The Movie "Cedar Rapids" Was Actually Filmed in Ann Arbor, Michigan? Reason? "Film Credit Crack"
According to the Michigan Film Office website, 129 movies have been filmed in Michigan since 2008, including 48 in 2010 ("Gulliver's Travels), 43 in 2009 ("Capitalism: A Love Story"), and 38 in 2008 ("Gran Torino").
It might seem curious that so many movies are now being filmed in Michigan, a state known more for its automotive industry, failing cities, flat landscape and cold weather than as a top movie destination. And it might also seem curious that a movie being released this weekend titled "Cedar Rapids" that supposedly takes place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was actually instead filmed in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Well, it's not so curious once you know that Michigan offers filmmakers a 42% refund or tax credit on their direct production costs in Michigan. Spend $10 million making a movie in Michigan and you could get $4,200,000 back! With that kind of taxpayer money available, who wouldn't make a movie in Michigan? Even Michael Moore decided to cash in on Michigan tax credits when he filmed parts of his movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" in Michigan.
The state of Iowa used to have some tax incentives available for filming there, but they were being phased out around the time that the movie "Cedar Rapids" was originally going to be filmed on location in 2009 in the movie's namesake Cedar Rapids. So Ann Arbor was selected for filming, because it's comparable in size to Cedar Rapids, and more importantly because Michigan taxpayers would foot the bill for 42% of the film's production costs.
Fortunately, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been exposing the Michigan Film program as a complete boondoggle for Michigan taxpayers. Even the State Senate Fiscal Agency questioned the program when it estimated that the state gave out credits of almost $150 million during a period when it only took in $26.6m in taxes from filmmakers, for an estimated net loss to the state of $122 million.
Here's one of the Mackinac Center's first studies exposing the Michigan film program for generating net losses to the state. Also fortunate is that Michigan's new governor Rick Snyder wants to end the state's "film credit candy," which is maybe more like "film credit crack" for filmmakers, like the producers of "Cedar Rapids."