Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ended tax breaks to the movie industry this year and the fallout has been harsh. Michigan lost a lot of Hollywood projects including Marvel’s upcoming “Avengers” movie. In case you are wondering where it was shot instead of Michigan, I hate to tell you…Ohio. I know, It’s like turning the proverbial knife. While some argued that Hollywood productions leveraged too many of their own in-house staff instead of hiring Michiganders, others seized the opportunities of having Hollywood productions in the state. Many landed walk on roles and got work as extras. Shops and businesses near the sets saw increases in profits. Rick Snyder however, didn’t see it that way. Local independent filmmakers felt the worst of the cut. They are already using their own money to produce a quality film. Now, that same film just became more expensive to make. A 42% tax break is huge when you are doing it yourself. I thought about all of this as I headed to the second casting call for the movie “Sext Messaging”. The first casting call was held in an elementary school classroom. This one was held in a studio. This would be the final casting call before making their final casting decisions. Having the casting call at a studio definitely set the tone and those who auditioned did not disappoint! Even the level of talent that came out was upgraded!
The waiting room was filled with familiar faces. Many of them knew each other from the set of “Sparkle” which was recently filmed here. Actress A. J. Williams was there looking to add “Sext Messaging” to an already impressive resume. Lenderrick Bauss Jones was in the house to audition as well. Lenderrick found himself a spot on “Sparkle” as well! He also co-wrote and directed the indie movie “Chasing Smoke” also filmed in Detroit. He admitted to me that it was humbling being on the other side of the table for a change. In our conversation, he also pointed out the fact that this and other projects like this are really important for the city. He said “We have good stuff here! We do not need Hollywood.” I personally believe we can definitely benefit from Hollywood but I admired his faith in Detroit artists. That type of faith is important to have around.
Judging by the auditions, He was right. We do have good stuff here! Each performer gave big time emotion as these were big time auditions. Every word of dialogue was scrutinized to the fullest. The Production team was not going to let sub par performances ruin a potentially engaging film. There were a few times when I found myself so wrapped up in the performance, I almost forgot that it was an audition. Before I left, I noticed a slight smile in Phette’ s poker face. She could already see the characters in her book coming to life. For an author, there isn’t a much more exciting time. Her time is now and she isn’t the only one. Rosemarie Wilson was seizing her’s as well and I found myself a willing participant.
Rosemarie Wilson is one of Detroit’s top poets. Not only that, she is an excellent singer. I have seen her perform a few times and each time was a treat! She brought the house down at Echo Verse’s Passion Fruit Festival 7.0 with the poem “40 Niggas Deep” and she is currently working on a CD and DVD. Recently, she asked me and several other metro Detroit artists to join her in filming a scene for her poem “Detroit aStigmatized”. We braved the cold and supported our sister. The poem “Detroit aStigmatized” is her way of showing her love for the city and putting Detroit pride on full display! She will be touring with a theater group from Amsterdam called Wunderbaum next year with shows in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Pittsburgh. Not bad for a young lady who only started performing in 2010. The lights and cameras are truly on Detroit and I can’t wait to show the world what we got! Holla if you hear me!