By Marina Csomor
Ingham County staff writer
EAST LANSING — When Brandon Laventure and his brother, Cameron Laventure, decided on a site to shoot their first feature film, “Apocalypse Theory,” they knew they wouldn’t have to go far.
“We wanted to work with locations that we were well-acquainted with,” said Brandon Laventure, writer and producer of “Apocalypse Theory.” “We chose East Lansing as the setting in which we wanted to write it and shoot it because it was a setting we were familiar with. It was great.”
On Feb. 24, the brothers premiered their movie, a college comedy about two brothers coming to terms with the possibility of the world’s imminent end, to students in Michigan State University’s Wells Hall. The movie featured scenes shot at Michigan State’s Mayo Hall and in downtown East Lansing at businesses including Wanderer’s Teahouse, 547 E. Grand River Ave.
Because Brandon Laventure is a Michigan State alumnus and Cameron Laventure is an English senior, the pair decided to shoot in East Lansing — a location they knew firsthand. Completing the project in the city was both convenient and artistically honest, writer and director Cameron Laventure said.
“The community was very supportive of the whole process,” Brandon Laventure said.
With the creation of “Apocalypse Theory” and their Lansing-based production company, Airship Cinema LLC, the brothers have become one of many filmmakers producing in Ingham County. Mid-Michigan has a great community of filmmakers, Brandon Laventure said.
Ingham County has been the backdrop for many local and national films, including “Real Steel,” a 2011 film starring Hugh Jackman, which shot scenes in the Ingham County Courthouse in downtown Mason, said Michelle Begnoche, spokesperson for the Michigan Film Office.
Big-budget movies, such as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “The Ides of March,” have been shot throughout Michigan and have used crew members based in Lansing, said Dominic Cochran, a partner of Lansing-based production company Ahptic Film and Digital. His firm has filmed music videos for Nelly Furtado and Miley Cyrus in state.
“Everyone we’ve worked with on a national level definitely enjoys Michigan and definitely thinks it’s underrated,” Cochran said.
There are also many area residents making locally oriented films, such as the Laventure brothers.
“There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be shooting in Lansing,” Cochran said.
Although they have been reduced under Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan has incentives for filmmakers who create in state, Begnoche said. The Michigan Film Office, which is part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has been allotted $25 million from the state’s general fund this fiscal year for projects throughout the state.
When a movie is shot in the area, business often booms. Filmmakers spend money hiring crew members and purchasing hotel rooms and catering. Even tourism increases because people want to visit sites where movies have been shot, Begnoche said. Despite reduced funding, she said the incentives still will help both Michigan filmmakers and residents.
“The bottom line is that’s what we have to work with, so we will make sure we’re picking the best possible projects for Michigan with the money we have to work with,” Begnoche said.
“We’re making a very concerted effort to make sure the projects we approve are keeping the most amount of money in the state.”
Cochran said Ingham County’s location is prime for filmmakers choosing to shoot in state. Mid-Michigan isn’t far from Chicago or Detroit. The state’s government also is housed in the area, making it a perfect setting for governmental and corporate work filmmakers shoot.
And the cost of purchasing a space and starting a business in the Lansing area is relatively inexpensive, Cochran said.
Begnoche said the Michigan Film Office is in the process of approving funding for a few in-state projects to be produced in 2012.
Even with reduced incentives, Cochran is sure mid-Michigan’s movie industry will continue to grow.
“I’m eternally optimistic,” Cochran said.