A new study from Michigan State University says the film industry grew in the state last year, and added 65 million dollars to our economy. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has some stories that would make great blockbusters.
I often criticize our lawmakers in Lansing, but they did one thing very right last year. They passed a package of tax incentives aimed at luring Hollywood to Michigan.
And guess what: it worked. Michigan's film industry grew exponentially. According to an economic study at Michigan State, this added $65 million to our economy last year.
This year, despite the recession, the net positive impact is expected to double again, and keep growing after that.
I have seen at least one of these films: Gran Torino, with Clint Eastwood, a good movie set largely in Highland Park and Detroit.
But it got me thinking that Hollywood is missing out on the real opportunity. Not only has Michigan become a good place to make movies, we have a whole set of amazing true stories that have never been told in film, and which could be real blockbusters.
Let me suggest just three of them.
The first would be the story of a kid named Billy Durant. He was a shiftless high school dropout from Boston who drifted to Flint, where he shaped up and became a successful manufacturer of horse-drawn buggies. Then, one day, he is approached to run a new company that is making a newfangled invention, horseless carriages.
The company is called Buick. He rises to the top, and cobbles together a new company he calls...General Motors.
A few years later, he is ousted from power. He picks himself up and starts a new company called? Chevrolet. He rises to the top, wins back control of GM, and merges Chevy with it.
Four years later, he is ousted from power again. He returns to Flint, where the man who created General Motors spent the last quarter century of his life running...a bowling alley.
My second movie is about an eccentric inventor who rose to become the richest and most famous man in the world, whose apple of his eye was his only son, a brilliant and artistic lad.
Yet when the boy grew older and formed his own ideas and identity, dad turned against him, hounding him to his eventual death at age 49. Before his son died, the old man made it clear to him that he preferred the company of a brawling, coarse security guard.
In the end, his widow and his grandson face him and the goon down and take back control of the firm. The title of this movie? Henry and Edsel Ford.
Finally, the story of our first terrorist suicide bomber. He was a farmer who for still unknown reasons spent months packing dynamite into the local elementary school in Bath, Michigan. On May 18, 1927, he blew it up, killing dozens of children and teachers.
Then he drove up to the school, called the superintendent over, and blew his car and everyone around sky-high. He left behind a mysterious sign saying "criminals are made, not born."
Now how could anyone fail to make gripping movies out of stories like those? Okay Hollywood, I gave you the stories. Now roll 'em.