WNMU-TV put the spotlight on efforts to revive Michigan's film industry. Some proposals working their way through state legislature, if approved, would bring back financial incentives for film, TV and media productions completed in Michigan. We learn more about it from Alexander Page of Michigan Film Industry Association, the lead organization pushing for passage of the Multimedia Jobs Act. View the Program at WNMU-TV.
Read the entire story at Fox 17
By Jamie Sherrod, Fox 17 Grand Rapids
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many students study filmmaking here in the state of Michigan, but they often go elsewhere for work. That’s because Michigan is one of a few states that doesn’t have a film incentive. New legislation introduced is hoping to change that.
Dave Benoit enjoys the freedom of creative directing. It’s a passion that almost took him to Atlanta.
“I had friends, I had video opportunities already lined up for me, I had sets that I was going to be on. I had so much going for me at that time. I had nothing here,” said Benoit.
“We're not on an even playing field and that means that any time that a production is looking for a location, they skip over Michigan as a potential place to film their project,” said Bill Latka.
He’s on the board of the Michigan Film Industry Association, and says more than 40 states and cities have incentive programs. Latka is hoping to bring them back to Michigan with the Multimedia Jobs Act legislation.
"Any spend that happens in a state, they can apply for a percentage of that to be returned to them as a refundable tax credit,” said Latka. “So, it's a way to really let producers know that Michigan is open for business in a new, exciting creative area.”
The Multimedia Jobs Act would provide a 30% tax credit for hiring Michigan residents and 20% for nonresidents; a $50,000 minimum qualified spend for commercials, commercial photography, and short films; a $300,000 minimum spend for feature films and TV shows among other things.
From Bridge Michigan
August 23, 2023
Clint Eastwood directed and starred in “Gran Torino,” a 2008 film shot in several metro Detroit locations. Michigan previously offered rebates for filmmakers who brought their productions to the state. In 2015, the program was shuttered over concerns that the return on investment was minimal. (Shutterstock photo by Stefano Chiacchiarini '74)
A group of Michigan lawmakers are hoping to roll out the red carpet for more film, television and commercial projects by once again offering incentives to producers who work in the state.
House and Senate legislation introduced this summer would create a transferable tax credit for Michigan-based multimedia projects, ranging from traditional film and television productions to other work, such as commercials, corporate media and music videos.
Eligible companies could get back 25 percent of total spending in tax credits for filming in Michigan and up to 30 percent if the project incorporates the Pure Michigan logo and other Michigan film industry affiliates, capped depending on the length and duration of the project.
A separate credit would offer 30 percent of total spending for hiring Michigan residents or 20 percent for hiring nonresidents.
If a company obtained credits but doesn’t have a Michigan tax liability, the legislation as proposed would allow those credits to be sold to a Michigan-based business.
It wouldn’t be the first time Michigan officials have attempted to lure film productions to the state with incentives. Michigan began offering incentives in 2008, and attracted large-scale projects such as “Transformers” and “Batman v. Superman” to in-state filming locations.
But the film incentive program offering rebates of up to 42 percent of filmmakers’ in-state production costs was shuttered in 2015 during the Rick Snyder administration amid criticism that the return on investment for Michigan taxpayers was minimal.
Supporters of the new plan argue that this version is a “complete 180” from incentives Michigan offered in the past, crafted after extensive research into other states’ programs with the intent of keeping the money in Michigan.
“There's no money drawn from a fund, there's no checks cut, there's no budget line items, we're not financing or bailing out movie studios,” said Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, the main sponsor of the Senate legislation. “The credit goes directly back into the Michigan economy.”
As of 2022, at least 35 states offered tax incentives for film production, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many companies simply won’t work in states without an incentive option, said Alexander Page, legislative chair of the Michigan Film Industry Association.
“We're totally being left on the sidelines,” Page said.
Page and other industry advocates see the legislation as a job creation opportunity and a boon for a slew of local businesses working with production companies in filming locations, noting one film production on average involves about 60 local vendors.
To obtain the credit, companies would need to keep, among other things, records of the number of in-state workers hired for the project, any outside vendors involved and spending receipts, as well as spend at least $50,000 for shorter projects and at least $300,000 for feature film productions.
Under the legislation, the program would end 10 years after implementation unless lawmakers gave the go-ahead for it to continue.
Lawmakers haven’t yet held a hearing on the bills, but opposition is already emerging. Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, in a social media post, likened the legislation to a Hollywood handout.
