Michigan has a range of possibilities for film production. The state comprises mining towns, Victorian towns, cities, lakes, forests, farmland and vineyards.
Two huge upcoming blockbuster releases are using Detroit for filming: Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction and Batman vs. Superman from director Zack Snyder.
The state capitol is Lansing, but Detroit is the largest city, known historically for manufacturing automobiles via General Motors. The city suffered an image setback in mid-2013 when it became the largest city in the US to file for bankruptcy protection; this followed the awful news that the state’s annual film fund was being dropped to only $25m for 2011/12.
But luckily this figure grew to around $60m the following year, and Michigan has since bounced back to see an upturn in interest as a filming location for major Hollywood projects.
Sam Raimi filmed his fantasy Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013) in his home state. George Clooney filmed The Ides of March (2011) in Detroit, and his co-star Ryan Gosling was impressed enough to return to the city to lens his first directorial effort, How to Catch a Monster (2014). Going back a few years, Drew Barrymore filmed her directorial debut Whip It (2009) in Ann Arbor, and Clint Eastwood shot Gran Torino in the Detroit area in 2008.
Perhaps the most famous example of a Detroit movie is Paul Verhoeven’s subversive sci-fi classic, Robocop (1987). José Padilha’s remake, out in 2014, also partly filmed in the city and accordingly received an incentive payment.
There is no universal Michigan permit – all jurisdictions have a local permitting process. Municipal contacts can be obtained from the Michigan Film Office; it can also help any productions that are seeking union business agent contacts with its list of unions.
Permits are required for all child actors under 18 (available via application from the Michigan Film Office here), shooting on a state highway or shooting in a state park (please contact the local municipality for permits for these). These can usually be acquired at a very modest cost.
Michigan Motion Picture Studios has more than 15,790 sq mt of stage and mill space, and seven sound stages ranging from 1,000 sq mt to over 8,000 sq mt. Both Oz the Great and Powerful and Transformers: Age of Extinction filmed on its soundstages.
The state also boasts 10 West Studios, whose output includes religious pictures What If (2010) and Jerusalem Countdown (2011), as well as children’s adventure Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Conspiracy (2012), co-starring veteran actors Ernie Hudson and Christopher Lloyd.
Home entertainment and production company Anchor Bay Entertainment is registered in Troy, Michigan, and includes successful TV series The Walking Dead among its licenced content.
Detroit has been used as a stand-in for other US cities such as New York, as well as for generic urban filming. The city has a diverse array of sites, from Art Deco office buildings, to gothic train stations, smaller suburban areas, stately mansions, office towers, casinos, and dilapidated buildings.
Other popular Michigan filming locations include the Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington; Grand Rapids; Coopersville; Traverse City; Manistee; Ludington; South Haven; Holland; Kalamazoo; Niles; and Buchanan.
Michigan has many companies that hire out equipment, a comprehensive list of which can be found on our site here.