Shooting is set to begin in Ann Arbor in mid-January on yet another Hollywood movie, this one starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank.
Working in an office on Washington Street, producer Andrew Sugerman and a pre-production staff are putting together a crew and scouting locations for the film’s seven-week shoot.
The 34-year-old Swank is best known for her work on “Million Dollar Baby” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” both films for which she won best actress honors in the Academy Awards.
The independent feature, titled “Betty Ann Waters,” is based on the true story of the title character, a single mother of two and the sister of a man convicted of murdering a woman near Boston.
Waters put herself through 12 years of school, including law school, to work for her brother’s exoneration and release. With the help of The Innocence Project, an organization that advocates the examination of DNA evidence, she succeeded.
“It has an incredible story about a woman’s love for her brother, and her perseverance and belief in him, against all odds, and her battle against the legal system to free him from prison,” said Sugerman.
The movie’s director, Tony Goldwyn, has done a lot of work both in front of and behind the camera. Goldwyn has been in and out of Ann Arbor lately, working with production designers to define the film’s look.
According to Sugerman, a local house will be featured in the film, and classrooms and other locations on the University of Michigan campus likely will play roles as well.
“We found that Ann Arbor has an architectural look that corresponds very well with New England – at least parts of Ann Arbor do – and that we can duplicate the look of Massachusetts in the Ann Arbor area pretty effectively,” Sugerman said.
The state’s film incentive legislation, which provides hefty tax breaks to movie makers, was what drew Sugerman and his colleagues to the area.
“That’s the primary reason we’re in Michigan,” Sugerman said.
Several movies have at least been partially filmed in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area this year, including “Youth in Revolt” and Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It.” The movie “High School” is being filmed at Howell’s Parker High School in Livingston County.
So far, Sugerman has been happy with Ann Arbor. “It’s been great, the town is great,” he said. “People have been very open and receptive to us, and it’s a very nice environment to work in.”