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September 08, 2009 - Image 33

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-09-08

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I The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - 3D

Lights. Camera. Economic stimulus?
Film students, consider staying put. In-state students, rejoice in something positive about Michigan's economy.
Enacted in April, the Michigan Motion Picture Incentive Program has filmmakers big and small shooting in Ann Arbor and other cities.

By COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
ManagingEditor
JANUARY 13TH, 2009 -
It is a nondescript office build-
ing, flanked by construction equip-
ment on a side street in downtown
Ann Arbor. The first floor directory
mainly lists doctor's offices, and
only after climbing a set of bland,
white stairs does it start to look like
you might be in the right place. The
second floor is just a long hallway,
with temporary, printer-paper signs
noting crew and director's offices
taped near the outside of each closed
door.
But the company that has taken
over the second floor of that build-
ing will be pumping millions of dol-
lars into the state and local economy
over the next few months. Its pay-
roll includes a two-time Academy
Award winner. And just one year
ago, it had no intention of bringing
its business to Michigan.
The movie "Betty Anne Waters,"
starring Hilary Swank, will start its
seven-week shoot in Ann Arbor on
Feb. 17, though its production crew
hasbeeninthe area since November
and will likely stay until the end of
April. The film is one of many that
have flooded into the area in recent
months, thanks tothe passage of the
Michigan Motion Picture Incentive
Program. And with much of Michi-
gan's economy continuing to crum-
ble, the face of the state's quickly
growing film industry may start to
look less like short-term, converted
offices and more like a Midwestern
Tinseltown.
BIG REBATE, BIG NAMES
The Michigan Motion Picture
Incentive Program took effect April
1 after passing unanimously in the
House of Representatives and 37-1
in the Senate. It states that a film
that spends at least $50,000 in the
state can receive up to a 40 percent
tax credit on Michigan cast, crew
and production expenditures (with
the exception of out-of-state crew
members) and an extra two percent
rebate if the film is set in one of 103
"core communities," including Ann
Arbor. The program is one of the
most aggressive in the country to
date.

With the auto industry flounder-
ing and an estimated $1.5 billion
budget deficit heading into the new
year, Michigan may not seem in the
position to offer up to a 42 percent
tax rebate to film companies that
won't be permanently funneling
revenue into the state. But propo-
nents of the program say it's a way
for Michigan to quickly diversify its
economy in a time when revitaliza-
tion is badly needed.
According to Jim Burnstein, vice-
chairman of the Michigan Film
Office Advisory Council, film rev-
enue was about $4 million in Michi-
gan the year before the incentive
was passed.
In just nine months after the ini-
tiative was enacted, the state earned
an estimated $100 million in pro-
duction revenue, Michigan Film
Office CEO Tony Wenson said.
"The film business is one that you
can see immediate results - and we
are," Burnstein said. "Since the law
was passed in April, it's the equiva-
lent from going from 0 to 100 miles
an hour."
After the initiative passed, Mich-
igan played host to movies ranging
from big-name blockbusters like
Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino"
to indie films like "Cherry," filmed
on the Kalamazoo College cam-
pus. And the names of actors and
actresses who filmed in Michigan
read like a guest list at an A-list Hol-
lywood soiree.
Diane Lane. Drew Barrymore.
Christina Ricci. Adrien Brody. Kim
Cattrall. Sean Astin.
But Michigan isn't alone in luring
stars and film equipment away from
Los Angeles. Michigan's initiative
followed similar plans in states like
Louisiana and New Mexico, which
both have 25 percent tax credit pro-
grams and are considered to have
two of the country's most successful
fledgling film industries. Louisiana
served as the backdrop for 80 films
in 2008.
Before tax credit programs were
implemented, the high cost of film-
ing made it difficult for independent
producers to shoot in the United
States.
Producer Philippe Martinez said
he often filmed in Canada and East-

