Up in scenic Northwest Michigan, known for its magnificent scenery and summer recreation, a large stage complex has quietly opened in Manistee, a Victorian port city on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Ten West Studios, started last July and completed in October, was developed by Harold Cronk and Matthew Tailford, who returned to their native state last year after five years working in L.A.
Backed with “an investment of seven figures,” the complex was “repurposed” from seven dry dock boat houses owned by Jeff Seng, one the seven partners in 10 West Studios.
Located on 10 acres of land that abuts the lakeshore, and spread across a cumulative 45,000-sq. ft, the complex consists of five stages in five buildings collectively known as Waterfront Stages. This complex includes the “Big Daddy” 30,000-sq. ft. stage.
Ironworks, located less than a block away, consists of two building joined together; one is 120x265-sq. ft. and the other is 150x200-sq. ft., where an indie feature will start shooting in April.
Cronk estimates the company spent $100,000 to refurbish the buildings and adding a modular grid system and improving the power throughout.
Rick Hert, head of the West Michigan Film Commission, says 10 West “is functional and ready to go at this point” and will be a welcome addition to his half of the state.
In the months ahead, Hert says he anticipates 10 to 14 features, from low budget indies to studio productions, will shoot in his half of Michigan "and 10 West Studios will facilitate them."
When operational, 10 West will be full-service and already has purchased $5 million worth of equipment, including six cameras and three dozen lenses, the equivalent of three lighting packages, generators, video assist, and a 40-ft. motor home.
To provide crews for their expectation of their own and location movies, 10 West initiated an eight-week crew training program at West Shore Community College in nearby Luddington.
The entry courses for unemployed and under-employed residents included entry level grip, electric, art department and production assistants. Seven industry professionals from West Michigan taught the courses.
One of the instructors was DP Henry Joy, a partner in the company, along with CFO Melinda Nypen, attorney Larry Weinberg, Jeff Seng; Cronk is CEO and Tailford is managing partner.
Cronk says their goal is "to produce their own features" as well as be a location for Hollywood movies, although nothing is scheduled as yet for production.
"We are quietly working on getting things set up with vendor resources," says Cronk. "We can provide a significant number of jobs for the area."
Cronk was a high school art teacher when he and Tailford, a fellow teacher, moved to L.A. in 2005 to break into the film business. He was the production designer on two features and directed his own short, "War Prayer," winning several top festival awards.
Based on "War Prayer," Origin Entertainment made Cronk a three picture deal, and invited him to become a director and partner in the company.
"We now have a strategic alliance with Origin," Cronk says, "and they have a place to produce films."
Planned for late summer or early fall is co-production between 10 West Studios and Origin Entertainment, a children's fantasy adventure, "Lucky & the Codex Imperium."
Last summer Cronk was the production designer "Tug," a feature produced by Hopwood DePree's TicTock Studios in Holland, Michigan.
Ten West Studios is located at 33 Water St., Manistee; Cronk's phone is 323/828-4537. See