Michigan film crews ready for rush

New incentives could bring more work this fall

When Michigan, the state responsible for making the majority of cars on U.S. roads, can’t find jobs for its autoworkers, you know film industry folk are having a tough time finding employment there as well.

That was certainly the case for Tim Magee, the business agent for IATSE Local 38, Detroit’s Stage Employee Union, who says times had been slow for the pic biz in Michigan as recently as this past winter.

Detroit is mainly known as a commercial production town, not a feature production location, Magee says. “We just weren’t receiving calls on a daily basis in order to constantly supply people with work.”

That is, until the state’s new business tax law was put into place in April, causing a high interest in Michigan and a sudden need for Michigan film crews.

“The amount of work in our office has gone up since then,” he says. “We are putting more people to work than I can believe.”

Since April, the titles Magee and his film crews have been a part of include Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” and Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It!” and the calls have not stopped coming in.

“This is certainly generating jobs,” Magee says. “It’s good for the hearts of the people in the state of Michigan. Restaurants, hotels and even lumber yards are being utilized, and there is hope now for the future.”

The Detroit area might be booming with location shoots, but sites outside the city are still waiting for their turn in the spotlight. Stasia Savage, business agent for Local 26, West Michigan Stagehands, says her side of the state is getting scouted but hasn’t seen the type of exposure the east side has right now.

“We haven’t seen a whole influx of work yet,” she says. “Lot of small independent films and lots of speculation calls on what the area looks like, but not since ‘Road to Perdition’ has this area seen a lot of feature film production.”

Savage says crews continued to be trained in anticipation of a big surge, and a big workload might be just around the corner: “We have spent a lot of time getting organized and getting ready for what is coming in the fall,” Savage says.

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