Planting seeds for a new economy: Film tax credit needs longer trial
As chair of the Department of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan, and as a longtime member of SAG, AFTRA, AEA, and SDC, I deplore the current plan to cap film incentives in the state of Michigan.
In the face of the obvious loss of income for Michigan businesses, the loss of jobs for our citizens (especially our young people), and the loss of prestige for our state, this governor seems bent on ignoring a good thing when he sees it.
Ever since I arrived in Ann Arbor to begin my stint as chair, theatre students have been knocking on my door, sitting down and telling me about their latest audition for a film, their Detroit agents, their roles in movies shot last summer, this fall, and projects coming up for spring and summer. The perception of this state as a place to make a living in “the biz” has changed. There is actual “work” here! Vince Mountain, associate professor of theatre in scene design in our department, was hired last summer as the set designer to work on the permanent sets for the first season of the new ABC drama, “Detroit 1-8-7.” He was able to get students hired on the project, and also saw colleagues being hired on several other feature films being shot in the Detroit area.
Vince says the amount of money he earned in one summer, plus the money he witnessed being spent locally at a variety of businesses (both on materials and labor), combined with the fabulous opportunity to work in the film industry convinced him of the positive and substantial impact the film incentive is having in southeastern Michigan. “Quite simply, there are jobs and resources available to a wide range of residents today that weren't here two years ago, and won't be here in the future without the incentive," Vince told me.
Janet Maylie, assistant professor and teacher of Acting for the Camera classes states: “The high profile professional opportunities in this state, on-site on campus and off, have been irreplaceable educational experiences, giving the students ‘real-life’ learning lessons in putting their film audition techniques to practice in actual auditions for professional work. Several students have been hired as principal players in union films working with actors such as Adrian Brody, Richard Gere, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ryan Gosling. This not only brings their classwork to the real world, but also it serves as a launching pad for their careers, right here in the state of Michigan.“ Film companies are required to hire Michigan artists and technicians, Michigan companies, in order to get the tax breaks. All this goes away when the incentives go away. Unemployment goes up. Revenues from state and municipal taxes go down. Because this makes so little sense, I wonder if the governor has another motive. Priscilla Lindsay is chair of the Department of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan. She has a master's degree in drama from U-M, worked as an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Missouri Repertory Theatre in Kansas City. Since 1999, Lindsay served as associate artistic director at Indiana Repertory Theatre, where she taught in the company's Summer Conservatory for Youth. She was appointed chair of U-M Theatre and Drama Department in the fall of 2010.