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Unfiltered: Megan Grano on Michigan v. Hollywood

You want young, cool people to move to Michigan? Let's help Megan Grano come back.

She's funny, literate and a soon-to-be superstar. We first met after she did the hilarious FunnyorDie video about how people in her hometown of Grosse Pointe are suffering in today's economy. I asked Grano to write a blog post about what the California crowd thinks about Michigan as a movie-making state.

Here's her take on it:


As a native Michigander/Los Angeleno transplant, I have been really excited by the Michigan Film Incentive. If Michigan's movie business were to take off, I could potentially move back to my home state and be closer to my family – particularly my brand new adorable niece.

So what would it take for someone like me to move back?

First, a little about me: My husband and I moved to Los Angeles after spending nine years working in the arts in Chicago. I had worked my way up as a comedian at Second City and iO Theater, and he had worked as a writer and director at the Annoyance Theater. We chose to uproot and move to LA because it was a natural next step to increase our earning potential. We knew there would be exponentially more wannabe comedians and writers in LA, but we also knew there were beaucoup more opportunities.

All that being said, last summer, I was enticed back to Michigan by the film incentive. My husband convinced me it was worth a try to temporarily move home and see for myself what was going on. We figured if I could land a few small movie roles in Michigan, it would make my path in LA easier. He had found work with iO West Theater and was busy with various writing projects so he couldn't join me. Plus – we needed someone to hold down the fort. So I packed my bags and headed to my mom's house in Grosse Pointe. I was able to line up part-time work within the business as a casting assistant for an old friend, who just so happens to be Michigan's top casting director, Carrie Ray.

During my two months at home, I got two movie auditions and one commercial audition. None of which I booked, though I got close. I performed live on a weekly basis at my favorite local comedy hotspot: Go Comedy Theater in Ferndale. I worked part-time for Carrie Ray. I made two short comedic videos with the uber talented Mikey Brown. And I taught one comedy class. So I was able to keep busy, but financially speaking, I did not make enough money. If I weren't living for free chez Mommy and driving Grandmommy's car, I would not have gotten by.

As a comparison, in LA, I go on about two commercial and three voice-over auditions per week, and about two TV/film auditions per month. I book more work here, because I have more opportunities to do so. I perform live at Second City Hollywood and iO West. I teach comedy classes five days per week. I can and do pitch TV shows to development folks. I make a lot of short videos with a lot of great people. Financially speaking, I'm not rolling in the dough, but I'm definitely getting by. Plus, I meet industry folks daily, and since this business is founded on relationships, every day I'm here feels like I'm getting a little further on that front.

So here's what I would need to actually move home:
* Michigan would need to land permanent television shows.
* Michigan would need to get folks in development from LA to come to them.

I believe if the Michigan legislature were to firmly commit to 10 years of this incentive and if the huge production facility in Pontiac, Raleigh Studios Detroit, were to hurry up and open, Michigan might be able to court several television shows to permanently set up shop, rather than blasting through town for a few weeks at a time. (Side note: Raleigh Studios Detroit must get their website up! At the moment they have a really lame placeholder.) That kind of permanent work would entice people back from LA. Especially because actors like me would likely have a shot at getting more than a bit part. We might be able to land a series-regular role because that might be cast in Michigan. Plus, as a wannabe writer, I could probably score a writer's assistant position at the very least, and that way I'd get a foot in the door and make lots of vital connections.

Secondly, I might move back if Michigan could convince Angelenos in development positions to regularly come to town and meet locals and look at their work. This would be a feat because Angelenos want people to come to them. That's why I'm in LA, after all. But, there is a way to get Angelenos out: and that's to create a top-notch festival. Like Just For Laughs, in Montreal, and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Now, Michigan does have a head start on this: Michael Moore's film festival in Traverse City. And Moore's and Jeff Garlin's new comedy festival, also in Traverse City. However, these two festivals need to grow exponentially. For example, last fall, I emailed the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce six times inquiring how to apply to the comedy festival, and I did not get a single response. Also, up until January this year, there was not even a website for it. I mean, c'mon! This stuff is BASIC.

