Unity Studios shoots first feature in March

Unity Studios in Allen Park, which recently graduated 106 students in the inaugural class of the Lifton Institute of Media Skills, will start production in March on a feature film that should employ many of the graduates.

The family film, “A Christmas Dream,” is about a mother and daughter living the South during the Civil War. It is being made in partnership with The Henry Ford (Museum), whose authentic 19th century Greenville Village will provide period locations.

Veteran film producer and Detroit native Jimmy Lifton runs the Lifton Institute and is also president of Unity Studios and Oracle Post.

Unity Studios’ first tenant is WAR Entertainment, a production company owned by former Detroit Pistons’ Dale Davis, that relocated its full-service grip and lighting company, The Gaff Station, from Pittsburgh. The Gaff Station supplied equipment to the Lipton Institute for training and production purposes.

WAR Entertainment will follow with a slate of films scheduled for 2010. Its first project this winter is a children’s TV show and a second is a feature about basketball shooting in spring

Unity Studios is in the first stages of transformation, renovating a 750,000-sq. ft. building to add four 25,000-sq. ft. sound stages. When completed later this year, it will include the full spectrum of production, post, suppliers and offices.

Unity Studios’ second and third phases include developing the 64 acres into Unity Village, a tourist destination with housing, retail, and complimentary commercial business. The entire enterprise is valued at $146 million. The property was formerly the Visteon Technical Center. Ground was broken last August.

GRAND RAPIDS’ FAVORITE ACTOR, Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson, has returned to that West Michigan City for the third time in a year. This time instead of acting in someone else’s production, his Cheetah Vision Films is shooting the first phase of “Love Me, Love Me Not,” at Grand Valley State University’s football stadium.

Cast and crew will return to West Michigan in May for the last three weeks of production.

Jackson starred in two previous 2009 features in Grand Rapids: Action/thriller “The Gun,” in December and the crime drama, “Caught in the Crossfire,” last May, both co-starring with Val Kilmer. He plans to return still again this summer in “Jekyll and Hyde.”