2010/11.06 You ought to be in movies

Written by David Green.


In 2008, there were 35 film projects completed in Michigan. Last year the number increased to 52 projects.

The year 2010 is expected to bring an even greater number, and of course that will be true. I’ve completed 96 projects myself, from the ever-popular “Diaper Doody” to the puzzlingly strong “Death by Snuggie.” I think its odd that something as interesting as “Take a Moment for Poetry” stalled out at 58 views, just ahead of “The Observer Hand Bell Chorus.”

But it’s not my YouTube collection that the Michigan Film Office is eyeing. They want the big time stuff with minimum budgets of $50,000. Those 87 projects from the two previous years resulted in combined production expenses of $358 million.

The state is offering what’s described as “the most aggressive film incentive program in the nation” to lure film-makers to Michigan. Spend money, hire people, get tax credits.

There’s even an additional two percent credit for all goods, services and labor purchased in-state, providing the transactions were made in one of 135 “core communities,” of which Morenci is not included. I’m expecting that to soon change now that Morenci native Michelle Begnoche is employed by the Michigan Film Office (MFO).

City Hall recently received a document from the MFO titled “Guide to Filming in Your Community,” with hints about becoming a “film friendly” place.

The guide mentions that a few communities have created websites to highlight their attributes, such as location photos, proximity to an airport, hotel accommodations, retail and supply resources, and recreation and entertainment options.

Well, it might be a tough, uphill battle once we let the Coen Brothers know that it’s about 90 minutes to the airport and that Johnson’s Hardware closes at 6 p.m.

As far as locations are concerned, we could provide a link to my YouTube page because I’ve covered most of the hot spots, from the roof of the Observer to the old train trestle pilings to the mausoleums at the cemetery. I’ve been under the Main Street bridge and I’ve even been under the bleachers with Seymour Butts. Any production company should easily see the cornucopia of locations that will make their next film truly interesting.

The MFO says we need a PFC—a primary film contact who is empowered to make a quick decision to close a street or perhaps to order a mass evacuation or maybe to allow a little shooting in the elementary school hallway. Whatever Clint Eastwood wants.

The MFO suggests that it’s good to offer office and warehouse space for storage and casting calls. The NWD building, of course. It’s ready and waiting.

The MFO website offers prospective movie-makers a quick look at Michigan Culture: “Much of Michigan is rich with pastoral charm and the salt-of-the-earth people you’d expect to find in such surroundings. Small-town simplicity. Rural camaraderie. Intense pride.”

I hope they don’t see through that glowing description and conclude that Michigan is nothing but cornfields and boring small-town rednecks who want nothing to do with you city-slicker Hollywood types.

I knew that Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” was made in the Detroit suburbs, but I didn’t know “Up in the Air” was filmed at Metro Airport. I better watch it again.

The MFO website says that “Youth in Revolt” was filmed all over the state, from Frankfort and Lake Leelanau to Ann Arbor. That’s going back on the rental list. It just gives it a new layer of interest to know that I might recognize Frankfort.

Some day, we hope, Morenci will be listed among the filming locations of a made-in-Michigan release, but we still have a lot to learn.

The guidebook’s glossary of terms explains important people (art director, location manager, etc.) and acronyms such as FAM (a familiarization tour), but it also mentions the honeywagon.

This is defined as a trailer outfitted for a dressing room for actors. Without this important tidbit of information, Cameron Diaz would have been shocked when we directed her into the cab of a septic tank cleaner.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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