The MFO's report to members of the Legislature was accompanied by an additional study that had been commissioned by the MEDC. This report, written by economists at Michigan State University's Center for Economic Analysis, was published on Feb. 6, 2009, and titled "The Economic Impact of Michigan's Motion Picture Production Industry and the Michigan Motion Picture Production Credit."[159]

The MSU report has two strengths. To the authors' credit, they took care to exclude from their calculations film spending that probably had no impact on Michigan's economy because it likely occurred outside the state. This decision was noteworthy, not simply because it was the right thing to do, but also because the Michigan Film Office did not appear to have shown similar care in its own report on the MFI program. Hence, the MSU study's authors concluded that $65.4 million was spent in Michigan by the 32 films for which they had data,[160] while the Film Office stated that total Michigan expenditures were $125 million for the 35 films for which it had data (the Film Office, writing later, had information for several additional films).[161]

The MSU figure appears to have been the better estimate. An MEDC spokesman subsequently told Hoekstra that the difference between MSU's and the MFO's figures was due to the MSU researchers' using earlier, unaudited figures.[162] This explanation does not seem plausible. Those early figures would have had to be extremely inaccurate to produce an estimate that was off by nearly 50 percent. Nor is it likely that the three extra films the Film Office included could account for such a startling difference. The MSU authors' care in this regard helped raise important questions at the time about the Film Office numbers — questions that would have been difficult to ask otherwise, given the lack of public access to the data.

The second strength of the MSU report lay in a similar area. The Film Office report states that the films' spending produced 2,800 Michigan jobs.[163] The MSU report mentioned direct gains of 2,763 jobs, but added that these involved short-term employment of just 23 days on average, producing a "full-time equivalent" of just 254 jobs.[164] Again, the MSU report disclosed important information that appears to have been omitted in the Film Office report.


[159] Steven R. Miller and Abdul Abdulkadri, "The Economic Impact of Michigan's Motion Picture Production Industry and the Michigan Motion Picture Production Credit," (Michigan State University Center for Economic Analysis, 2009), http://www.michigan.gov/documents/filmoffice/MSU_ Economic_Impact_Study_269263_7.pdf (accessed May 22, 2009).

[160] Ibid., 5.

[161] "Michigan Film Office 2008 Annual Report: Film Industry Refundable Tax Credit Operation and Effectiveness," (Michigan Film Office, 2009), 4, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/filmoffice/MFO_2008_Annual_ Report_269261_7.pdf (accessed June 10, 2009).

[162] Kathy Hoekstra, "The Scene and the Unseen: Act III," (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2009).

[163] "Michigan Film Office 2008 Annual Report: Film Industry Refundable Tax Credit Operation and Effectiveness," 4.

[164] Miller and Abdulkadri, "The Economic Impact of Michigan's Motion Picture Production Industry and the Michigan Motion Picture Production Credit," 7.