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Get Ready for Your

Michigan’s film industry provides widespread opportunity by Ethan Bordman


“Michigan will be the next film capital of the world,” pro- claimed Clint Eastwood, while he was in the state filming Gran Torino in 2008. This film, set in Highland Park, em- ployed 126 residents. Due in large part to film production tax credits, Michigan has seen a dramatic rise in the number of film, television, and digital media productions created in the state. Ypsilanti has provided filming locations for movies such

as Conviction, starring Hilary Swank; Whip It, starring Drew Barrymore, and the psychological thriller Stone, starring Robert DeNiro. Even with the new cap of $25 million on the incentives set to begin in 2012, projects like these, which may be filming in your backyard, provide a wealth of opportunity for local residents to get involved. But how? Here are eight tips to help you break in and succeed in the film industry, whether your interest is in front of the camera, behind it, or even on the business side. Read on—and get ready for your close-up.

1. Everyone has a skill that can be useful in the movie industry. No matter your degree, experience, or background,

there is always something you can contribute to a film production. Countless elements contribute to the creation of a movie, as it grows from a mere idea to a silver screen reality. How could your specific skill set translate to a position in the film industry? I know people who worked in advertising and applied their expertise to the market- ing of movies. If you have experience in corporate human resources, you could use your people skills to coordinate talent on a movie set.

2. Whatever your interest, get involved NOW. You don’t have to wait until you earn your degree, take

that film class, or read every book about the industry. The key is to get experience doing what you want to do, and to take every opportunity to learn on the job, even if you are self-employed. If you want to direct a movie, then go direct a movie. This shows you’re serious about being in the

24 Eastern | FALL 2011

entertainment field and builds your resume. A director once told me that the way to get hired for a $100 million movie is to start by directing a $1,000 movie. Show people you can do—and have done—something in the area you want to work in.

3. Set yourself apart. Thousands of people are interested in every imaginable

aspect of the entertainment field. You must be creative to set yourself apart. After graduating from Eastern, I really wanted to work for a talent agency. In addition to my resume and cover letter (which were just like everyone else’s), I sent a photocopy of my Nike sneaker with the message, “Give me a chance to get my foot in the door.” I was called for an interview, and the interviewer expressed his admiration for this memorable and unique tactic. Two months later, I was hired full-time. Creativity does pay off.

4. Pay your dues to get promoted. Everyone has to start somewhere. Beginning on the

ground level can provide a great learning experience as well as a chance to impress people and grow your career. Get to know a project’s decision-makers and make sure they know you are working hard. You can only be promoted if those who do the promoting know you. A successful producer I know was just one of several production assistants when he got his first opportunity to work on a movie. He was pro- moted three times during the shoot and ended up as the first assistant to the film’s director. The film was later nominated for an Academy Award.

5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As your desire to break into the industry grows, beware

of people who want to exploit your willingness to work hard. An actor who was beginning his film career once asked me if I thought it was a good investment to pay $200 to be- come a “certified extra.” It’s a good thing he asked, because I was able to explain that there is no such thing. There

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