Hollywood on Washington
Russ Collins's front-row seat
by Jan Schlain
"We get three types of traffic," says the man guarding the door at 425 East Washington-"the workers, the patients, and the movie people." The workers park outside while they're building the 411 Lofts next door. The patients come to see the dwindling band of therapists who have offices in the building. And the movie people have pretty much taken over everything else.
Staffers and interns working on the new Hilary Swank movie Betty Anne Waters "moved in in October," says dental technician Russ Collins. Collins has had his office on the building's second floor since 1962; now, instead of dentists and doctors, his neighbors are staffers and interns for Innocence Productions. They dress like the construction workers, in jeans and hoodies, but work in offices labeled with taped-on computer printouts: "Extras Check-In," "Production Department," "Women's Fitting Room"-the last, the building's former pharmacy, its windows covered in brown paper. Around town, people compete to report Swank sightings-she was seen spinning on a stationary bike at Vie: Fitness & Spa!
Irony of ironies, Collins's son, also named Russ, runs the Michigan Theater. In February the younger Collins had just returned from the Sundance Film Festival, where cutting-edge films are aired. His dad now has a front-row seat for the one and only Hollywood film being produced from Ann Arbor.
The elder Collins even met the star. He was telling Innocence Productions staffers that he'd finally seen a Hilary Swank movie-Million Dollar Baby had been on TV the night before-when Swank herself walked up.
[Originally published in March, 2009.]