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MI Film Office carries on after incentives end

Janell Leonard photo
Courtesy photo
Michigan Film and Digital Media Office commissioner Janell Leonard.

In 2015, Michigan ended a program that gave out millions of dollars in incentives to the film industry. That has meant a change of focus for the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office.

Film Office commissioner Janell Leonard says their scope has expanded.

"As part of our expansion," Leonard explains, "we have entered into a partnership with Google to advance computer science education. We have worked with local communities, specifically the city of Detroit, to bring productions to the area. And, we're partnering with local communities around the state for them to increase and enhance their creative culture through business attraction, community development and talent retention and attraction."

At the height of national film incentive efforts, nearly 40 states had some sort of incentive or credit program to attract moviemakers. Leonard says Michigan was one of the most robust. Now, she says, there's "an opportunity for us as a state to be creative about how we're getting productions here."

Leonard points to the work that convinced Comedy Central to bring production of a new series called "Detroiters" to the Motor City. No taxpayer incentive dollars were involved. Instead, public and private partners negotiated the costs of services to the business deal would appeal to the cable channel.

The film office and Google are offering a free program called Computer Science First to kids in grades 4 through 8 around Michigan. Together, they've put together an annual program at MSU's Breslin Center that will include drones, robotics and 3-D printing. It's coming up on February 28th. This year, 4,900 Michigan students are involved with CS First.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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