Because it seemed like something worth doing while another snowstorm bore down on us — now in progress, a few new inches — I took myself way the hell out to the west side last night. There was a “town meeting” for supporters of the Michigan film incentive tax credits, threatened with near-elimination in next year’s budget, and while my job isn’t on the line, I thought I’d go to fly the flag, another warm body in the crowd. I should have known something was up when it was moved at the last minute from a local studio with cavernous sound stages to a nearby banquet hall with enough room for an army.
Because an army showed up, and then some. Thousands, I’d estimate, at least two, maybe more. Parking was a nightmare, the hall so overfilled the fire marshall shut the doors and turned away probably a few hundred more. I squeaked in under the wire, but spent a lot of time standing around; the show started half an hour late, and the first speaker was ol’ shoe-polish head, the li’l man himself, ladies and gentlemen, Misterrrrr Mitch! Albom!
And to be sure, he wasn’t terrible. In fact, he was easily the best speaker of the night, doing what he does best — telling people what they want to hear: “This isn’t about saving Hollywood! This is about saving Michigan!” Big standing O for that one. And he did what newspaper columnists do best, talk tough without fear of contradiction: “Like it or not, this industry goes where the incentives are.” The message of the night was, the generous tax credits — and they are the most generous in the country, ranging from 30 to 42 percent — given to the film industry for work done here, is getting results beyond the chance to see Robert DeNiro in a restaurant. It’s providing jobs, building a talent base for future productions, etc.
No one talked about an end game, or even a compromise, at least while I was there. I had to leave during Mike Binder’s lament that “The Upside of Anger,” set in Bloomfield Hills, was shot in London because that was the best deal. (You remember “The Upside of Anger,” don’t you? Kevin Costner, Joan Allen, lots of University of Michigan references?) Is there ever a sunset on tax incentives, or do they set the state up to be thrown over when the next state gets stardust in its eyes? On the other hand, what else does Michigan have going for it at the moment? And the incentives have been an adrenaline shot to the burgeoning creative-class economy, and they are my people.
On the third hand, the same budget Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed cutting education funding by $920 million. (Mitch Albom has no children, and if he did, he’d doubtless send them to private schools.)
We’ll see how this works out. I’ll do my part, but I’m not hopeful. The best-case scenario would be for a cut that falls short of disastrous. Fingers crossed.
It was nice to get out of the house, even to wrangle with impossible parking. That’s how bad my cabin fever is at the moment.
Not much bloggage today:
New York Times cooking columnist reveals, in his final column, that he doesn’t really cook all that much. (His wife does. Quel surprise.)
Think I’ll make some broccoli-cheddar soup today. Just because it’s snowy. A great weekend to all.