Government Report Shows Little Return from Michigan’s Film Incentives

Published June 20, 2013

In 2009, a year after signing the nation’s most lucrative film incentive program, then- Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) of Michigan touted the jobs it would create.

“We are working hard to build a diversified economy and create good-paying jobs in Michigan,” Granholm said. “As a result of our aggressive film incentives we are not only bringing new investment to Michigan, we are laying the foundation for an industry that will support long-term job growth for our citizens.”

However, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that has not happened in one key aspect of the film industry—post-production work. In the years since Granholm signed the bill that allowed the state to offer up to 42 percent reimbursement on money spent by movie producers in Michigan, just seven post production jobs have been added.

There were 290 jobs in “post production and other related industries” in 2004. However, that number dropped to 153 jobs in 2008 and then increased to 160 jobs in 2011, the most recent year data is available.

Film Office Blames Economy

Michelle Begnoche, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Film Office, said in an email the economic crisis hit the entire country and affected jobs across a broad range of sectors.

Begnoche said post-production jobs increased from 144 in 2009 to 148 in 2010 and 160 in 2011.

“That upward trend reinforces our decision to put a priority on attracting digital media and post-production projects that will support and grow these types of jobs here in Michigan,” Begnoche said.

Overall Numbers Little Changed

Numbers from the state on overall film jobs also show stagnation, with the number of jobs floating between 5,500 and 7,000 in the years before and after the subsidy program began. Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for about $400 million in direct incentives.

Some of that money has gone to support projects that didn’t survive in the state. The Weinstein Co., for example, was paid $1.8 million in film subsidies when it paid $4.5 million to Speedshape to do post production work on Spy Kids 4 in 2011. After Speedshape, which had its Michigan headquarters in Bingham Farms, was paid, it broke its lease from its leasing agent and left without paying $20,296 in property taxes.

The Republican-controlled state House and Senate recently teamed up with the Democratic caucus to approve $50 million for film subsidies.

Used with permission of Michigan Capitol Confidential, published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.