Michigan filmmakers breathe new life into small-town music venue
It was 2007 when then-Governor Jennifer Granholm launched Michigan's film incentive program. It led to a burst of big-league movie makers coming here, making films like Ides of March, Real Steel, Red Dawn and OZ-The Great and Powerful. And that led to a growing group of Michigan workers building careers in the film industry, from casting to grips, assistant directing, extras, actors and more.
But Governor Rick Snyder made good on his promise to cap those film incentives, believing they were not a good investment of state dollars. And as many of the movie-makers pulled up stakes, the Michigan workers were forced to either follow them out of state or build new careers here.
Johannah Scarlet, Ray Moran and Aaron Mohr chose to search for a new opportunity and stay in Michigan. They have now switched gears from making movies to hosting live music events in the tiny village of Farwell in Clare County. Their new music venue is called Harmony Hill, and coming up this Saturday there will be a big outdoor music festival called "Oh Hill Yeah," featuring Michigan bands such as Frontier Ruckus.
“Harmony Hill was a big project built in 2006 by another guy who got a bunch of investors together and decided to build the biggest stage in Michigan,” Ray explained.
“There have already been a couple of festivals thrown there before, so the town is used to having a large amount of people come through,” said Johanna. Back when Harmony Hill was under its original owner, a number of big acts such as Styx, Def Leppard, and Carrie Underwood performed there.
Now, Johannah, Ray and Aaron have purchased the venue in hopes of breathing new life into it, and the small town of Farewell has gotten right behind them.
“The mayor came. They presented us with the key to the city. And the news people came, and all the local businesses came,” said Ray. “Everybody waves to us. People show up just to help us out with little landscaping projects.”
The dream is for Harmony Hill to become a sort of music resort where people can come, see a concert and stay the night. Camping is available on-site for this purpose.
The Oh Hill Yeah Festival is June 15th and tickets are just $10. You can get information on their website theharmonyhill.com.
To listen to the full interview, click the audio above.
- Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom