Could the Multimedia Jobs Act bill, now being considered by Lansing lawmakers, be a windfall for job creation and the state’s economy if passed? For many with a grand vision of growing Detroit and Michigan jobs and economy through the film and television production industry, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
The Multimedia Jobs Act, a two-bill package with bipartisan support, was introduced last summer in the State House of Representatives by Reps. John Roth (R-Interlochen) and Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield) as HB 4907- 4908, with similar bills (SB 438-439) simultaneously introduced in the State Senate by Senators Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield).
If passed, the legislation would create a two-tier tax credit that would provide incentives and promote Michigan-produced films, television projects, corporate videos, digital streaming productions, and commercials, giving what many stakeholders believe would be an economic shot in the arm for the state.
The Multimedia Jobs Act would grant film and television production companies hiring Michigan residents a 30% tax credit. There would be a $50,000 minimum qualified spend for commercials, commercial photography, and short films and a $300,000 minimum spend for feature films and TV shows, among other factors. The legislation offers tax credits for in-state spending and filming projects that include the taglines and logos “filmed in Michigan,” “Pure Michigan,” or “Michigan Film & Digital Media Office.”
Hoskins, who chairs the State House’s Economic Development and Small Business Committee, sees the passage of the legislation as a viable way to keep talent in Michigan.
“One thing that I’ve been continuing to work on is ways to really attract, grow, and retain talent in the state,” Hoskins said. “And the film industry does exactly that. We have so many talented people in the state who often don’t feel there is a place for them in Michigan because we don’t have the film and television infrastructure to grow and support their talents. We must keep that talent in Michigan.”
Without a comprehensive strategy to retain talent and grow the film industry, filmmakers often pass over Michigan as an ideal option to do business. Hoskins said there are more than 40 states with some type of film and multimedia film enticement program or legislation in place to attract the film and television production industry.
Ironically, Michigan once ranked in the top tier of states as a destination for film and television productions. In April 2008, then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm signed into law legislation designed to grow the film industry in the state by setting the stage for hundreds of millions of dollars in private investments to create thousands of jobs.
The legislation provided robust incentives for film, television, and other digital media productions, infrastructure development, financing, and workforce development with an emphasis on hiring Michigan workers and filming in Michigan’s 103 core communities, urban settings, and traditional centers of commerce.
Michigan’s lure to attract national and international filmmakers worked. Beginning in 2008, big movie production companies came to the Great Lakes State to film big-budget movies, including, but not limited to, “Red Dawn,” “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Gran Torino,” “Real Steel,” “Transformers,” “Vanishing on 7th Street,” “LOL,” and “The Ides of March.”
Nevertheless, the incentive program under Granholm wasn’t embraced by many Republicans, who felt the film incentives were a bad return on the initial investment. When Rick Snyder became Michigan’s governor in 2011, he soon placed a $25 million cap on the program, which prompted many film production companies to go to other states. In 2015, Snyder signed a bill to end Michigan’s film incentive program.
Hoskins believes greater opportunities can once again be experienced in the state if the Multimedia Jobs Act is passed, citing how filming in Michigan created thousands of film and television production jobs and ancillary opportunities enjoyed by entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state.
“Just one film in the state can impact as many as 60 vendors in the state, such as fashion designers, hair stylists, makeup artists, food vendors, lodging, and hospitality entities, restaurants when film or television productions are made in the state,” Hoskins said.
While there is a renewed effort to bring film and television production companies back to Michigan, not everyone is on board.
“We wasted $500 million on the original film incentive series. There is no independent scholarship that demonstrates programs like these are effective,” Michael LaFaive, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Senior Director of Fiscal Policy, told media outlets earlier this year. “There is much academic scholarship on film incentive programs from around the country, and they often show very negative results.”
All eyes are now on Michigan lawmakers, who will determine if a sequel and modification to the original film incentive program will be favorably voted on. The bill will include a “sunset provision” that could end the Multimedia Jobs Act in ten years or renew it.
“The Multimedia Jobs Act does not cut checks. It does not create budget line items. It does not finance movie studios or bail out failed movie studios,” Polehanki clarified. “It is a transferable tax credit only that has to be used in Michigan, and it’s only redeemable if you spend a certain amount of money using Michigan vendors and Michigan personnel.”
“We are hoping to have committee hearings on the Multimedia Jobs Act soon,” said Hoskins. “We want to see how much we can get done by the end of the year. We definitely want to get a hearing on the bill soon and get it signed by Gov. Whitmer.”
“The Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, in coordination with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, continues to review the Multimedia Jobs Act legislation to examine its potential to drive growth in Michigan’s film industry,” Selam Ghirmai, Director of the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office said in a statement sent to the Michigan Chronicle. “We stand ready to work with state lawmakers and the Governor’s office as these bills move forward.”
Detroit-based filmmaker Stephen McGee is optimistic about ways the Multimedia Jobs Acts will impact Detroit.
“What I see with this new bill is an opportunity to retain the talent that’s already here in Detroit,” said McGee, a two-time Emmy Award-winning Director/Director of Photography who moved from Los Angeles to Detroit in 2005 to make films.
“The passage of the Multimedia Jobs Acts is the answer for the people here and the people who will come to Detroit because of the vast opportunities in the industry. This will be the time for Detroit to continue its generational contributions to the world and be the ideal place where filmmakers, television production companies, and documentary entities will come and create local jobs.”