16 August 2010

'Touchback' Continues Hollywood's Economic Boost to West Michigan


 'Touchback' is being filmed at the high school football field in Coopersville, Michigan
From caterers to port-a-potty companies, crane operators to grocery store directors, area businesses say film productions are pumping money into the local economy and keeping them busy.

The Family Fare grocery store in Coopersville, 1181 W. Randall St., was raided Tuesday by "Touchback" production members filming scenes at the area high school football stadium.

"They wiped us out of all the ice," store director Mike Farrell said.

In one day, the production team spent a couple thousand dollars on ice, fruit, vegetables and refreshments, Farrell said. The store even had to go to  its Allendale affiliate to replenish its stock of mini-Gatorade bottles.

Producer Lisa Kearns said the production will spend millions in the area on everything from gasoline and hotel rooms to restaurants and entertainment.

"This becomes your home (while filming)," Kearns said, adding the area and its residents have been "fabulous."

These temporary residents are hiring, too.

Around 75 percent of "Touchback" hires were local or in-state, Kearns said.

The state film industry put 8,000 people to work in 2009, said Rick Hert, commissioner of the West Michigan Film Office, and he expects that figure to grow this year.
Related content
• More coverage of 'Touchback' filming in Coopersville

Hundreds are being employed in Grand Rapids, many of whom would otherwise be collecting unemployment, Hert said.

"We're building an industry, really from scratch," he said. "We've got enough going on that people are remaining active."

Count Ed de Jong in that group. The Grand Rapids camera and crane operator has worked on a handful of movies and is pulling 12-hour days on the "Touchback" set, shooting interviews for the DVD bonus features.

His 27-foot camera crane, which he says is the region's longest, is being used to film a major scene in the film.

De Jong defends the tax incentives worth up to 42 percent of a film's production costs, which critics claim are too generous and mainly create temporary jobs.

"The economic value to the state is hard to measure, but it's huge," de Jong said. "Do you want a percentage of $400 million in production expenses, or nothing?"

The industry has a substantial ripple effect on other sectors of the local economy, said Ken Droz, Michigan Film Office communications consultant.

"Businesses are benefiting," he said.

Michigan's budding film industry has "definitely helped" Plummer's Disposal Service, said president Nick Plummer.

By the numbers

Nearly $400 million: Filming expenditures in-state since tax incentives began in April 2008

69 million: Estimated tax credit program costs to state for projects completed in 2009, not counting infrastructure tax credits

8,000: Michigan film industry jobs in 2009

Sources: Michigan Film Office, Associated Press

The Byron Center business is providing portable bathrooms for both "Touchback" and "30 Minutes or Less," filming in Grand Rapids. It also worked on a couple of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's productions here.

"It's been really good for us," Plummer said.

When "30 Minutes or Less" hits the silver screen, area moviegoers may recognize the Brass Works Building, 648 Monroe Ave. NW, in the backdrop of the Ben Stiller-produced movie. Scenes were filmed on the roof and in hallways and a tenant's office last week.

The business center's owners, CWD Real Estate, were paid a fee for its use. Nick Koster, vice president of operations, declined to reveal the amount, but said it was an opportunity to earn revenue and generate buzz for the site.

"You want to have your building known and noticed," Koster said.

The tax rebate got Kearns' attention, but West Michigan's skilled, growing crew base has her considering the area for more productions.

"It keeps us coming back," Kearns said.

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