’30 Minutes Or Less’ latest film to make home in West Michigan

Courtesy Photo / mlive.com
30 minutes or less production shots

Courtesy Photo / mlive.com 30 minutes or less production shots

Josh Brunsting

While places such as Chicago, New York and Hollywood have become synonymous with the world of cinema, one area is trying to place itself on the film industry’s map.

During the past year with small independent films starting and holding their production in greater West Michigan, a new comedy has launched the area into the world of big budget, Hollywood productions.

Currently filming in Grand Rapids, “30 Minutes Or Less” will be the latest film from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer. Featuring a cast that includes “Parks And Recreations” star Aziz Ansari and “The Social Network” lead Jesse Eisenberg, the film is one of the biggest productions to hit the Grand Rapids thus far.

The film follows a pizza delivery guy who must rob a bank for a pair of criminals to save his best friend to whom the crooks have attached a bomb. It follows in the steps of films such as the upcoming Dustin Lance Black film, “What’s Wrong With Virginia,” and the Kurt Russell film, “Touchback,” that have brought some of the biggest names in the film world directly to West Michigan.

“I think the interest in the area is not only based around the fact that the area is a genuinely interesting place, but the Michigan tax incentive is a definite boost,” said crew member Nicholas Popma, a GVSU student. “It not only gives filmmakers a reason to look into the area, but it also gives them great incentive to stay and make their films here.”

The Michigan film incentive program is one of the country’s most aggressive incentives of its ilk. Film companies that hold productions in the Grand Rapids area are able to take full advantage of a 42 percent tax break, according to the City of Grand Rapids.

Popma, a broadcasting major, is a stand-in for Ansari during the production.

“It’s definitely been an interesting experience,” he said. “Ben Stiller and his company, Red Hour Films, are producing and it’s been eye opening to see how they set up lighting, camera angles and seeing actors in the midst of their craft.”

While the film has brought an increase in revenue for businesses in the area, it has also helped raise interest in the world of film as a whole, said Harbor Theater owner Brendan Pelto.

“Even though the area is indeed making a lot of money off of these productions, the great thing about them is that they bring awareness to both film as an entity, and especially films and filmmakers working in our area,” he said. “What we have seen is a definite rise in the interest in not only Michigan film productions, but overall cinema.”

Pelto reopened the Muskegon historic theater in April 2008. He said that he, along with wife, Jen, has seen a definitive uptick in public interest in the films that they have to offer, regardless of the production location.

“I think it’s always important for the public to truly support the arts of their area,” he said. “There is nothing more important for a community than to get out and support those making art for and within it, no matter the budget behind it.”

“30 Minutes Or Less” has a tentative release date of Aug. 12, 2011.

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