Michigan is going to become the next Hollywood!

Michigan is going to become the next Hollywood!

Sunday, December 28, 2008 6:52 AM EST

By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Can you imagine: Hollywood on the shores of Lake St. Clair? Macomb County officials are making a major push to lure film companies here after Michigan’s new tax incentives for movie makers has proven highly successful. Some 65 films are in the works that will be shot in the Great Lakes State. County Commissioner Carey Torrice, a model and actress, is leading the push to put Macomb County on the map in the land of the silver screen. Torrice, who took office just two years ago, believes her connections in the entertainment industry can make Macomb County a destination for production studios. “I always believed this would happen, even if no one else did,” said Torrice, a Clinton Township Democrat. “It’s just weird how politics and movies now go hand in hand.”

Since last spring, when Michigan lawmakers adopted lucrative tax incentives that reimburse film companies for up to 42 percent of their expenses if they shoot in Michigan, the state has enjoyed a surge in interest from Hollywood. While the film industry spent $3 million in Michigan in all of 2007, in the past eight months the production companies have already spent $167 million here. One of the most prominent 2008 films made here, the acclaimed “Gran Torino” starring Clint Eastwood, which has opened in limited theaters, was made in several Michigan locations, including a scene shot at a Center Line VFW hall.County officials are working to catch up with Detroit and Oakland County in luring movie makers. Don Morandini, deputy director of the county Planning and Economic Development Department, said he believes Lake St. Clair offers numerous possibilities for movie scenery, as well as Macomb County’s “quaint” historical neighborhoods and downtowns, such as those in Romeo and Armada.”We have a tremendous asset in Lake St. Clair, and I think that’s something we can promote,” Morandini said. Beyond the beaches and marinas of the waterfront, officials said that Macomb can also market its blue-collar industrial areas for filming sites. Hollywood is also looking for large, empty warehouses where they can construct movie sets. The Planning and Economic Development Department will establish a Web site where residents can send in photos of areas that they think would make a good backdrop for the big screen. Morandini said the department is following the lead of many counties by establishing a film office essentially a “single point of contact” so that local communities can respond quickly to a film studio that expresses interest in coming here. Torrice said that actor and filmmaker Jeff Daniels has demonstrated in his movies how enticing Michigan can be in any of the four seasons. She’s convinced that Hollywood will be attracted equally to Macomb County’s scenic shoreline and its luxurious restaurants and clubs, as well as the county’s Rust Belt neighborhoods. “From the grit to the glamour, we’ve got it all,” she said. Torrice’s resume includes work as a model and product spokeswoman, a TV commercial performer, bit parts in a soap opera, and a major role in “Silent Scream,” a horror film that was shot in Harbor Springs, Mich., and released on video in late 2006. She also worked on the set of “Gran Torino” and met Eastwood. On a recent business trip to Los Angeles, Torrice discovered that some in the film industry are already expressing animosity at the degree to which Michigan has lured away movie productions from Tinseltown. Those film shoots add up to jobs and a shot in the arm for the Michigan economy. Film crews have rented 10,613 hotel room-nights in Michigan this year, 1,786 at Detroit’s Motor City Casino alone. In addition, movie makers are not only looking to hire local actors and film technicians, they want everything from stunt men and helicopter pilots to electricians and carpenters. To bring some of those jobs to Macomb County, officials are working with the Michigan Film Office in Lansing. The office, contained within Gov. Granholm’s administration, recently held a seminar in Clinton Township to educate local officials on how to benefit from the film industry. Torrice is so encouraged by the trends that she flatly declares that “Michigan is going to become the next Hollywood,” and Macomb County will cash in.”There are a lot of county commissioners who don’t understand this, but I have a lot of contacts in the industry and I know that we have to move quickly,” she said. “”It’s so fast-paced that if we don’t move fast, they’ll just go somewhere else or they’ll just bring in talent from L.A.”

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