I've now learned that the Traverse City Comedy Festival was not open to submissions, but that's a big mistake. Yes, a festival needs famous headliners to make money and sell tickets, but to get nationwide word-of-mouth, it also needs up-and-comers like me to apply. Which would have the added side effect of drawing LA industry to town to scout the latest, hottest talent.

So, Michigan: show serious long-term commitment to this business. Court television shows. Throw serious effort into developing festivals. Do that and I bet you'd see a lot more actors like me moving home. We'd miss LA's sunshine, but we'd give it up for a reasonable cost of living and to be closer to family. Plus, Michiganders beat Angelenos any day of the week!


By the way, check out Megan Grano's weekly web series in which she plays Glenda Beckk – the bizarro Glenn Beck.

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  • 1

    I, for one, would love to see Megan Grano, and talented people like her, move back to Michigan. She certainly seems to understand show business and what Michigan needs to do to encourage its growth here.

    There has been so much talk about Michigan's need to diversify its economic base instead of relying solely on the automotive industry. The Michigan Film Incentive Bill is a very good step in that direction. And it is not just films but also TV advertising and related activities which would headquarter here. But wouldn't you know it, we once again seem to take one step forward and two steps back. State Senator Nancy Cassis of Novi is bound and determined to kill this industry in Michigan before it can even get a firm foothold. I would like to hear Megan's opinion on Cassis.

    The one thing that seems to be missing in Detroit are the people - the foot traffic. In the 40's and 50's the streets were crowded with people. They generated a sense of excitement but also a feeling of safety. We need to bring that back and the only way is to give people a reason to be there. Hudson's, Kern's and Crowley's generated most of that excitement but they are gone and not likely to return. But I think people like Megan Grano could provide a very adequate replacement with live audience TV talk shows, quiz shows, Comedy Clubs and even Soap Operas. Two or three well placed TV studios in the downtown district could draw the already existing crowds out of their casino cocoons, keep business people downtown after work, provide incentives for shops and restaurants and give suburbanites another reason to come to Detroit. We had a touch of this in the 80's with John Kelly and Marilyn Turner in the very successful "Kelly and Company". No reason why we couldn't do it again.

    Come home Megan, we need you.

  • 2

    This inspiring post is particularly timely, as it happens.
    The 48th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival opens tonight (March 23) and runs through this weekend. Though it's not exactly the caliber of "top-notch festival" that Megan envisions, it's a second viable example of how "Michigan does have a head start on this." Largest sponsors include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Arts.
    Though this juried event focuses mainly on shorts, documentaries and student projects, a few feature films will be screened. Foreign filmmakers participate and three world premiers are among the more than 100 entries accepted, as executive director Donald Harrison said on WDET's "The Craig Fahle Show" shortly after Megan's post went up, coincidentally.

    Festival site is

    And oh yes:
    Let's help Megan Grano come back, as Karen and Jeff say.

  • 3

    Megan should know that currently there is no sunset on the legislation. Also Ann Arbor film festivals is pretty cool, as noted in another comment. check this link!
    Also the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council meets April 2 at Wayne State University. I'd like to see them start a fund to go out and seek work as Megan suggested - work that would make Michigan ROCK! Let's not just wait for the phone to ring - but be pro active and search for great scripts and producers young and seasoned who might come here to shoot, edit, create music and animation. BTW over 25 people by my count who left MI years ago have come back to live and conservatively 6 others now include MI in searches for work and come back often!
    Michigan Production Alliance supports any efforts to promote Michigan for commercials and films.

  • 4

    When I was working on RED DAWN in Downtown Detroit out of towners commented daily about the lack of people in the Financial District of Detroit-Griswold north of Larned. Empty Bldgs and streets make for a great backlot but we need to reinvent Detroit. Hopefully film making can help do that!

  • 5

    "in Pontiac, Raleigh Studios Detroit" [insert wrong answer sfx]

    Detroit isn't quite like LA in this respect. Its tough to be in Pontiac, name yourself "Detroit" and have people really believe you, or it in fact be any sort of comparable experience.

    Or, I'm just going to continue living in the city and calling my place of residence "West Windsor."

    Also, the amount of huge trucks for those productions (red dawn, etc) that read "Pride of *insert city other than detroit, state other than michigan" on their back end was pretty rude, given the incentive, I thought.

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