2010/11.06 You ought to be in movies

Written by David Green.

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.

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