As one industry dwindles,another one grows
By Kelsey Lauer 7/27/09
Michigan is no stranger to the art of filmmaking.
Back in the heyday of the car industry in the 50s, Detroit actually
consumed more 35-millimeter film stock than Hollywood, says Traverse City
film producer Richard Brauer. But it was all corporate stuff. They
actually shot more film than Hollywood did. Its an amazing statistic.
Some of Brauers past productions include Mr. Art Critic, Escanaba in da
Moonlight, Barn Red and Frozen Stupid. Hes also been active through the
years filming commercials and promotional projects.
While Michigan may not replace Hollywood in the production of feature
films, Brauer thinks that the Michigan film industry has more than a
fighting chance. He credited it in part to the 2008 legislation that
provides a 40 percent refund to productions that spend at least $50,000
We all know its a beautiful place, but its a hard place to get to if
your home base is in Los Angeles, Brauer says of Michigan. But if youre
going to get 40 percent back from the state for being here, all of a
sudden the logistical challenges fade away a little bit.
Films made in Michigan may also offer job opportunities for individuals
displaced by the dwindling car industry, according to Brauer.
There was a lot of production support relating to the car industry --
tons of it in Detroit -- and theyre all sitting around with their fingers
in their ears, so as features roll in, theyre more available now to work
on features, he says. A lot of its the same stuff. Theyre not the
ones directing it or writing it; theyre the ones helping with electricity
or lighting and building sets and all that. And so theyve been doing that
for the car industry forever.
UP TO SNUFF
Brauer says that it will take time for Hollywood to realize the potential
of Michigan-based production support. Crew members have to demonstrate
that they are up to snuff, too.
We have to prove ourselves. Lets face itHollywood is really good at
making movies, and for them to be convinced to hire a local guy or gal, it
may not be worth it to them, risk-wise, he says. Theyd much rather
bring their own people in, but once this thing gets rollingit might take
five years before it really worksthey might take a chance on somebody and
think, That guy was perfect. He was really a thoughtful guy. Next time
were here, well use him.
And one way to accomplish that is through training workshops or film
mentoring classes. So far, Brauer has taught at West Shore Community
College in conjunction with 10 West Studios in Manistee; and at a film
workshop In Lansing organized by Michigan State University, Lansing
Community College and Michigan Public Works.
In the Lansing one, there were over 1,000 people that applied for this
class, Brauer says. But we had to limit it to 60, so Michigan Works
made up criteria, and you had to write essays and get into the program. By
the time I got down there, I was already at the top six percent of the
applicants. These are motivated people.
Northwestern Michigan College also will hold its first film workshop
scheduled from Aug. 4-7, taught mostly by Brauer. Im going to bring in
three or four other people in the filming community to talk about their
specific area, including the film production assistant, he says. Thats
probably the best and easiest area for anybody to get into the film
business, to just become a production assistant. Then you can hang around
and sort of get the deal and then you gradually move up from there.
Brauer plans to hire two students from each of the three classes to work
on his next film as paid interns.
The job-industry connection is one were trying to make. Ive always
tried to have mentoring opportunities with all our films. Weve always
done this, its just that this is the first time Ive actually grabbed
them out of a class. People just kind of bump into me or they make
themselves known. We sort of train them in the field.
A Fitful film project
Brauer will begin shooting his next film, Fitful, this September in
Manistee and Milwaukee.
This woman works for the National Historic Trust, and her office calls
her ands says, Hey, on your way home, swing in and check out this ship.
She does, her car gets wrecked and she has to spend the night because
shes too far away for any help and her cell phone fell in the water,
Brauer says. There are no neighbors within 15 miles and its getting
dark, so shes stuck on this boat. This thing is a very scary film but
its very funny, I think, so its got two real strong emotions going on
the whole time through. Its kind of fun.
Brauer plans to be done by Christmas and hopes that he will be able to
premiere the film at the Traverse City State Theatre.
Moneys in the bank, were going. Itll be done by Christmas, he says.
Hopefully, by Christmas, well have a big old gala premiere, right
downtown there, and people can come and have some fun and get scared and
laugh, all at the same time.