MICHIGAN — Over the next few weeks, film industry leaders plan to tour Michigan and push lawmakers to pass legislation that incentivizes productions made within the state after initially failing to gain traction in Lansing.
In February, a small group of legislators introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would create a two-tiered tax credit for any film, television, streaming, or commercial production shot within Michigan.
However, two months later, the bills still sit in committee.
Josh Sikkema hopes the stalemate comes to an end sooner rather than later.
He co-owns Black Pigeon Studios in Grand Rapids, but lives in Los Angeles since its the heart of the film industry.
“I would rather shoot in Michigan and work with my friends, family, and stimulate the local economy that I love so much,” said Sikkema.
Sikema explained that while Black Pigeon Studios brings its clients back to Michigan to shoot their films, companies would likely come to him if lawmakers passed film incentive legislation.
“It’ll now incentive those producers and financiers to start looking at Michigan agin, not just based off of our relationships, but also the amazing tax initiative that’s currently in place,” said Sikkema.
The bills include:
- A 25% base tax credit with an additional 5% awarded for the inclusion of a "Filmed in Michigan" logo
- A commitment from production companies to spend at least $50K per commercial and $300K for productions over 20 min
- A 30% tax credit for hiring Michigan residents and 20 % for non-residents
- A requirement that qualified Michigan vendors provide proof of brick-and-mortar presence, have inventory, and full-time employees on staff. Pass-through companies and transactions will not qualify; and
- Accountability requirements for independent verification of approved expenditures.
Sikema believes the proposed legislation address issues people had with the state’s original film incentive program which offered up to 42% in tax breaks. It ended in 2015.
“In that first round, they thought that the industry would be stimulated in the local economy and what happened was you had all these companies that would come in and they would do their budgets, do their shoots, and then they would split. So now this one is very focused on Michigan centered creators,” said Sikkema.
The Michigan Film Industry Association (MiFIA) is the grassroots advocacy organization behind the new film incentive push.
Throughout May, MiFIA will host town halls in Traverse City and Grand Rapids to discuss the legislation. Last week a town hall was held in Detroit.
“It’s good for the state, it’s good for tourism, it creates jobs, it creates an infrastructure,” said David Haddad, MiFIA chair. “It’s a feel good, which isn’t really a specific reason to vote for it, but when anybody talks about film, they smile, they become energized.”
In a February blog post, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy held a much more conservative view about the potential benefits of another film incentive program.
The post cited three studies conducted by one of its researchers which analyzed the relationship between film incentives and wages, jobs, and economic growth. It concluded incentives enriched “movie industry moguls while doing little or nothing for state economies.” States that invested the most money also fared no better.
Haddad pushed back on the research and said people need to give incentives another chance.
“We’re optimistic, but guardedly optimistic,” said Haddad.