When someone says “Michigan,” what comes to mind-besides cars, snow and college football? How about “regional filmmaking capital”?
That idea may be new to some movie fans and movie makers, but it shouldn’t be. After all, the Wolverine State has long attracted filmmakers as a shooting location, thanks to its excellent cities, historically strong economy, and-above all-its great geographical diversity. The state’s great strength, for movie directors, is that it offers many kinds of backdrop, and can stand in for nearly any location in the country. Where else can you find rolling plains (perfect for that epic of nineteenth-century Midwestern life), the rugged Porcupine Mountains (ready for that adventure film you’re planning), the forested beauty of the Upper Peninsula (the right place for the heroes of your romance film to fall in love), diverse cityscapes (a backdrop for your courtroom drama, crime film, corporate saga, or office comedy), and more-and still never be more than eighty-five miles from the beach? No wonder that movies like Grosse Pointe Blank, Anatomy of a Murder, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, RoboCop, Somewhere In Time and The Evil Dead were all partly or wholly shot in Michigan. More recently, 8 Mile, Jumper and the upcoming Youth In Revolt feature Michigan locations.
And that importance just increased in 2008, as the Michigan legislature passed a bill designed to make Michigan one of the most-incentivized filming locations in the country. From now on, the state that gave the film world Francis Ford Coppola (born in Detroit) will also give it a forty-percent across-the-board refundable tax credit, a loan program, and other incentives. (A complete list and application are available from the Michigan Film Office.) The package couples with the state’s inherent attractions to make Michigan a perfect shooting location for any project. Here are a few of the unique locational possibilities that the state affords:
Countryside. Michigan gets all four seasons-warm summers, vibrant falls, snowy (but rarely extreme) winters, and lively springs. Any story set in the woods would benefit from being shot in the Upper Peninsula, or lower-half towns such as Frankfort and Beulah. Midland offers excellent fall and summer possibilities, as do many places located along the gorgeous Chippewa River.
Lighthouses. The Lake Michigan coast is famous for its lighthouses, which make for a gorgeous, gloomy, romantic backdrop.
College campuses. Need a Victorian-looking college campus for a university drama? Try parts of Wayne State University in Detroit, which also has modernized sections. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers many possibilities, as do the numerous smaller private universities throughout the state.
Snow. Michigan gets plenty of snow-but not, generally, too much. That’s why it’s a frequent winter vacation spot for skiers-and a great possibility for any location shoot that needs acres of picturesque snow everywhere, whether urban or rural.
Unique Places. Michigan’s got plenty of these-from the no-cars-allowed, nineteenth-century village charm of Mackinac Island to a fully functioning ’50s diner (near Rockford) to the harbor terminals of Detroit; from the stone stairs of Castle Rock (leading to a gorgeous limestone tower) to the modest Porcupine Mountains to the enormous Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.
Period charm. Making a historical epic? Michigan offers old-fashioned train stations, ghost towns, model nineteenth-century villages and farms, and one entire town devoted to imitating a German village. Old forts, the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house are among the other oddities available to the state’s visitors.
Urban skylines. Every kind of city location can be found in Detroit, one of America’s most important cities. From skyline shots to warehouses, from unique indoor malls to splendorous downtown buildings, from abandoned urban No Man’s Land to one of America’s wealthiest suburbs, Metro Detroit’s got you covered.
Of course, that’s a lot of traveling. For filmmakers and their personnel visiting any of the above locations, transportation is always needed. Thankfully, at least one Detroit-based company has experience with this kind of thing. Checker Sedan most recently drew praise for its handling transportation needs related to SuperBowl XL. In a letter posted on the company’s website, a celebrity lauds their competence and friendliness, saying, “You didn’t have to welcome us with open arms … but you did.”