Tonight we get our turn on film credits

by | Feb 24, 2011 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

There is a reason why more than 1,000 people are expected to gather at 7:30 tonight at the Laurel Manor in Livonia – on about three days’ notice. They are not starstruck. They are trying to save their jobs and futures.

They are no different than autoworkers or health care workers. They want to work and live in Michigan. But if Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to squash the film/TV/video game incentives goes through, their livelihoods are finished.

So this is serious stuff. Let’s lose the silly “Hollywood” name calling. These tax incentives employ far more technicians, drivers, electricians and accountants than they do actors. They keep clothing shops and catering services in business. They employ people like the photographer who wrote me saying, in the crash of 2008, he was down to no work, but found a good living taking headshots for the film/TV industry. He even bought a house and started a family here.

These are the people rarely spoken about when tempers flare over the film incentives, yet these are the people Snyder will kick out of work and likely kick out of Michigan. All in the name of a one-size-fits-all budget.

It’s time to fight back. Because one size does not fit all. And the incentives are good business.

Debunking the myths about movies

A just-released Ernst & Young study suggests for every tax dollar spent in the film/TV businesses in Michigan, nearly $6 of business is generated. If that’s even remotely accurate, how do you argue against it? The incentives clearly have created thousands of jobs and kept young bright minds from fleeing.

The video game and digital animation industries – rarely spoken about – are the best kind of tech-growth to have in your backyard: permanent, brick-and-mortar places that look for young talent to shape the future.

They all go away with Snyder’s plan.

Why? Because – like it or not – certain businesses have tax incentives in their equation and they go where they can get them. No different than commercial fishermen going to water. Keep the incentives, they stay. Kill them, they go.

That’s one misconception. Others:

We give 42% on everything. Wrong. It’s 40% (except in certain communities) and only on Michigan labor or services. It’s 30% for out-of-town labor. And zero for work not done here.

We need to cut the incentives to save Michigan. Wrong. Snyder chose to kill it to help pay for his $1.8-billion tax savings for businesses. He’s simply selecting one cost-cut for industry over another. The total expense of this film program is a drop in the bucket of the budget.

Michigan celebrities want it because it makes them rich. Wrong. Directors like Mike Binder, actors like Jeff Daniels, even writers like myself, make the same money whether films are done here or somewhere else. We just want the work to stay here.

Shouldn’t Snyder want that, too?

It’s more than the bottom line

Which is why the Legislature must take notice of tonight’s event (to which anyone is invited.) Legislators can – and should – modify the budget to leave the incentives in place. Snyder’s allocation of $25 million is not only tantamount to killing it, it makes the program an annual allotment, up to his whim every budget season. No work will come here under such uncertainty.

Dozens of projects – and tens of millions of dollars – already have fled the state. It’s like an auto plant closing overnight. Snyder, the former computer executive, has shrugged off those complaining by saying, “They don’t agree with the number.” That is a classic CEO approach. I’ve got a bottom line. Employees are always unhappy when they’re fired.

Except he’s not our boss and we’re not his employees. He’s there to govern for the people. And if so many people are speaking up, shouldn’t he – and the legislators – be listening?

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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