Film tax incentives may decide future of 'Hollywood South'

NEW ORLEANS -- Members of the film industry are keeping a close eye on the Legislative session, saying the future of 'Hollywood South' hangs in the balance.

Eyewitness News asked those who work in the film industry, how much more of a roller coaster can the film industry in Louisiana take? 

"Production went everywhere else because there was no stability in our system," said Jason Waggenspack, Ranch Film Studios CEO.

Two years ago when the state's film tax credit program was flowing, Waggenspack envisioned a 32-acre production venue. 

"For 11 months we were down, we didn't have any clients in this facility," he said. 

That dream has been delayed following tax credits that were slashed in the state's 2016 budget. 

"Right now I have potential clients that are kind of wavering on what happens in this session," Waggenspack explained.

It's the same for others in the industry, like Jon Vogl.

"It's very important that the tax credits are here and that's what draws companies to film here," he said.

Vogl runs Apex Post, a post-production sound facility.

"What I know and what I see is when somebody is working they're spending money in the economy and the economy grows," said Vogl.

Now their hopes hang on a proposal introduced by State Senator JP Morell. However, it won't be the carte blanche crediting seen in earlier years. Morell wants to keep the $180 million annual cap on the incentive, but change how the credits are awarded.

"Realistically I don't think we're ever going to go back to the heights of the film industry," he said in an interview last August.

It will all be up for discussion in the legislature soon. though, it may be a tough debate as a study by the Louisiana Economic Development says the state isn't getting its money's worth.  The report says the state only gets about a 25 percent return. The same study, however, says there is a benefit to the local economy. Waggenspack is familiar with the study.

"For every dollar that goes out to that state office, 4 dollars and 32 cents come back to this economy," said Waggenspack.

Vogl argues you can add up returns however you want, but if the incentives don't change the profit could equal zero.

"This industry can only take so much roller coaster ups and down and they might just decide that we aren't going to bank on this anymore," said Vogl.
 

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