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Film crews fear movie makers will bypass Michigan

8:31 AM, Feb 19, 2011   |    comments
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WALKER, Mich. (WZZM) - At the opening of the "Genesis Code" at AMC Star Theater in Walker Friday night, some of the crew who worked on the film said they fear it may be one of the last movies made in Michigan that they will see.

"I'm worried," says location scout Ashley Bunge.

"Feature films are packing up and leaving," says Dave Lowing of Lowing Lights And Grip.

"I don't have a job," says assistant production coordinator Jax Baker. "I was supposed to start work on a film Tuesday. I lost my job on the proposal alone."

That "proposal" is Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's plan to cap the state's most generous in the nation subsidies for filmmakers at $25 million per year.

"Which is considerably less than what we've been putting out on an annual basis," says Rick Hert of the West Michigan Film Office. "It will limit the number of feature films. We've been saying a cap is not such a good idea."

But the Snyder administration says, while the film incentives have led to some job creation and investment, they are expensive.

"For every 10 tax dollars sent out for this subsidy, one dollar comes back," says Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who attended the "Genesis Code" opening. "It's a 10 to one negative impact on the state's budget."

Because of already approved projects, filmmakers will receive $100 million in Michigan subsidies in 2012 and $50 million in 2013.

"[It's] a huge, huge, massive investment for just one industry," says Calley. "If $100 million is not enough to make it viable, it raises some pretty big questions."

Georgia, New Mexico and other states offer incentives nearly as generous as Michigan subsidies.

"So much is going to leave for the other states," says Lowing.

"As the proposal stands it would scare so many productions away," says Baker. "I feel there would only be one or two movies here a year."

The cap on film subsidies is included in a Snyder budget proposal that cuts appropriations for just about every state department or service.

"I feel they are pitting a lot of people against each other," says Bunge. "You know, take taxes from people's pensions who have been working for 40 years, take money from education for students or take money from the arts. I don't think it's going to be one or the other. I think it's going to be all of us suffering. It's sad."

Even if the legislature approves the cap on subsidies, West Michigan film industry workers say they may still find jobs on commercials, lower budget features and television shows. But there won't be as many opportunities and much of the developing crew base will follow the films to other states.

"I would have to go to New York, Los Angeles or even New Orleans in Louisiana," says Baker. "I know I would have to move."

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