Getting F.I.T. for New Michigan Jobs

By, Crystal A. Proxmire


As s3 Entertainment Group begins its second year of Film Industry Training (F.I.T.), previous students gear up for the 2010 filming season here in Michigan.  S3 is part production company, part school – with many students stepping up to take paying jobs with s3 or other productions that s3 connects them with.


“All of our students get internships,” said one of s3’s founders Jeff Spilman.  “In this business you need experience to get work and you need to work to get experience.  Unlike other programs our students get to work on real high-budget films.


In a course overview class on Feb. 25, 2010, Spilman, other F.I.T. Instructors, and former students spoke to potential new recruits about what working in the film industry is really like.


“If you’re out to make a quick buck, this is not the job for you,” Spilman said.  “Our days are 10-15 hour days, six days a week.  Your kids will not see you for weeks.  If you have a dog you better have someone supportive to go let them in and out.  When you’re filming, the film is your life.”  He also explained that living project to project is a new concept for people in Michigan who are used to working regular hours with a steady paycheck.


“These are all freelance jobs.  Production managers hire on a project to project basis.  There are union jobs and you need to prove you can be hired before they’ll let you in,” Spilman said.  “And unless you have a time commitment and a passion don’t waste your time with us.”


Many of the fifty-sixty people at the class were unemployed or at jobs they said would be disappearing soon.  Automotive engineer Belinda Davis of Madison Heights has been laid off since November 2008.  She came Saturday to find out if jobs in the film industry were really available.  “The fact they’re trying to help Michigan’s unemployed with this industry is exciting,” she said.


The training classes offered through F.I.T. include a basic film industry overview, a Grip/Electric/Generator Operator Course, an Introduction to the Film Art Department, Introduction to Film Industry Production Accounting, Introduction to Camera Department, Introduction to Mechanical Special FX and a Film Camp for wanna-be actors.  Each class is designed to give students hands on training in jobs that are in high demand during the peak filming season.


All of the classes offered except for their Film Camp are eligible for state funding through No Worker Left Behind.  No Worker Left Behind provides up to $5,000 a year for training.  Workers who have been displaced by jobs going overseas may be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance for up to three years of training.  And a Workforce Investment Act–National Emergency Grant may help people who lost jobs in failing industries get up to $4,000 a year in training.  Andy Cuadrio and Megan McLosky from the Ferndale Career Center were on hand to help potential students learn about funding for classes.  “Currently there is no funding left in Oakland County for No Worker Left Behind, but we are always looking for ways to connect workers with jobs and job training,” Cuadrio said.  Those interested in state funding for jobs can get more information at the Ferndale Career Center at 713 East Nine Mile Road.


Bob Bechett spent over 25 years in advertising and marketing for Chrysler before loosing his job.  He took two F.I.T. training classes last year and interned on the set of The Irishman.  Since then he has been hired onto several projects including Crave, Red Dawn and Game of Death with Wesley Snipes.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re a CPA, have a Masters Degree or are a kid out of high school.  It’s all about your attitude,” Bechett said.  “It doesn’t matter what they ask you to do, it needs to be done.  Everyone has a small role but they all fit together to make a really big production happen.”


Several films are scheduled to be made in Michigan this year, including a new Transformers movie, Power of Few, Thief of Hearts, Hung: Season 2, Sucker and a DreamWorks production called Real Steel. 


More information on s3 Entertainment Group and the classes they offer, go to

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