Michigan continues 'Big Hollywood' film subsidy
In the April 26 edition of the Detroit Free Press, staff writer Julie Hinds wrote a story that is fairly typical of the type of coverage Hollywood actors get by the mainstream media.
The headline read, “SNL alum Chris Parnell has fondness for Ann Arbor after 2 movies.”
Hinds wrote that Parnell, who was on Saturday Night Live for eight years, has co-starred in “two veritable love letters to the college town.” They were, “The Five-Year Engagement,” which opened Friday, and “Answer This.”
"It seemed like a very warm place and friendly and cool. There wasn't anything not to like about it," Parnell was quoted as saying.
Hinds’ article was par for the course in the mainstream media, which can’t resist asking actors how they felt about the town they just finished a film in. The actors then offer generic praise of the city.
AnnArbor.com’s Martin Bandyke asked George Clooney what he thought about Ann Arbor, and then described Clooney’s response as a “lovefest.” The headline read: “George Clooney declares love for Ann Arbor.”
Clooney was quoted as saying that he “loved” being on campus and he “loved” shooting all around Detroit and Ann Arbor. “We loved it there,” Clooney said.
What usually goes unreported, however, are the costs that taxpayers shell out in incentives to moviemakers.
It’s strictly pay-for-play, thanks to Michigan’s film tax credit program.
Clooney’s “Ides of March” got $3.15 million from taxpayers; Parnell’s “Five-Year Engagement” got $5.23 million in film subsidies and “Answer This” received $166,000 in tax subsidies.
The kind words didn’t come without a price tag paid for by taxpayers.
Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said some reporters appear to be smitten by their encounters with celebrities.
“It’d be amusing if it weren’t so expensive,” Drolet said. “If people want to keep up with celebrities, they can make a $3 purchase of People magazine instead of coughing up $5 million for an off-hand remark by a minor league movie star about how Ann Arbor is not so bad.”
Michigan offers a 32 percent refund to moviemakers on eligible expenses. The program had offered a 42 percent refund, but it scaled back last year.