Resilience is in Hollywood South’s DNA. Despite the panic and predicted death knell following the Louisiana Legislature’s controversial cap that diminished the popular filmmaking tax incentives in 2015, industry leaders managed to limit the exodus. Meeting with producers and potential investors, they informed the money men about the greatly exaggerated facts and misperceptions in the aftermath.
Things are looking up. The lull has been offset by big name stars and producers returning for feature films and new TV series. All that may change this spring if legislators make further cuts.
Hugh Jackman’s resurrection as the iconic “X-Men” character, Wolverine, returns in the $127 million New Orleans-shot sequel, “Logan” for a March release. Clint Eastwood’s locally filmed Civil War drama “The Beguiled” directed by Sophia Coppola hits theatres in June with an all-star cast including Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.
Ongoing productions in 2017 include the $60 million Fox Studios action thriller “Underwater,” currently being filmed in St. Bernard Parish at The Ranch, which recently added three, 30,000 square-foot stages and a mill space to accommodate the production.
The Disney/Marvel series “Shadows” budgeted at $42 million, has an 86-day shoot in Louisiana.
Ryan Murphy’s smash hit TV series on FX, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” that won 10 Emmys in September, moves from California to Louisiana for Season 2. “American Crime Story: Hurricane Katrina” is set for production in New Orleans with a far larger cast (starring Sarah Paulson and John Travolta again) and a longer season of 13-15 episodes, to air in 2018.
AMC’s “Preacher” also moved to Louisiana (from New Mexico) for its second season. The $66 million budget includes $48 million being spent in-state, and an $18 million payroll. Season two of Oprah Winfrey’s “Queen Sugar” resumes in March, and Season three of “NCIS: New Orleans” wraps April 28.
“2017 is off to a great start with projects currently prepping or shooting in Louisiana,” says Chris Stelly, Executive Director of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association. “Other projects are on their way for this year as well. We are finalizing another economic impact study in advance of the upcoming regular session of the legislature. It is worth highlighting that in the last study in 2015, the economic impact of this program was well over $1 billion, with another $717 million in household earnings. This industry also supported over 12,000 jobs in the state.”
In an effort to sustain the thousands of film industry jobs, strong infrastructure and hundreds of businesses throughout the state that depend on income from productions, organizers have been finalizing key policy proposals for the upcoming session.
“Last summer, Gov. John Bel Edwards directed LED to review, analyze and recommend policy changes for the film incentive program, which may be presented for consideration in the 2017 legislative session,” says Don Pierson, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary. “Louisiana remains committed to the film industry, which has generated more than $6 billion in film and TV production work since the modern-era program got its start in 2002.
“In recent months, we have undertaken an extensive internal analysis and gathered broad input from stakeholders throughout Louisiana,” Pierson says. “We have included legislators and entertainment industry experts to help identify recommendations for best practices and enhanced economic impact of the public’s investment. The end result is to provide policy recommendations that will improve state budget predictability, improve return-on-investment for the state, support industry sustainability and improve the statewide entertainment industry impact.
“With those elements in mind, we are confident that a stronger program will encourage the decision-makers in the film industry to operate here and invest more permanently in Louisiana. Our proposals are being finalized and will be presented to the Governor and to legislators for their consideration this spring.”
“One would hope that this upcoming session keeps in mind the value that our industry brings,” says Hornbeak. “This includes those who feel the ripple effect of spending, whether they are a small business, vendor or crew. We ask them to be vocal, take action and contact their legislator to keep our film industry vibrant for years to come.” (filmlouisiana.com)
Small Businesses Appeal to Legislators
Productions often serve as an economic engine and as job creators for small businesses, according to locals throughout Louisiana who are appearing in weekly PSAs starting March 6.
The testimonial-style PSAs, which continue until the regular Louisiana legislative session commences April 10, are designed to drive home to lawmakers and the public how greatly local businesses depend on the film industry to make ends meet.
In anticipation of the spring session, Louisiana’s economic development leaders, film industry officials and business owners are coming together as one voice to address legislators regarding the film industry’s survival for years to come.
“This is a do-or-die session for us and our future,” says Jimmy Hornbeak, chief marketing officer of The Ranch, public relations and marketing chairman of LFEA and union public relations consultant for IATSE local 478. “Our hope is that the PSA messages of local impact in all our communities affected by film will resonate inside the legislative chamber in Baton Rouge. We’re not asking for a new cap, we are just asking to keep everything the way it is, without making any substantial changes to the existing program.”
For every direct job created by film productions, two indirect jobs are created, according to Hornbeak.
“The ripple effect of film-related spending and jobs in parishes and small businesses across the state has been documented,” he says. “It is a clean, diverse industry that offers those with creative interests a reason to stay in Louisiana.”