Reeling in the Film Industry with Food

The Michigan film tax incentive program had its two-year anniversary on April 7, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm felt like celebrating.

“In the last two years, 89 movie or TV productions were completed in Michigan,” Granholm said in a statement April 2. “These productions spent $348 million in salaries, goods and services, and they created jobs for more than 6,700 workers.”

They also bring small armies of film crews with generous daily stipends for food, entertainment and recreation. See, film crews like to eat out and tip generously.

Now a group of restaurateurs are making sure they’re ready for their close-up by providing an innovative new tool to entice hungry film workers.

Introducing the Restaurant Discount Card for film casts and crews that debuted April 1, courtesy of the Troy Chamber of Commerce.

“Troy is a great place for the film crews to come when they come to Michigan to take advantage of the film tax credit,” says Duane Swanson, director of operations at Somerset Inn and chair of the Chamber’s hospitality committee.

The card will get film workers a 20 percent discount off their bill at over 20 local restaurants, including Ocean Prime, Maggiano’s and The Melting Pot. The discount will only apply to the food portion of the bill, not alcohol or gratuities.

Swanson said The Michigan Film Office will help promote the discount cards, which will also be sent to film companies to distribute to film crews prior to their arrival in Michigan. The area is expecting three more productions to begin filming within the next month or two.

Other Troy Chamber members are participating in the incentive, including Bob Gigliotti and Rehmann, which sponsored the production of the cards, and Logovision, which produced the cards.

Swanson got the idea for the discount card program when the film crew of Gran Torino stayed at the Somerset Inn a couple of years ago. He noticed that once filming ends for the day the 30 or so crew members are looking for places to eat. They were also given a daily stipend of $100 to spend however they wanted.

That’s when Swanson thought it might be wise to give these hungry out-of-towners with cash more of an incentive to stay in the Troy area.

“It was a very eye-opening experience,” says Swanson.

Even though the card only debuted a couple of weeks ago, Swanson has already gotten some feedback from Troy area restaurants that have said they hosted a few film crew members. “We know they’re starting to trickle in,” he says.

The discount card in itself won’t make the difference between a film company filming in Michigan, but Swanson thinks it’s more about the message the program sends to the burgeoning state film industry.

“More than anything there’s a message that’s sent that we appreciate people investing in our community,” says Swanson. “This is a great place to put your people up.”

He hopes the restaurant discount cards take off this year so as to entice even more area restaurants to join in.

“I’d like to see some of the activity this year,” Swanson says. “I’d like to see more restaurants in the Troy community getting involved.”

For more information on the restaurant discount cards, call Duane Swanson at 248-643-7800.