Jerry Zandstra Has the Big Picture in Mind – Politician to Movie Executive

    Jerry ZandstraA resident of West Michigan, Jerry Zandstra unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2006. Afterwards he switched gears and helped create a production company that makes films for television. Zandstra is the vice president of Beverly Hills, Calif.,-based America Saga Productions (ASP). He is helping bring more business to Michigan and the new film incentive legislation in the state is making his job easier.

    Corp!: Explain the benefits of the new film incentives that Michigan legislature recently put into place.
    Zandstra: The incentives are very clear-”they are financial. Michigan’s new legislation provides rebates of up to 42 percent. As soon as my partners at ASP learned about the changes in Michigan, they wanted to move as many projects to the state as possible. This new legislation is good for Michigan, good for the production companies, good for the investors and good for the banks.

    Corp!: What makes Michigan so attractive for film production?
    Zandstra: Hollywood producers think that everywhere between Los Angeles and New York is a cornfield. They need to learn about what Michigan has to offer. Michigan has very diverse filming possibilities-”beaches, landscapes, big cities, urban and suburban neighborhoods, architecture and natural beauty. The location options are endless and so are the business opportunities.

    Corp!: How does film production benefit businesses in Michigan?
    Zandstra: There are a lot of benefits. Let’s say a film production company is going to bring in a $10 million project, about $4-5 million will be spent locally. They will have to feed about 200 people twice a day; they will need hotels, rental cars, insurance, technology, personal services and more. Then at night they will want to go out to dinner, they will seek entertainment and they will go shopping. Money will be flowing into the local economy.

    Corp!: What new projects is your company bringing to Michigan?
    Zandstra: We are currently in negotiations with the networks for seven projects. We hope that six of them will be filmed in Michigan in the next couple of years.

    Corp!: How does your experience in politics benefit your business practices?
    Zandstra: I am able to understand the political process of this new legislation. Just because the legislation has been created, doesn’t mean all of the regulations are in place yet. The relationships that I have with some of the legislators are also a plus.

    Corp!: Who was your mentor in life?
    Zandstra: My grandmother and my grandfather. Their faith and their work ethic was an example to me. Their funerals were overflowing with people, many of whom expressed their gratitude for how my grandparents affected their lives. My parents are the same way. I have had wonderful professors and colleagues throughout my career and they have all added to the wealth of my soul.

    Corp!: What is the most important lesson you have learned in business?
    Zandstra: Take risks and tell the truth. Even when the truth is hard, tell the truth. Business comes down to ethics.

    Corp!: What is your favorite restaurant?
    Zandstra: The Chophouse in Grand Rapids.

    Corp!: What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
    Zandstra: With my three sons, they are 19, 17 and 13. They are a joy to be with. My wife Mary and I are very involved with their lives.