James Hohman, director of fiscal policy for the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he doesn’t see much of a difference from what Michigan incentives offered companies before — save for the ability to transfer credits, a development he had concerns with.
“We shouldn't be laundering film subsidies through other people's tax returns — this is kind of worse for both film producers and for taxpayer transparency,” he said.
Hohman said lawmakers should look to the past before considering film incentives again, arguing that paying filmmakers to make movies in Michigan didn’t provide lasting economic benefits. “We spent a half a billion dollars without getting a lasting or sustainable film industry,” he said.
Michigan screenwriter, author and former production executive Christopher Cosmos argued film incentives are a bipartisan issue, noting that states across the political spectrum have implemented similar programs.
“There are so many people and young people, especially, who don't want to leave this state, so many with ties who want to move back,” he said Wednesday. “If we don't pass anything, we risk falling even further behind our peers and bleeding and losing even more ridiculously talented people who would love to be living and working here."
Rep. John Roth, an Interlochen Republican and a lead sponsor on the House version of film incentive bills, said he understands the concern about reintroducing incentives.
But he sees a robust film program as a way to keep young creatives in Michigan — including his daughter, who is currently studying film production in Michigan and is planning to leave for work opportunities elsewhere when she finishes her degree at Grand Valley State University.
“I think it's kind of silly if we're teaching these courses in our universities that we don't have any jobs for them,” Roth said. “I think we could actually have an industry. But we have to incentivize to begin with to get people interested.”
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Lights, camera – Michigan is hoping to be back in action in the film industry with a new bipartisan plan to create the Michigan Multimedia Jobs Act.
The legislation would create a tax credit to promote Michigan-produced films, television, digital streaming productions and commercials. The House bills, HB 4907 and HB 4908 , are sponsored by Rep. John Roth (R-Interlochen) and Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), respectively. The corresponding bills in the Senate, SB 438 and SB 439 , are sponsored by Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia).
"This is a business, an industry, that was born in the United States. Dominates still in the United States, for 100 years," Polehanki said. "This is a very serious, lucrative industry, and we're not part of it in any meaningful way."
As introduced, the legislation would create a transferable tax credit for media projects filmed in Michigan. The credit would start at 25 percent of the total amount spent and rise to 30 percent based on the inclusion of "filmed in Michigan," "Pure Michigan," "Michigan Film and Digital Media Office," and "MIFIA" logos somewhere in the project.
The legislation also would create a tax credit worth 30 percent of spending for hiring Michigan residents and 20 percent for hiring nonresidents to work on a project.
The legislation is a "complete 180" from Michigan's previous incentive program, Polehanki said, which gave filmmakers rebate for up to 42 percent of production costs.
The state's previous incentive program existed between 2008-15, but it was gutted as ineffective. In 2008, the state issued about $38 million in incentives to filmmakers. The amount peaked in 2010 at $155 million, but a Senate Fiscal Agency paper published the same year found that the $100 million spent by the state on film incentives generated slightly less than $60 million in economic impact.
"This legislation is not a rebate," Polehanki said. "We're not financing or bailing out movie studios. It's a transferable credit. … It benefits them because it's transferable so you can sell that tax credit to any Michigan company that does own taxes. It could be an automaker, brewery, small business. The only way any Hollywood production is walking out of Michigan with money is to sell a tax credit to someone who needs it."
The program also is structured in such a way so that one company can't dominate the space, Polehanki said.
Roth said he was part of the previous film credit program, and the problem was that those incentives allowed too much money to leave the state during production.
"The problem with those credits was that yeah, they brought money into the state, but they also took money out of the state," he said. "What we're trying to do with these new credits is produce the films, the documentaries, the commercials, whatever it is, in Michigan. The problem with the old credits is that we just didn't get a foothold on the production side of it."
The new credits will aim to emphasize the production side of filmmaking.
"All the states around us and southern states, like Georgia, are really heavy into it, and Michigan has nothing. I think we've got to incentivize it a little to get it going," Roth said. "Once we get it going, maybe we can have a small industry here."
More than 40 states offer some sort of film credit program. Roth said the point isn't necessarily to draw in the existing industry, but to give Michigan students who are interested in the industry a place to start at home.
"Why are we teaching this at Grand Valley and Michigan State if we have no jobs to offer afterwards?" he said. "My youngest daughter will be a senior at Grand Valley this fall, and she's in film production. I know that she's already looking at what state she can go to, to have her career. … We're taking younger folks out of Michigan into other states when I think we could promote film production again."
