Traverse City Record-Eagle

2012 Traverse City Film Festival

August 4, 2012

Michigan can still be a movie hot spot

Panel discusses loss of tax incentives for films

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan still can be a place for movie making, despite changes to the state's film incentive program.

That's the optimistic message shared Friday by Michigan Film Commissioner Carrie Jones at a Traverse City Film Festival panel. The morning session was turned over to the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council, which had a smaller audience than previous star-studded panels.

Council members include festival Founder and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who offered a less-rosy view of Michigan's current film-making climate.

"It has been decimated," said Moore, who called the state program "underfunded." "We're all trying to be polite about this."

The program so far processed $187 million in incentives since its 2008 start, but the 2012 cap is $25 million. Starting Oct. 1 the program will have $50 million in incentives to distribute.

Since January, the program received 25 applications that requested $54 million in incentives, double the available amount. Jones said seven projects received approval so far; final agreements are pending for three more.

The program shifted from a tax credit of up to 42 percent to a grant program that covers on average about 30 percent of eligible Michigan expenses, Jones said.

But, she said: "We're not just all about incentives."

Work is underway to promote Michigan's film locations as tourist destinations and issue "location certificates" to spots highlighted in movies.

Council member Bob Brown said the state also boasts hard-working residents, even if Michigan is no longer a national leader for incentives.

"We're rebuilding," he said.

But will there be a Hollywood ending for the state's filmmaking community?

"We're hearing anecdotally that people are starting to come back," Jones said. "Certainly it's been a couple years of transition."

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