Considering the quality of Rob Schneider’s past movies, the fact that he’s filming his latest in Ann Arbor probably won’t add anything to campus’s cultural prestige. Thankfully, better quality movies may be coming to campus. That’s because the University just recently announced the creation of a film office to assist studios interested in making movies on campus. With the state economy floundering, the Ann Arbor bubble can only remain intact for so long and encouraging filmmakers to choose Ann Arbor is a great way to stimulate the local economy. In addition to this, the film office should also work with studios to create more opportunities for students who want to be involved with these films.
The University has been swamped with requests for filming on campus following the passage of the Michigan Motion Picture Incentive Program last spring. This program offers a 40 percent tax credit to large filmmaking projects in Michigan, allowing studios to cut back on cast, crew and other production costs. Since this incentive went into effect, there has been a spike in filming around the state, including in Ann Arbor, and plans for Michigan-based studios have already been proposed. The University’s new office, while not a profitable endeavor, hopes to streamline the process for filmmakers to shoot on campus.
The most beneficial part of encouraging film production in Ann Arbor is the economic boon a large movie production would bring to the community. The local support system that comes with the arrival of a large film crew stimulates local businesses. Unless these crews plan on living in tents and eating canned food, increased patronage at local bars, restaurants and hotels will result from the arrival of film crews in the city.
But the University’s new film office should make an effort not only to help filmmakers obtain access to University locations for shooting, but also to encourage the hiring of arts majors seeking a career in the film industry. Not only does this help retain Michigan students in need of jobs, but it also keeps breathing life into Ann Arbor’s cultural identity — one that already includes the Ann Arbor Film Festival — by keeping young, talented artists of various kinds in the city despite economic woes statewide. Motivated filmmakers, artists and performers have the chance to take advantage of the opportunities at their doorstep.
The effort to bring in filmmakers should also be considered an investment in the University’s exposure. Film crews find out how great the University community is and audiences across the country get a glimpse of what it means to go to school here.
University officials are making the right move to help establish Ann Arbor as a hot spot for movie material. While not every movie made in Ann Arbor will be an award-winning masterpiece, the increased presence of the film industry in the city is an encouraging bright spot for those who wish to use the creative talents they learned at the University without leaving the area.