"Mom was worried about my trip to Detroit, I sent her this picture."
What do you think of when you think of Detroit? The Motor City? Ruins? Segregation? Abandonment? A cautionary tale?
Then ask: Have you been to Detroit? Have you researched it? How much time did you spend coming to your conclusions? What led you to think of Detroit that way? From what I've seen, few of the modern-day notions about Detroit come from a robust understanding of the place at the ground level. Not even my own.
We are all prone to snap judgments and stereotyping at some level. That's not always a bad thing. If we examined in depth everything we came across, we'd never accomplish anything at all. For example, to label Detroit as "Rust Belt"—a label for cities with older industrial buildings, many of them closed, and a troubled legacy resulting from that deindustrialization—does capture a portion of the truth.
But there's a bigger danger when storytellers—journalists, artists, filmmakers, and pundits—go beyond just shorthand labels and instead use a city merely as a canvas on which to paint their own ideas. Alas, this has all too often been Detroit's fate. In some ways the city has become America's movie screen, onto which outsiders project their own pre-conceived identities and fears. The real city, beyond a few iconic images and so-called "ruin porn" shots, need feature little if at all in these. And it is amazing are nearly devoid of actual people.
Consider some of the identities projected onto Detroit:
America's Bogeyman. As Detroit native Pete Saunders noted when calling Detroit "America's Whipping Boy," Detroit is an all-purpose bogeyman leaders in other cities can use to frighten voters when proposing their next boondoggle. "Better approve this stadium tax. Do you want to end up like Detroit?"
The Really Bad Sinner. Much as we minimize our own failings and justify ourselves as "good people" by comparing ourselves to serial killers and other "really bad people," cities can defend their own manifest failures by saying, "At least we're not Detroit," a tack humorously exploited by one of the Cleveland tourism videos.
Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland. Climate change activists try to outdo each other by presenting ever more apocalyptic visions of what will happen to the planet if their preferred solution isn't implemented immediately. Likewise, many writing about the legitimate problems of Detroit seem to compete with each other in creating the most spectacular depictions of total urban collapse.
"Fear of a Black Planet" (a term I'm borrowing from the name of a Public Enemy album). Racist views are no longer acceptable in society, but for some criticizing Detroit, America's blackest big city, makes an acceptable substitute. By talking about Detroit's crime or poverty or graduation rate, people can pretend to be criticizing "Detroit" when they really mean to criticize African Americans.
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The Michigan Film Office announced today the feature film Need for Speed has been approved for a film incentive from the state. The DreamWorks Studios’ film chronicles a cross-country journey at impossible speeds and will film in part in Detroit this summer.
In addition to filming in the state, two Michigan businesses – Race Car Replicas in Clinton Township and Technosports Creative of Livonia – are being utilized to build and enhance cars being featured in the film.
Cast for Need for Speed includes Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Mission Impossible III), Dominic Cooper (Captain America, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Imogen Poots (Fright Night, 28 Weeks Later) with Scott Waugh directing (Act of Valor).
“Need for Speed was initially just looking at Michigan to do car builds for the film, but we were able to make the case that this was a terrific place to film the movie as well,” said Margaret O’Riley, director of the Michigan Film Office. “This project fits so well into both our reputation as a great state for filmmaking and the automotive heritage Michigan is known for; it’s a strong investment all around.”
Need for Speed was awarded an incentive of $1,370,852 on $4,993,623 of projected in-state expenditures. The project is expected to hire 111 Michigan workers with a full time equivalent of 11 jobs.
The project has tapped Race Car Replicas to build chassis for several of the “super cars” that will be raced in the film. Technosports Creative is working on a vehicle that will also be showcased throughout the film. The work being done at Race Car Replicas and Technosports Creative is not included in, but is in addition to the work being incentivized.
The film adaptation will be a fast-paced, high-octane film rooted in the tradition of the great car culture films of the 70s while being extremely faithful to the spirit of the video game franchise. In Need for Speed, the cars are hot, the racing is intense and the story keeps players at the edge of their seat.
In Fiscal Year 2013, nine projects have been awarded a total of $10,695,291 on $37,346,227 of approved production expenditures for the year. These projects are expected to create 679 Michigan hires with a full time equivalent of 215 jobs.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Film Review Committee, comprised of senior MEDC staff including the Michigan Film Commissioner, reviews all completed applications using the statute to guide approval decisions.
The Michigan Film Office was created in 1979 to assist and attract incoming production companies and promote the growth of Michigan’s own film industry. The Film Office also administers the incentive program for film, television and other digital media production in Michigan.
For more on the Michigan Film Office, visit: MichiganFilmOffice.org.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation markets the state with a focus on business, talent, jobs and helping to grow the economy. For more on MEDC and its initiatives, visit: MichiganAdvantage.org.
Dan Gilbert has a vision for downtown Detroit that many would find hard to square with the long, painful decline commonly associated with this city: a vibrant urban core full of creative, innovative and talented young people.
Yet Quicken Loans, the mortgage lender Gilbert co-founded in 1985, has invested $1 billion over three years, bought some 2.6 million square feet of commercial space in the downtown area and moved 7,000 employees there in a bid to make that vision a reality.
The company is in talks with 80 to 100 retail outlets and restaurants to open downtown space, and Gilbert and other business leaders have fronted most of the money for a $140 million light rail line in the heart of the city. Quicken has also invested in an incubator for technology startups, which now number 17.
Gilbert, who grew up in a Detroit suburb, wants to brake the exodus of educated young people from the only state in the country that lost population between 2000 and 2010. Among those who set up home elsewhere in recent years are two founders of daily deal marketer Groupon Inc, University of Michigan graduates from the Detroit area whose startup took root in Chicago.
"Young people are fleeing the state and we need to give them a reason to be here," Gilbert, 51, said in a recent interview in the Madison Theatre, one of many buildings his firm has bought.
Part of his zeal comes from his own need to attract top talent to Quicken Loans, which runs a nationwide online lending business that Gilbert says makes it "a tech company that happens to sell mortgages." Having avoided the subprime mortgages that crippled many of its competitors in the housing crash, the company has grown rapidly in recent years.
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The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit by Rice and Lipka Architects and James Cornerfield Operations was described as "an inspirational project that combines past and present in a well resolved and convincing manner". "It creates new space for new creativity in a post-industrial city," the judges said.
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