The big argument behind Michigan's film incentives is that they create jobs. Can they also help staunch the state's brain drain? Can you offer any specific examples of young people in their 20s deciding to stay here because of opportunities created by the incentives?
I think more than the jobs, it's the brain drain because even though there are a lot of real jobs that are here, there are a lot of real jobs that are going to come here. Young people are gamblers. They can afford to take the risk and take the chance. ...You can't read the Michigan Production Alliance's forum and other chat rooms without hearing the stories of the people who have left L.A. or left New York and are coming here because they weren't doing very well out there. It's not just because they can do better here. [It's that] they can do here what they couldn't do in L.A. or New York or even in Chicago.
New Mexico's film incentives are seen as a successful, established program in the industry, even though they are not as generous as Michigan's package. In 2007, their incentives led to 30 film productions that generated $250 million in spending and created 2,200 jobs. In comparison, Michigan's first year (most of 2008) brought in 28 movies and $65 million in investment. What will it take for Michigan to achieve a New Mexico-like economic impact?
The first six months of our incentives were an embarrassment. We weren't ready. You can't believe how many calls I was getting from people who were looking for satisfaction. They're not beginning to be ready. Show me a successful film-incentive state and my first question will be, how long have they been doing it? Now, how long have we been doing it? And we have been doing it really well for what little time we have had it. We're good at this. Bring it on. We're not New Mexico. We're not Toronto. We're not Vancouver. Wait until our incentives have been in place as long as those places and I will answer that question.
Is it a matter of just waiting for the film industry to sink roots here and establish post production facilities?
I don't believe in waiting. It's a matter of making. I don't believe in finding. I believe in making. Michigan knows how to do this. We're really good problem solvers. That's what producing is all about. Producing is problem solving. Writing is problem solving. Creating is problem solving. It's a process that is identifying and solving problems. We can surpass the expectations of how successful this is going to be, but not only are we going to make other people's films, it's only a matter of time before we start making our own movies and telling our own stories. Nobody is stopping and waiting and holding their breath and saying Buddhist prayers and shaking elf stone and polishing the magic bullet. We're from Michigan. We do it and make it.
Some well-known movies are based around Michiganders, such as Hoffa and even the new HBO special about Jack Kevorkian. This state, especially Metro Detroit, has some great characters in its past that just haven't been translated to the big screen. Can we expect to see more of their stories hit the big and little screens in the future because of the incentives?
Right now a lot of the low-budget producers and directors are getting their start here just as Scorsese got his start on the mean streets of New York. John Hughes got his start in Chicago. Others got their starts in their hometowns. Wait until our no-budget and low-budget directors and the producers get their first movies under their belts. They're the ones who know the Michigan and Detroit stories. They know about Edsel and Eleanor Ford and the forgotten Fords. They know about John and Horace Dodge who were single-handedly responsible for making Ford's third attempt at making cars possible with the Model T. They know about Ossian Sweet and Clarence Darrow coming out of retirement and coming to Detroit to protect that black man. We all know our stories because we live here. But we don't have the power to tell them yet and nobody gives a shit right now because nobody knows about them. It's only a matter of time before we start telling our stories.