ern Europe because of the lower cost
of production. But Martinez set up
shop in Grand Rapids from August
to October to shoot the $4.8 million
thriller "The Steam Experiment," a
story about a scientist (Val Kilmer,
"Alexander") who takes six people
hostage in a steam room until the
local newspaper agrees to print his
global warming theory.
Now, with multiple states offering
tax rebates, there are more opportu-
nities to shoot in the United States
but the difference between states'
rebate percentages is minimal when
deciding on a location, Martinez
said.
"It's not like, 'How much would
I save compared to another state?'
" he said. "It's more like you don't
even come to the state, as an inde-
pendent producer, shooting some-
where where there's no tax breaks."
Even with bigger-budget and
less price-sensitive movies, choos-
ing a state in which to film requires
a mixture of what makes the most
economic and creative sense. Pro-
ducer David Permut had two films
slated for production in early 2008
- the $60 million film "Youth in
Revolt," starring Michael Cera
("Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist"),
and "Prayers for Bobby," a Lifetime
movie starring Sigourney Weaver
("WALL-E"). Both films were set in
northern California, but Permut had
plans in early 2008 to shoot"Youth
in Revolt" in Oregon and "Prayers
for Bobby" in Alberta, Canada.
As soon as the Michigan film
incentive passed, though, Permut
moved both his films to Michigan
- and part of the "Youth in Revolt"
shoot to Ann Arbor.
ANN ARBOR'S LEADING ROLE
The potential future economic
impact of the "Betty Anne Waters"
crew in Ann Arbor was first seen
on a smaller scale July 28-31, when
"Youth in Revolt" was brought
downtown for four days of filming.
The entire film was shot in Michi-
gan, but mainly in the Royal Oak
and Traverse City areas. Based off
the C.D. Payne book of the same
name, "Youth in Revolt" chronicles
a sex-obsessed teenager's quest to
lose his virginity to a girl he meets
on vacation.

A scaled-down, special effects-
heavy crew set up at the corner of
Liberty Street and Ashley Street
to shoot the movie's third act. The
action sequence included a vin-
tage Lincoln careening down a hill
and crashing into the Obama cam-
paign's county headquarters, which
was converted into a hot dog stand
named Too Frank Sausages during
the shoot.
"Ann Arbor saved us on this film,
because quite honestly, one of our
biggest challenges was to find an
area geographically that we could
create that stunt," Permut said. "We
actually even talked about shooting
in a landfill at one point, trying to
basically build our own mountain,
which would have been really prob-
lematic. So believe me, Ann Arbor
became very meaningful for us."
Even in just a few days of shoot-
ing, Ann Arbor businesses benefit-
ed. Kay Seaser, account manager for
the Ann Arbor Tourist Bureau, said
Downtown Home and Garden sold
sun hats and patio umbrellas during
the shoot, and Sign-o-Rama printed
signs for parking and set operations.
Cast and crew frequented restau-
rants like Fleetwood Diner, Sweet-
water's and Conor O'Neill's.
"Typically, they would have
caterers on site," Seaser said. "But
the second unit location manager
who was here a month in advance,
she said, '(Ann Arbor has) such great
restaurants here - instead of bring-
ing catering to (the cast and crew)
every day, we're going to give them
a per diem and let them eat in the
local restaurants.'"
Fleetwood Diner owner Andy
Demiri estimated an increase in
sales of at least 25 percent while the
film crew worked around the corner
- a lot of take-out was ordered and
one night, Michael Ceraeven made a
midnight stop.
A construction crew came to
town to build the "Too Frank Sau
sages" fagade for the fiery crash
scene at least two weeks before the
actual shoot. Demiri said by the end
of the movie's time in Ann Arbor,
members of that crew were loyal
customers, eating at his diner once
or twice a day.
See FILM INDUSTRY, Page 7D

LSA senior Eddie Rubin has already benefited from the state rebate program, getting
extra tends tar his film 'Art House."
NOTABLE FILMS IN MICHIGAN:
FILMS PARTIALLY OR COMPLETELY FILMED IN MICHIGAN IN 2008
STREET BOSS with Vincent Pastore, filmed TUG with Haylie Duff,
in Jackson filmed in Holland

KILLSHOTwith Diane Lane & Mickey
Rourke, filmed intDetroit
WHIP IT! with Drew Barrymore, filmed in
Ypsitanti

THE STEAM EXPERIMENT with Val Kilmer,
filmed in Grand Rapids
PRAYERS FOR BOBBY with
Sourne yWeaver, filmed
inRoyal Oak

YOUTH IN REVOLT with MichaelCera, MISS JANUARY withKim Cattralt, filmed in
filmed in Ann Arbor and Royal Oak Romulus, West Bloomfield and Livonia
GRAs TORINO with Clint GIFTED HANDS: THE BEN CARSON STORY
Eastwood,filmedintDetroit with Cuba Gooding, Jr., filmed in Detroit
and Grosse Pointe
ALL'S FAIRE IN LOVE with Christina Ricci, BARRY MLNDAY with Colin Hanks, Judy
filmed in Holly and Flint Greer and Patrick Wilson, filmed in Howell
ART HOUSE with Iggy Pop and Tim HIGH SCHOOLwith
Brennen, filmed in AnnArbor Adrien Brody, filmed in
DEMOTED ith Sean Astin & Michael VIRGIN ON BOURBON STREET with Re
Vartanimad in Novi, Farmington Hills and Schneider fi edin Ann ArErand Detroit

