Thursday, May 27, 2010

For-Profit Film School & Movie Studio Scams an Entire City

People in economically depressed areas desperate for jobs will place their faith in almost anyone who promises a miracle to end their suffering. Unfortunately, scam artists are taking advantage of the recession to deplete the little that is left in hard hit cities such as Allen Park, Michigan outside of Detroit. As if things couldn’t get any worse for Detroit, right?

Last summer
, Allen Park residents celebrated what seemed to be the answer to their prayers. A wannabe studio executive by the name of Jimmy Lifton (gawd, doesn’t his name just scream scam artist?) wanted to open a movie studio and film school in their town that promised to create hundreds of jobs and bring Hollywood projects to the area.

According to The News-Herald, the city sold $25.3 million in long-term general obligation bonds and $3 million in Wayne County-issued recovery zone bonds last fall to pay for the property.

Eight months later, the city has revealed that Lifton failed to pay the base rent of $25,000, along with an additional rent of $17,000 on April 3. More:

It also said Unity failed to separate utility meters and to provide information on Lifton Institute for Media Skills’ curriculum and a list of students and instructors to the city. It said that Unity failed to provide on a quarterly basis a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement and a payroll report for all people for any Unity entity that generates a W-2 and/or 1099 tax statement.

I did an online search for any information on Lifton Institute for Media Skills and came up with little other than the school's website which didn't provide any tuition rate information and a comment that was left under the Oakland Press article:

Jimmy Lifton as well as all the other clown shoes "film schools" that have mysteriously popped up in the last 2 years are just a bunch of scam artists. They use Michigan WORKS! tax payer dollars to line their pockets.

Jimmy Lifton charges up to $12,000 a class for "film training"- you will never see a true film camera in his classes- you will never be taught by an industry professional. He holds his "classes" in beat up abandoned automotive office space with free rental equipment that he has borrowed from local rental houses- the gaff house and william f white.

He is stealing power from the plant next door, clearly a fire hazard as well as thievery. (please investigate if you have the means)

I don't know how this jerk sleeps at night. no rent, no audit, poor excuse for a business, stealing tax payer dollars..

only saving grace...
You will make a short video on a prosumer digi camera starring JIM LIFTONS DAUGHTER!!!- hope its worth 12 grand!

Good luck finding a job "graduates" !.... Lifton Institute! WHAT A JOKE!!!!!!!!! you will be viewed at as a moron, untrained, or "one who has been scammed"
Keep up the DENILE Jimmy.. its a great tactic for liars, thieves and cowards!

Who knows if the school even has more than a few of Lifton’s children gullible students who attend? Despite the lack of public information on this “film institute”, Lifton was able to obtain a $2 million unsecured loan to improve his school. If you are from the Detroit area or know more about what is happening on the ground in Allen Park, please comment or email me with the details. BIDER would love to expose this scam and warn potential students to avoid attending this film school at all costs.

What was supposed to be a joint project with Unity Studios and Allen Park has instead become a $150 million bad investment paid in full by the city with Lifton pocketing every loan and grant he could get from taxpayers. I wonder how long Lifton will be able to continue this scam with the assistance of Allen Park city officials who need pretend everything is on the right track to save their jobs in the next election.

This story should be a reminder that if someone pops up out of nowhere in your Podunk town with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Honestly, why would a legitimate, big name Hollywood studio exec want to invest over a $100 million in a studio outside of Detroit instead of a bigger city like Chicago or even Minneapolis? Any competent city official ought to have questioned this guy’s motives. Now, their constituents will suffer for their million dollar mistake.


  1. Another theory would be that the government was threatening to take the grant money away unless Allen Park spent it on something.

    Jimmy Lifton showed up at the right time, and they were happy to throw the money at him.

    And it just goes to show you why Michigan is in the state that its in. They don't think realistically and want to jump ahead to where they are a major cultural center. Any person who can cast a realistic eye upon the area knows that it's too cold and snowy several months out of the year, has an unattractive skyline (unless you're filming something about the apocalypse or Boyz in da Hood II), and isn't a place you'd want to leave expensive film equipment lying around (If I lived in a city with about 50% unemployment, I too would probably be living like I was in Lord of the Flies).

    They need to come up with real jobs that will put real people to work.

  2. Poorly written article, checked some facts, next time you may want to try that:

  3. Anon @ 7:20pm: Jimmy Lifton, is that you?? The link you posted only sites Unity Studios' jobs statistics which is likely as (in)accurate as the job statistics released by third tier law schools. Unlike your short post that only sites a Unity Studios press release, my post is based on facts reported by reputable news agencies in the Detroit area.

  4. Spengler's Shop RatMay 27, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    No one in Allen Park needs a warning - pretty much everyone for whom it is relevant knows already. This story has already been on the news and in the papers here in Detroit.

    This sort of thing is pretty common here, though. There are plenty of fly-by-night for-profit business schools and whatnot in the area. They rely on the steady stream of desperate unemployed people that this state now exports - people reaching for anything, trucking, nursing, clerical work.

    @NoJob4U: there are no real jobs here that will put real people to work. Detroit is ground zero for wage deflation. The auto factories (still the single biggest industry round here) are doing $13/hr with zip benefits for their new hires. This might sound okay to them at first. Then they do that job for seven or eight months and realize that they're destroying their back and knees running alongside cars on an assembly line. Or they'll get cancer from the fumes in the paint shop - pick your poison. There's also all the unemployed automotive engineers with their "gold-plated" - and pricey - MSE degrees, now-inapplicable auto-related skill sets, and underwater exurban McMansions.

    The economy is biting for everyone everywhere. Recovery? There is none.

  5. Well I'll keep checking back to see when you might post a fact or recent news story, think that will be any time soon?

  6. @Spengler's Shop Rat:
    With regards to the unemployed engineers - they are actually a useful resource, but nobody wants to retrain them to put their engineering skills to work in any other field (and frankly, engineering processes don't change between industries that much). The real problem is that hiring a displaced engineer is so cheap that it's unreasonable to hire fresh grads from Wayne State, Michigan, Michigan Tech, Western Michigan, and Michigan State. Yet another case of kids who did everything right getting the shaft, and being pressured into "retraining" for things like film work or nursing.

  7. It blows my mind how stupid people can be. How can you people fall for this? I'm going to start a fake business and get big bags of money handed to me, then split.

  8. imdb has zero blockbuster / hit movies on his producer credits, the movies he did are straight to video or dvd, I thought a hollywood producer would be like a brian grazer, george lucas, jon peters,




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