NEW ORLEANS - Stunt man Ryan Robertson is living his dream.
The martial arts expert has appeared in films like American Horror Story and 22 Jump Street.
But it was his role in a critically acclaimed six minute scene in the Louisiana-shot HBO series, True Detective, that prompted Robertson to move to New Orleans.
“I actually drove up to California, got all my stuff, and drove back down,” said Robertson.
That was last April. And Robertson hasn't looked back since.
“A lot of work here, this is the hot spot, this is where the movies are,” said Robertson.
And indeed a recent study from the non-profit Los Angeles film office, Film L.A., shows Louisiana is where the movies are.
According to the report, Louisiana surpassed California in 2013 to become the film production capital of the world, with 18 of 108 major feature films shot in the Pelican state, compared to 15 each in California and Canada.
Louisiana is also now the top state in the country for production industry jobs.
Robertson's reaction can be summed up in a word.
“Yes!” he laughed.
“It's incredible to see that kind of exposure and people talking about New Orleans and the filming destination we've become,” said Katie Williams, director of Film New Orleans, which is part of the mayor’s office of cultural economy.
Williams credits Louisiana’s rise up the film industry’s ranks with hard work and a tax-credit program that began 12 years ago.
Since then, the number of movies, television shows and commercials shot in New Orleans has spiked 15 fold. There were 60 last year, said Williams, with an estimated economic impact of $450 million.
And some of those films, like 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club, swept the Academy Awards this year.
So what's next? So far in 2014, eight feature films are either in shooting or preparing to shoot in New Orleans. And those in the industry predict more big budget films are on the way.
“More films are coming out here, so the phone is going to start ringing off the hook soon,” said Robertson.
Tax credits may draw filmmakers to Louisiana, but you need a solid workforce, and the infrastructure, to keep them here.
The city of New Orleans holds workforce training for film industry professionals several times a year. To find out more, log onto http://www.filmneworleans.org/.