Southfield
SOURCES: MICHIGAN FILM OFFICE AND IMDB.COM
IMAGES COURTESY OF ROTTENTOMATOES.COM AND MOVIEWEB.COM

From the basements to the big time: Ann Arbor's local bands

By MIKE KUNTZ their favorite Ann Arbor act or just
Daily Arts Writer folks coming in to pick up cheap beer
and catch an up-close-and-personal
JANUARY 21ST, 2009 - concert, the Blind Pig has been an
It's hard not to notice the strong invaluable resource for developing
presence of local music in Ann Arbor. mostbands in the area.
It's impossible to walk to class and Jason Berry, in charge of booking
not see a poster taped to the side of for the venue, is primarily responsi-
a building, rounder or coffee shop ble for selecting the bands that come
bulletin board advertising a local ' through, and he doesn't forget a face.
concert. Though the occasional mar- "Once you're in their world, they
quee actcmay stop by HillAuditorium have a vested interest in helping you
or the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor grow," said Jonathan Visger of local
natives dominate most performances mainstay band Mason Proper - a
around town. group of University graduates whose
Everyone starts somewhere, and new album Oly Oxen Free recently
many of Ann Arbor's local musicians garnered a favorable review from the
got their start at the University of respected indie webzine Pitchfork.
Michigan. High school friendships, But as much as Jason and the folks
music school projects and even at the Blind Pig do their best to help
JDate profiles can lay the foun-
dation for musical collaborations
that extend far beyond the Diag.
Cut classes and weekends spent
in vans are common occurrences.
Practice spaces range from rooms
in the music school to cramped Ann ,
Arbor basements.
Sometimes, the bands don't have
any room to practice.
"When you're playing enough
showsstrungtogether,they become
your practice," explained My Dear
Disco's Tyler Duncan, one of the
band's two keyboardists.
My Dear Disco is merely one of
the many popular local bands for
University students. The band, cur-
rently made up of seven graduates
of the University's School of Music,
has gone through several lineup
changes over the years.
"The band was first called Tool-
box," Duncan recalled. "But our
first gig as My Dear Disco was at
the Blind Pig."
Ah, the Blind Pig. Planted snugly
above the 8 Ball Saloon on the cor-
ner of Washington and First Ave-
nue, the Pig is a modest venue, but
its importance to the local music of
Ann Arbor runs deep. Whether it's
housing a familiar crowd of locals
and students stopping by to see

out, there's still a seemingly endless
amount of drudgework to be done.
"It's a matter of constantly remind-
ing people that you exist," Vigger
continued. "Bands that ruthlessly
self-promote tend to do a lot better
much quicker."
"You really have to promote your-
self," said Ryan Sloan of Farewell
Republic, an inventive post-rock out-
fit that happens to be playing a show
tonight at the Blind Pig with Detroit's
Satin Peaches. "In Ann Arbor, you
learn how to build your chops as a
promotion machine."
In actuality, promoting shows
extends far beyond the thousands
of posters adorning Ann Arbor's
fagades: Tools like Facebook and
MySpace prove essential to reach-

ing larger crowds, and local press
is more than happy to put in a blurb
about an upcoming show every now
and then.
While most bands that call Ann
Arbor home would be considered
"indie," the term has become as
broad as, say, "alternative" was by
the end of the '90s. The broad spec-
trum of "indie rock" serves as an
umbrellaterm for the eclectic sounds
present across the Ann Arbor music
scene. Bands like Lightning Love are
notably peppier, with more dance
and pop-oriented sounds. At the
same time, there are plenty of other
more layered and guitar-driven acts
like Starling Electric and Farewell
Republic. Heck, My Dear Disco is
even known to break out the bag-

pipes in its live shows. Since there
are so many bands all with different
sounds, there has to be some compe-
tition, right?
"No, not at all," Sloan said.
"Everybody helps each other out,
and it makes for a really great atmo-
sphere."
The cooperative environment he
describes is apparent in the shared
bills at the Blind Pig, the constant
plugging of one another's shows and
somethingcalled Bluegrass Night.
"Bluegrass Night is a great time,"
said Duncan of My Dear Disco. Orga-
nized by local promoter Matthew
"Tuna" Altruda, Bluegrass Night is a
free night of roots music held every
Wednesday night at Circus Bar &
Grill above the Cavern nightclub.

It's more of a gathering of local
musicians than anything else, as
Duncan explains: "You go to Blue-
grass Night a few times, and I guar-
antee that you will eventually come
across everyone onthe local scene."
Local music shops thrive in
Ann Arbor, contrary to the decline
in larger music stores across the
country in recent years. Places like
Wazoo Records, Underground
Sounds, Encore Sounds and PJ's
Records have an important place
in the local music scene, promoting
Ann Arbor bands' upcoming shows
or new albums with large in-store
posters. Some show their support
by purchasing CDs from the bands,
regardless of their confidence in the
See ANN ARBOR BANDS,. Page 8D

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