Louisiana film industry booming on 10-year anniversary of tax credit

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 1, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Updated Sunday, Jul 1 at 11:44 AM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- At the University of New Orleans Nims Center Studios, two television shows and a movie are in the works, and they're about to start construction on another studio.

"The phones are constant,” said Rob Olmstead of the Nims Center. “You know, whether it's a small budget film or whether it's a big feature, they want to use the space. We're always getting calls."

The city's film office says five movies are being filmed in New Orleans right now, bringing the total so far this year to 38, a $480 million boost for the local economy.

"It's an easy sell for actors that don't want to pick up and leave their cushy place back in Los Angeles. They come to New Orleans and know there's great restaurants, a great music scene, not to mention the Saints,” said executive producer Herb Gains.

Ten years ago Rep. Steve Scalise, R-New Orleans, was a state legislator who proposed the tax credit program that made it more profitable to film movies here, but even he didn't know Louisiana's film industry would turn into a billion dollar business.

"I'm really proud not only of the over 200 films that have been produced here since then, but if you just look at this year alone, according to the state Department of Economic Development, the film industry will represent 10,000 jobs in this state,” Scalise said.

"This has just been a tremendous economic boon for us, not just for the people who work in the industry, but for the lumber yards, paint shops, car rental agencies, hotels, restaurants, you name it,” said carpenter and set builder Mike McHugh.

But other states have seen the success here in Louisiana, and are trying their own film tax incentive programs to lure business away from here. Scalise, however, said Louisiana has a lot more to offer.

"Other states that have put incentives in place, even almost identical to ours, haven't had the same success as us, because there are those intangibles Louisiana has that other places don't."

Even Hurricane Katrina couldn't destroy Hollywood South. Gains was working on The Reaping at the time, and wondered if he should stop filming out of respect for those in Louisiana who lost so much.

"It was a big grip who made me look small, and he came up to me, he put his arms around me, and he just broke down, and said thank you, thank you for staying,” Gains said. “He said the only thing I have left are the clothes on my back, the hotel room you've given me, and my job. And on a personal note, it really hit home."

By the end of this year, the city's film office expects a total of 45 movies to be made in New Orleans in 2012.

 

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