The Rapidian

Where's the film industry now, Governor Snyder?

The Grand Rapids film industry has been dealt a near fatal blow, due to the new $25 million cap Governor Rick Snyder has put on the film incentives.
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The decline of an industry

There were ten different full-length feature films, television shows, and short-films shot in Grand Rapids. However, that number is going to be slim to none next year due to the new $25 million cap Governor Rick Snyder has put on the film incentives.

/Tom Magliery (mag3737 @

In 2010, several big name actors and directors flocked to Grand Rapids. If someone was in the right place at the right time, they could watch as movie production crews filmed their latest projects. Many big name actors came to Grand Rapids, including Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Kurt Russell (Miracle) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard).

There were ten different full-length feature films, television shows and short-films shot in Grand Rapids last year. However, that number is going to be slim to none next year due to the new $25 million cap Governor Rick Snyder has put on the film incentives.

This incentive cap has scared off almost all of the film industry. Even before the film incentive caps actually passed, many films that were scheduled to shoot in Grand Rapids, and the rest of the state, relocated to other states.

Freelancers, for example, is a film that was scheduled to shoot in Grand Rapids last March; however, Governor Snyder told the Michigan Film Office to slow down the process of approving films for tax incentives. Since then, most film productions have had their applications put on hold, although it's uncertain how many. This stall caused the Freelancers production—as well as other films—to relocate to different states. As of earlier this month, the process  is still moving very slowly.

The halt isn’t the only thing that’s put a dagger in Grand Rapids’ side, as well as the rest of Michigan. There is also the fact that twenty-five million dollars isn’t much money to a film company. That's roughly enough for two major studio films. Studios don’t want to be forced into rushing their productions so they can beat other films for part of the year's incentives. They don’t want to risk paying full price.

Governor Snyder says the film industry wasn’t creating enough jobs. However, back in February, reported that over 6,700 jobs were created, and another 4,000 plus jobs for background extras. These jobs typically pay around fifty to one-hundred dollars or more an hour. It is also common for people that become involved in one production to find further work with other productions.

It’s safe to say that our state’s film incentives were very attractive to the industry. However, it wasn’t just the film industry that benefited from the film incentives. Film crews typically just fly out the actors and the most important crew members when they film in a far off location; they usually end up hiring many local citizens and businesses for whatever services they require. It’s cheaper that way.

Usually, all of the extras are locals. There are often casting calls for minor speaking roles as well. Besides the on-screen jobs, they also hired many businesses in Grand Rapids for services like hotel lodging, catering, construction, furniture rental, security guards, and medical professionals in case of emergencies. That’s a lot of business that production crews have brought to Grand Rapids.

Take S & R Event Retail for example. According to Wood TV, they earned $1.7 million in revenue since the incentives began and have created twenty job positions just to keep up with all the business they have been receiving. And this is only one of the many businesses the film industry has been involved with.

Wood TV reported that our state has welcomed 130 film productions since the film incentives bill was passed in April 2008. Together they spent a total of $648 million dollars. In 2010 alone, forty-eight film productions put over $300 million back into the state.

Although it’s hard to say how much of that money went to Grand Rapids, it is safe to say that it was a nice percentage of that. Ten of the fifty-one film productions last year shot at least part—if not the entirety—of their films in Grand Rapids.

Governor Snyder said the film industry would continue to come to Grand Rapids, and the rest of Michigan to shoot their productions. However, according to sources involved more closely to the film industry, they say that the phone has stopped ringing. "I deal with Hollywood every day; they have written us off," Jim Burnstein, the Vice Chairman of the Michigan Film Office advisory counsel, told The Washington Times. "If this stands, it's over, we're done." The city of Grand Rapids and the rest of Michigan has started to miss out on a huge amount of business with the industry. So this raises the question: where is the film industry now, Governor Snyder?

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