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!