Blog: Scott Dunham

Scott Dunham is the festival manager for next week's Detroit Windsor International Film Festival (DWIFF). A relentless networker, Scott has made it his mission to faciltate creative opportunities for Metro Detroit's film community. He will be writing about building a vibrant film community, the virtues of Michigan's incentive package and, of course, the film fesitval he helms.

Post No 4: Practice Makes Perfect


Most of you are familiar with the recent flurry of activity in Michigan's film industry, due to some very competitive tax incentives that are attracting a lot of attention.

The idea seems to     be working. As an example, many friends of mine are now working on … movies!  Yes, they're working "in the business" and they still live here in Michigan. They didn't have to leave home to get work. Well, my friend Chris did. He had to move from Lansing to Detroit for about six months, because he has back-to-back projects. Moving here temporarily makes sense because of gas prices.

I've heard about the controversies and arguments over the value of the film incentives, but from where I sit, I already can see new opportunities and an enthusiasm that didn't exist in our community before.

Another example: one friend was a POC for a new film project (that's Production Office Coordinator, as we say in the business), but when that bogged down, she quit and moved over the "Clint Eastwood film". Just like that… like she moved from Caribou to Starbucks! I think this is how it must be in Hollywood… talented people just picking and choosing their projects… like Brad and Angelina!

This is what we need, a whole new mentality. A new culture, based on creativity, imagination, hard work and production. OK, we may be a bit rusty on those first two, but as for hard work and production, we wrote the book... er, script!

Changing over from an industrial mindset to a (film) production culture isn't such a stretch. Especially given the new tools and techniques used for digital film, video, media and other entertainment content. We're smart, connected and computer literate. And our engineering background gives us a head start, with a zero tolerance approach to production and a built in philosophy of being problem solvers. That's something we've always had. It's part of our work ethic. Part of our culture. It's always been our way. Now we just need to repurpose it to serve the film and entertainment markets.

What we haven't had is the practice. Until now, we just haven't had the opportunities to work on films, to be immersed in a project. The influx of new business gives us a chance to work in film, get the experience, and from there, keep getting better and better.

Another interesting benefit is the number of schools, studios and other infrastructure being built to support the industry. These aren't people pitching tents, they're planning permanent bricks and mortar buildings designed to service film projects for years to come.

We also need to practice our curtsies. That is, we need to be friendly, hospitable and provide quality service and professionalism. I believe this is a key component to our growth in this industry. And it's part of building the film culture. Where we just learn how to be the best in this particular market, through practice and perfecting our craft. Once we have done that, we'll be competitive on many levels beyond incentives, and the cost savings will just be a nice bonus. With the right culture in place, Hollywood will come here for us because it will make sense.

I was asked to write a blog. And I'm very happy and honored to share my thoughts here on Metromode. Thanks for taking the time to read them and I look forward to working with you on a future project.

I'm going back now to work the Film Festival, and I certainly hope you will find time to come down and enjoy all the very hard work hundreds of volunteers have dedicated to putting on a world class event for Detroit and Windsor.

See you there!