2015.

“In that first round they thought the industry would be stimulated in the local economy and what happened was you had all these companies that would come in and they would do their budgets, do their shoots, and then they would separate. So now this one is very focused on Michigan-centric creators,” Sikkema said.

The Michigan Film Industry Association (MiFIA) is the grassroots advocacy organization behind the new movie incentive campaign.

Throughout May, the MiFIA will hold town halls in Traverse City and Grand Rapids to discuss the legislation. Last week, a town hall was held in Detroit.

“It’s good for the state, it’s good for tourism, it creates jobs, it creates infrastructure,” said David Haddad, chairman of MiFIA. “It’s a feel-good feeling, which isn’t really a specific reason to vote for it, but when someone talks about a movie, they smile, they get pissed off.”

In a February blog post, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy had a much more conservative view of the potential benefits of yet another movie incentive program.

The message cited three studies conducted by one of its researchers that analyzed the relationship between film incentives and wages, jobs and economic growth. He concluded that the incentives enriched “movie industry moguls while doing little or nothing for state economies.” The states that invested the most money did not fare any better either.

Haddad pushed back on the search and said people need to give the incentives another shot.

“We’re optimistic, but cautiously optimistic,” Haddad said.


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