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Local News / Entertainment

Monday, 31 August, 2009 2:37 AM

Hollywood and area leaders mark Unity Studios groundwork with a clap

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Unity Studios President Jimmy Lifton and metro leaders pose for a photo in front of a giant movie clapper on Aug. 27, 2009.

by Pete Bublitz
petblitz@yahoo.com

 

(Quicktime Video)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Representatives of the Hollywood film industry and southeast Michigan gathered Thursday afternoon to mark the establishment of Unity Studios, a +100-acre complex dedicated to film and television production. The “groundbreaking” ceremony that afternoon was marked by the snap of a giant movie clapper by the host party.

Further marking the significance of the area’s conversion was the naming of the area as "Hollywood 48101". Once complete, the full-service studios and village will include residential and commercial space. The total project investment is about $146 million.

"We started one year ago in August last year and it was a tough ordeal up and down," said Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka. "Finally, we planted the seed last fall. Today, we are watching the tree grow and in November it will bear fruit cause in November, we're shooting the first movie. Jimmy arranged for the financing. We're ready to start demolition and remodeling next week. Things are going to be going at a very fast pace from now on."

Unity Studios’ opening is an initiative, according to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, that shows “We’re going to fight to keep the film tax credit.”

"I think it's a big shot in the arm, I think, starting with the school and the infrastructure for the studio," he said. "It's jobs. That's the bottom line. It shows the diversification of the economy."

While it was an endeavor that started three years ago, according to Studio President Jimmy Lifton, Unity was meant to have “one mandate: we’re going to come here, we’re going to create jobs, and we’re going to kick ass.”

Adding that the first production on studio grounds would be this November, Lifton said that within one calendar year, he anticipated 12 projects to be undertaken, with “eight set in stone.” There will be four feature sound stages, production services, post audio dub stages, music recording stages and post video services in operation by the end of this year.

The Lifton Institute for Media Skills will open its doors to its first students in October. The first class of 250 students will be trained for jobs in the film industry. They will work on projects at Unity Studios. Students will learn all the necessary skills to work behind the scenes in the film and television industry.

"It took about three years, a lot of angst and a lot of determination and also working with some great people," Lifton said about the groundbreaking. "We are putting people through a boot camp of training. Complete below-the-line, which means all the trades that work to create product, moves and TV. Our students who graduate will actually be working on projects that we have here at Unity Studios.

All aspects of movie production will take place in Allen Park: training, production, post-production, distribution and marketing. This means an entire film can be shot, edited and released to theaters nationwide without ever going to Hollywood.

"We're going to have a workforce training program called The Lifton Institute for Media Skills to teach people the filmmaking process," said Eric Cedo, Marketing Director of Unity Studios. "The long term vision is to create a village here of residential and commercial housing for the industry. Everything on site will be used. We're very big on reusing. The building is in great shape. A lot of the building is in move-in condition right now."

Elsewhere at the groundbreaking celebration, there was food stands, face painting booths, music by Fifty Amp Fuse and an information booth was set up to provide applications for possible enrollment into the Lifton Institute for Media Skills.

"I think it's fantastic," said Brian Griswold, an Allen Park resident. "It's a great day for a party. This is good for Allen Park. I'd love to get involved at some point or another depending on my schedule, how big it goes and where it's going to take us. The schedule is full time. If they come up with a split schedule training, I might try to get involved with that cause I do drive a truck. I'd like to get involved in some capacity. Property values are going to go up. It's going to put us on the map. It's going to be good for everything."

According to Danee Isdaner, who identified herself merely as a supervisor, the means of entering such a school was via a limited selection: 250 would be selected for 15 tracks or occupation courses as listed in the provided application sheets.

From there, an elite 25 would earn the selection from Institute officials to move on to the next stage of production setting.

"It's fabulous, I'm so excited about it," said Jackie Gibson, an Allen Park resident. "Do you think I could be an extra? I don't know if they're looking for any old ladies. We're just very excited for Allen Park and the whole downriver community. We're glad it's here."

Click here for more information on Unity Studios. Click here for more information on the Lifton Institute for Media Skills.

 

Rendering courtesy of unitystudios.wordpress.com

This is what the main gate to Unity Studios will look like once construction is complete.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka and his family pose for a picture.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Unity Studios President Jimmy Lifton chats with attendees before the announcement.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka speaks to members of the media and the public.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Bill Black of the Michigan Film Commission chats with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Local leaders are honored during the groundbreaking on Aug. 27, 2009.

 

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