John Schneider Studios
“Dukes of Hazzard” star brings showbiz to Holden.
When actor John Schneider was scouting locations for a horror-comedy film he wrote and directed, he chanced upon a former campground along the Tickfaw River that would forever change the way he makes movies.
“In the location scouting for Smothered, after I was sure I found exactly what I needed, someone called me no less than six times to look at this property that I was not remotely interested in,” says the actor, best known for his role in the television series The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979 to 1985. “In order to really quiet him down and have him stop calling, I agreed to go look at it on the way to the airport. Yeah, it’s funny how dreams never come true on the road you think they’re on.”
Schneider says the minute he drove onto the 53-acres in Holden that was once Camp Singing Waters, he fell in love.
“I not only saw all of Smothered there, but I saw all of, or much of, several other scripts that I had written and immediately felt embraced by this whole place,” he recalls. Shortly after, the land became John Schneider Studios, complete with river access, a swamp, large open fields, a lake, a baseball field, a five-acre forest of giant bamboo and what Schneider describes as “a cool old house.”
Schneider has long felt at home in Louisiana.
“The first time I had fallen in love with boudin and crawfish boils and the crazy people in Louisiana, the folks that work so hard and play so hard, was back in the ’80s when I was doing country music,” he says. “I was actually engaged to a girl from Alexandria way, way back when, and I realized that the Louisiana folks were truly different from any other state. They have no desire to blend in, and I admire that.”
Schneider has transformed his Livingston Parish property to include production space, a full cafeteria, edit bay and sound stage, with post-production sound facilities in the works. To date, the space has provided the backdrop for four films and nine commercials, with a Pierce Brosnan-produced movie gearing up. While working, crews live on-site in a 1910 home built by the property’s original owner, James McCarroll.
Schneider aims for an artist’s retreat setting, where “you can bring your dog and you film your movie in the backyard. You can work in your socks. There’s not a corporate vibe at all,” he says. With no distractions, actors and producers can immerse themselves in their surroundings, live and work as a team, and in theory make a better product in the process.
“Case in point, the last film that shot there was called Exit 13, and the actors and the director and the producer all had rental cars because they figured they were out in the middle of the sticks and they were going to need to go somewhere,” Schneider says. “Well, the rental cars stayed there the whole time. Once they got there, they got up in the morning and jogged the bamboo trail and then they went to the gym and worked out, and then they did 10 to 12 hours’ worth of work that day and then cuddled up by the fireplace with the dog.”
This is especially helpful for crews producing a place-based film; the surroundings at the studio become a significant supporting actor – as the state’s scenery so often does for movies shot here.
“If we’re going to make a movie that’s about being out in the middle of the swamp, then I’d rather camp out in the middle of the swamp,” Schneider says. “You see things, you hear things. You have an experience that you can then transfer to film that you wouldn’t have from a Holiday Inn in Hammond.” Or, for that matter, at a Hollywood studio.