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A film factory is not like, say, a car factory, where the same team of people shows up every day to make a product. The film industry is more like the construction industry, where a independent contractors converge to make something, and then move on to the next project. And the infrastructure of a film factory is something of a hollow shell, big spaces waiting for the next crew to show up and create yet another world.
For 10 West Studios, those film factory spaces are a collection of boat storage warehouses, metal pole buildings beside
the Manistee River and, a block north, the vast, yawning expanse of an old iron works. If anything about the operation
conveys a sense of Michigan’s economic transformation, the iron works does. The gigantic, solid brick building once full of men and their flashing, smoking welders and the clang of iron on iron, and the surge of engines moving giant beams, is now empty.
Light through a towering glass-block wall and the soaring peaked ceiling make the space feel almost churchlike, a vacant temple of the industrial age. Today, the space is silent, waiting for the new work of make believe. On the wall hangs an American flag, pinned up last summer as a prop in a bus station scene.
This day in mid-January finds Cronk and Tailford between projects. Tailford and his wife, Kim, take the opportunity to close
on a house. Another priority is funding for the next key piece of 10 West original content, a story targeted to kids written by Cronk called Lucky and Plumpton. It’s an adventure film that centers on a mysterious cookbook with magically powerful recipes. A goal of the film is to convey the positive life values that Cronk and Tailford say they tried to instill in kids in the classroom.
Already the two have decided that a percentage of profits from the film will go to children’s charities. “I remember reading
an interview with Bono [superstar lead of the band U2], and he said artists always operate from this place of angst, and nobody really cares, and that making something beautiful is a lot more difficult than making something hard and complainy and dark,” Tailford says. Thumbnail sketches of Lucky and Plumpton scenes are posted on the wall of the 10 West office, today an unheated and nearly bare space illuminated by a window of wan January light.
In classic start-up fashion, the pair is also seeking funding for their $5 million business plan, while fielding calls and email
from directors and producers interested in scouting Manistee, checking out the studios, the geography. A director with a $2.5 million World War II film is a promising prospect. If he needs to float a battleship, Manistee can deliver.
Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse. sm firstname.lastname@example.org