Michigan film industry urges return of movie theater incentives


DETROIT (WXYZ) — Could Michigan once again become the center of the movie industry? That’s what local industry leaders across the state hope, urging lawmakers to restore Michigan’s movie incentives.

Outside the Al Wissam clothing store in Dearborn on Thursday, excitement and decor were rising. The teams worked all day to prepare to shoot a scene for season 2 of the show “BMF”.

“It’s an honor. We are honored and blessed to have Starz using our location,” said Nizar Souwaidan, son of Al Wissam’s owner.

The show airs on Starz and is produced by 50 Cent, telling the real-life story of the Detroit-based Black Mafia family.

“It means a lot to be honest with you,” Souwaidan said of her store’s presentation on the show. “It means a lot to the city of Detroit.”

Souwaidan and his family aren’t the only ones feeling this. In Farmington Hills, about 300 local industry workers gathered to discuss the return of movie theater incentives in Michigan.

“Basically, it means for our state to attract talent that we lost the first time around,” said Jonathan Braue, co-founder of local video company Woodward Original.

When Michigan first introduced tax incentives for filmmakers in 2008, it attracted big-budget movies like “Red Dawn,” “Batman,” “Transformers” and “Vanishing on 7th Street,” a movie that was filmed at WXYZ Studios.

Since those incentives disappeared, movies and jobs disappeared as well.

“During that time, it’s been hard to be completely honest,” Braue said. “We stayed because we love making movies here and we don’t want to go anywhere.”

“Film incentives are very successful in creating jobs,” said Alexander Page, legislative chair of the Michigan Film Industry Association. “We know that, for example, some of the states that have had it recently have seen 10% to 20% increases in the film workforce.

Page and MiFIA helped draft bipartisan bills in the State House and Senate to revamp movie tax incentives. Those bills are now in committee, and Page says they focus on Michigan suppliers and workers.

“The last incentive was very good for what it was doing, creating jobs. But it wasn’t good for the long term,” Page said. “What we’re looking for is a very fiscally responsible tax credit and a modest tax credit that we give out over 10 years and have the program grow slowly over time.”

Page says 40 other states have movie theater incentives and without them, Michigan will struggle to compete, losing exposure, jobs and greater economic opportunity.

“There are so many different jobs that the movie sums up and attracting that kind of work here is only going to bring back more jobs,” Braue said.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the state,” added MiFIA First Vice President Brain Kelly. “I believe the time has come for this.”

This town hall was one of three MiFIAs held across the state. Next month they will hold the same event in Traverse City and Grand Rapids.


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