Before, Michigan was promoting itself as a beautiful filming location. Although that remains true, it's not the emphasis of the new proposal, Roth said.
"Now, we have to actually produce jobs in the state with the film business," he said. "I'm not trying to bring Hollywood into Michigan. We're never going to get Hollywood into Michigan. We're going to produce our own stuff."
Roth said he wanted to see the Big Three automakers film more of their commercials within the state. Right now, he said Michigan wasn't competitive enough for that to happen.
"They go to other states to film their commercials," he said. "They've got the mountains in the background, the ocean, when we have some beautiful territory in Michigan where they could be filming these commercials around, so we need to start bringing some of that home."
Roth said Pure Michigan is the only entity that has promoted filming in Michigan, but the program is receiving less funding in the budget this year, and so he thought it would be a good idea to incentivize film production in Michigan in other ways.
He said there's already been some pushback about not wanting Hollywood in Michigan and the failure of the previous tax credits to attract the film industry.
"There's opposition already forming … saying we don't need film credits in Michigan, and we don't want Hollywood here. I guess I would agree somewhat with that. We want our own Michigan production," he said.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is opposing the bills, calling it a "race to the bottom," in an article published in Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Roth said he had talked to them about the differences between this legislation and the previous Michigan film tax credits.
"They're still not necessarily onboard, but I think they're starting to get a little more perspective on what it is," he said. "We have to compete."
Economists are often skeptical of film industry incentives because the industry can be hit or miss.
"Economists never like (film incentives). They never do well in the economic impact studies," said Ellen Harpel, founder of Smart Incentives, last week during the National Conference of State Legislatures summit. "But boy, are they popular."
Roth agreed that the industry isn't necessarily an easy economic win.
"It is hit and miss, to some point, but filming our own commercials in the state, that shouldn't be hit or miss, that should be every year," he said. "I've heard them say that the jobs are often transient and short-term, well, that's because we have nothing to offer. … We've got to have opportunity."
The new film credits will aim to keep money in Michigan, Roth said.
"We need to promote the jobs that go into this and can stay in Michigan," Roth said. "Our young people are leaving our state. … We want our youth to stay at home. We've got to give them the opportunity."
The legislation isn't likely to come up when the Legislature returns in September, but Roth said he was hopeful it could come up before the end of the year or in early 2024.
"We've got a little bit of tweaking and work to do yet. I don't think we're there, but I think we're close," he said.
Polehanki said she was hopeful that the Senate would take the bills up in the fall.
"We're beautiful here, but a lot of places are beautiful," she said. "They're not going to come without an incentive. It's just not how it is. It's not how this business works. Unfortunately, they're going to make money and save money where they can."
– By Elena Durnbaugh
Author: Arpan Lobo, Detroit Free Press
Stakeholders and lawmakers backing bills to revive a state-backed incentives program to attract media projects say Michigan has been a virtual nonfactor in the film and commercial industry since the previous iteration of the program was gutted in 2015.
READ THE ENTIRE STORY at Freep.com
Furthermore, supporters of bills introduced in July to create an incentive program for film and video production in Michigan say bringing media projects back to Michigan can help spur job creation in the state. The proposal is not without critics, however, as some in Michigan view the plan as a poor use of the state’s potential tax revenue.
Lawmakers have dubbed the matching legislation in the state House and Senate to create a revamped film incentives program in Michigan the Multimedia Jobs Act. The word “Multimedia” is a key distinction, backers say, as the proposed incentive program would apply to such efforts as commercial filming and professional training videos, in addition to traditional film and television projects.
As introduced, the bills:
READ THE REST OF THE STORY at Freep.com
The credits would be distributed based on the money spent by a company filming in Michigan rather than an all or nothing approach, said Alexander Page, legislative chair of the Michigan Film Industry Association (MIFIA). The group is a key backer of the legislation and had input on the crafting of the bills, Page added.
At least 35 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, currently have some form of incentives for the film industry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. MIFIA places the figure even higher at 41 states. Both totals are down from a peak of 45 states in 2010, with the economic downturn around that period being cited as a reason for some states rolling programs back, per the NCSL.
When crafting the legislation, Page said, MIFIA looked at incentive programs around the country to discern what would work best if implemented in Michigan.
“We talked to other states to see what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “We worked with the Motion Picture Association, with (accountants) to see what worked and what didn’t. We also wanted to work with economists and the state to find out what was the best way of getting the return on investment to be more Michigan-centric, that’s the reason why it’s multimedia jobs.”
LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There’s an effort to lure the film industry back to Michigan. Newly introduced legislation at the state capitol would provide tax incentives, with similar goals to those offered in Michigan from 2008 to 2015.
Michigan’s old film incentives brought projects like Batman V Superman, Real Steel, Transformers, and a Miley Cyrus music video among many others. However, critics of the old tax cuts called them “Hollywood Hand-outs.”
Now, that old law has been re-worked and re-introduced, to specifically benefit Michiganders. In the past, film productions brought thousands of jobs to Michigan, and that could be coming back in the near future.
Supporters of the new bill say they’re feeling really good about getting the spotlight back on the Mitten. Their bill is called the MultiMedia Jobs Act, and its sponsors sit on both sides of the aisle.
While the old law drew criticism, a writer for the new bill says it’s nothing like what came before it.
“We have one of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country. We have lakes and rivers, we have urban and we have rural, we have all four seasons. We have probably the best physical location you can shoot at,” said Alexander Page, who helped draft the MultiMedia Jobs Act through the Michigan Film Industry Association.
Hollywood and Michigan may seem worlds apart, but Michigan was one of the hottest destinations for filming blockbusters for a short period of time.
“You know you could go to the bakery in Ann Arbor, and Drew Barrymore would be there getting scones when she did her directorial debut here. The state of Michigan allowed Michael Bay to shut down sections of our highway, and do huge stunts,” said Curtis Hall, a Senior Producer with Ahptic Productions, “We did a music video with Miley Cyrus, and it was a very large production.”
Read the rest of the story and watch the video report at WILX.com.
LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - Michigan's film industry could get a boost if bipartisan bills in the Michigan House and Senate are approved.
Lawmakers introduced the Michigan Multimedia Jobs Act this week which aims to incentivize TV shows, films and commercials made in Michigan.
"This new package of bills is really meant to produce jobs in the state of Michigan and keep them here," said State Rep. John Roth who sponsored one of the bills in the House.
Lawmakers tell CBS News Detroit that these bills are meant to improve upon the old film incentives.
"The problem with the old bills is that after they shot the movies, they left the state of Michigan and took money with them to produce them in other places," Roth said. "So long-term job production is what we're looking at. We want to make sure that that's very clear. We're looking at producing jobs, not promoting the state of Michigan in film. So that's going to change a little bit."
Read the rest of the story and view the video at CBS Detroit.
State lawmakers have reintroduced a tax incentive program for the film and multimedia industry to help lure production back to Michigan, hoping to overcome opposition stemming from a previous program.
A film crew at Black Pigeon Studios in Walker outside of Grand Rapids. Credit: Tyler Darland
Introduced this week, the Multimedia Jobs Act would provide incentives for Michigan-produced multimedia projects such as film, television and streaming in hopes of retaining Michigan talent and stimulating economic activity.
The proposed incentives would operate as a transferable tax credit instead of a rebate, as was the case under film incentives enacted during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration. Tax credits would stay in Michigan and benefit Michigan companies, according to proponents of the bills.
“One of the things we wanted to do (with this new legislation) is prioritize Michigan,” said Alexander Page, chairperson of the Michigan Film Industry Association (MiFIA)’s Legislative Action Committee and member of its board of directors. “We don’t feel like the state should be in the business of issuing checks. We wanted to make sure that this was changed, and so this is structured as a tax credit.”
The new two-bill package was introduced in the House by Rep. John Roth, R-Interlochen, and Rep. Jason Hoskins, D-Southfield, as House Bills 4907-4908. Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, and Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, introduced identical bills in the Senate as Senate Bills 438-439.
The Multimedia Jobs Act would give preference to Michigan-based companies that hire Michigan residents, with a 30% tax credit for hiring Michigan residents. The legislation also specifies a base tax credit starting at 25% for in-state spending with an additional 5% awarded for the inclusion of “filmed in Michigan,” “Pure Michigan,” “Michigan Film & Digital Media Office,” and the MiFIA logo.
Read the rest of this story on Crain's Grand Rapids Business
David Haddad, chair of the Michigan Film Industry Association, joined CBS News Detroit Friday to discuss the proposed Multimedia Jobs Act that would bring film, television, commercials, and music work back to Michigan.
View the story at CBS News Detroit.
Michigan Film Industry Association (MiFIA)117 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 580 - 7710
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