Feb 20, 201309:29 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
Enjoying Life in Hollywood South
Parts of "Django Unchained" were filmed in New Orleans. The film also stars my first love, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Oscars are this Sunday and I couldn’t be more excited. The Oscars are like my Super Bowl. I have loved the awards show ever since I was little, but I really remember getting into it when I became OBSESSED with “Titanic” in the third grade. We all have a favorite movie experience and "Titanic" is mine. It was so epic and such a phonomenon at the time, and it starred my first celebrity crush, Leonardo DiCaprio. Around that time I decided I wanted to be a famous actress, and Oscar Sunday was the time I could see the actual people who had accomplished the big goal I always wanted.
While I no longer have dreams of being an actress, my love for movies and the Oscars has stuck with me. But this year I have a different perspective of the film industry as a New Orleans resident: I am truly enjoying life in “Hollywood South,” as New Orleans is often called. I love hearing and reading about movies being filmed here. According to Film New Orleans, a part of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy, the state of Louisiana passed film production tax incentives in 2002. According to this 2012 interview with Film New Orleans Director Katie Williams, Louisiana is third in the nation for production, after California and New York. (You can read more about the New Orleans film industry at filmneworleans.org.)
So as a New Orleanian, I am extra excited for this year's Oscars because I feel a sense of pride for two films: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Django Unchained.” The two films are up for Best Picture, among other awards, and they were filmed in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. I've been reading a lot about "Beasts of the Southern Wild," especially, because Houma, La., native Quvenzhané Wallis is the youngest in history to be nominated for Best Actress. Then there's her co-star, Dwight Henry, who is a baker in New Orleans. (If you want to learn more about these two, I recommend this story by Ann Curry from NBC's "Rock Center with Brian Williams.") "Beasts of the Southern Wild" seems like this year's "little movie that could," so it's fun to have that connection and for the state of Louisiana to have a film to cheer for.
To be honest, it's going to be hard for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Django Unchained" to beat "Argo," the current front-runner for the Best Picture prize. And not to be a Debbie Downer, but it's also going to be tough for Wallis to beat seasoned actresses such as Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. But in my opinion, it doesn't matter if Wallis and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" or "Django Unchained" walk away with an Oscar. Having successful films being shot in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana get people talking about the area, which is great for the city, just like the Super Bowl created buzz for New Orleans. For locals, it's fun to say, "Oh, that movie was filmed in New Orleans." It gives locals a sense of pride and gives visitors another reason to plan a trip here. New Orleans' reputation as Hollywood South is just another factor that sets New Orleans apart from other cities in the U.S.
I've decided that while I'm living here I want to find out how to be an extra in a film, so maybe my dream of being an actress hasn't completely died. Maybe New Orleans can help reach my childhood goal, or maybe it's just fun to live where the movie stars work.