Blog: Mark Adler

Mark Adler is the president of VAIdigital LLC, a video support company for the film industry. Mark also manages the Michigan Production Alliance, a trade organization whose mission is to create a more stable financial environment for Michigan's production community. From local projects to Hollywood films, he will be writing about Metro Detroit's emerging opportunities and challenges.

Post No. 2

Where’s the work? 
Jack Morton - Jackson Dawson – MVP - KDN - Jeff Moon Production Services Avalon Films - Bond Films - Castorri Productions – Millennium - Rare Medium Films.

These are names that resonate in Detroit’s corporate and commercial production universe. Over the last 30 years if the auto companies wanted information to market their products packaged they would call Jack Morton or Jackson Dawson. If they had messages to distribute to their dealers, Jeff Moon Productions, MVP or KDN would have an opportunity to bid on the work…and when their Advertising agencies wanted wizbang national regional or local commercials, Bond, Castorri, Millennium or Rare Medium would be on their radar to produce those spots.

This is what we have been doing in southeast Michigan more than anything else forever, bread and butter corporate and commercial work. Generations of crews were weaned on sheet metal curves. We’d do the work on locations or on sound stages like Grace and Wild, Producers Color Service, City Lights, General Television Network, Comberemere or Stage 3. Now, General Television Network’s stage is gone, (so are they, now operating under a new name "Ringside Creative"), Producer’s Color is gone and Combermere and City Lights are for sale.

All these names….

To the production community in Michigan they represent food on the table and hours of work completed. As the century ended, so too did an era. These are just impressions but I’d have to say that the work we used to do for all these companies, for all those years simply 'went away'.

I’ll grant that some of these companies found niches in the market that have kept them fresh and working and hiring crew. But others have fought for every dollar they now earn.

We are a tough breed here in Michigan and it takes a lot to knock us down. So we have stayed and tried to keep the work going and we hear stories of those who left either for other careers (ebay stores, dog breeding, sales) or left for those greener pastures. L.A. is the most popular place, ah the glamour of show biz. Some made a better life.

A few hardy souls here, got busy trying to determine how to regain some of the work. Organizing, Connecting. We were met with "But who actually wants to come to Detroit on purpose?" Its cold here in the winter and it rains.

So what!

We have some of the most beautiful real estate in the country surrounded by a fine system of breathtaking fresh water lakes. AND we have gritty industrial cityscapes too. Commercials? Feature film? Where is the work? 

In 2001 when Eminem insisted on shooting "8 Mile" here, Director Curtis Hansen agreed that it was a good move. Detroit is real. So. It wasn’t beauty the people with the work were after. Oh yeah, Michael Bay likes the architecture in downtown Detroit so "The Island" and "Transformer’s" used some our 'flavor' butit seems overall, Hollywood wants a condemned railroad station and images of urban decay to help tell stories. 

About this time also, many States seemed to be passing legislation to allow tax credits for filmmakers. Michigan was not on that list. The other States like Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico and Louisiana – even Illinois now had the eyes of producers looking at them to save a buck.

In 2002, Michigan and Louisiana were very close in production revenue from feature film work. Then their incentive marketing kicked in. In 2003 feature filmmakers found "État de Louisiane" and boosted their production take from $12 Million to $100 Million – in one year. That’s the year the Michigan Production Alliance was born. Our goal was, and remains to speak with one voice for the production community and lobby for any political advantage we can find.

Next installment, A new landscape