With Georgia recognized as the filming capital of the U.S., that state has found itself handing out money to production companies at an alarming rate ($915 million in tax incentives in 2017 alone). Under pressure, state auditors have discovered that at least $4 million of that was provided to "ineligible expenditures." Seeking ways to regroup the costs of such an undertaking, $500 million in budget cuts have been ordered by Republican Governor Brian Kemp for the next two years. Could these be signs that support for their film industry is dwindling?
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the nation's former filming capital, state lawmakers lowered the cap on tax credits to the entertainment industry, from a comparatively paltry $180 million to $150 million a year in 2017. Yet, not surprisingly, in 2018, the state's economy saw a handsome return in the form of nearly $458 million in certified spending by the ever-burgeoning industry. That same year, Governor John Bel Edwards visited with Hollywood executives to entice them back to a state that was once known as "Hollywood South" due to the slate of productions that were in play across Louisiana from 2002 to 2015. Although the $150 million cap is unfortunately in place until 2025, Edwards seemed to make good on his promise to resurrect the state's fleeting industry, as a definite upturn in productions were noted in the past year.
Our state did take somewhat of a hit by the news that the long-rumored Marvel production Gambit, starring Channing Tatum, would not, in fact, film in New Orleans (or anywhere, for that matter). The production was canceled, along with Marvel's Cloak & Dagger, which did manage to run for two seasons on Freeform. And then, there was the situation with The Hunt, the Blumhouse/Universal thriller that was yanked from distribution due to the film's unflattering political ramifications in the wake of last year's mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. Still, we had actual box office hits, such as Queen & Slim and Black and Blue come out of our great state, as well as the critically acclaimed television shows On Becoming a God in Central Florida for Showtime and Hulu's Looking for Alaska.
In retrospect, 2019 turned out to be a good year for our state's film industry, and we can possibly look forward to an even better 2020. Here are 10 productions wrapping or filming this year within the state of Louisiana:
Palmer-Principal photography began last November for this drama about an ex-con (played by Justin Timberlake) trying to regain control of his life. Filming locations include New Orleans and the Northshore. Palmer is from the producers of the Oscar-winning film Green Book.
Unhinged-Russell Crowe stars in this road-rage thriller that concerns a young mother who blows her horn at the wrong person. It is currently in post-production and on tap for an August 28 release.
All My Life-Harry Shum Jr. (Crazy Rich Asians) and Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) star in this tear-jerking drama about a young couple faced with a terminal diagnosis. Filming on the Universal production wrapped in January.
C'mon C'mon-Best Actor Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix follows up his career-rejuvenating performance in Joker with this upcoming drama directed by Mike Mills (20th Century Women). The film is currently in post-production.
Walkaway Joe-David Strathairn and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star in this family-oriented drama about a friendship between a fatherless boy and a wandering loner. Shot in LaPlace, the film is in post-production and marks the feature-length directorial debut of character actor Tom Wright.
Reminiscence-Having wrapped filming in January, this futuristic thriller reteams two stars of 2017's mega-hit The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman plays a veteran who somehow offers clients the chance to relive any memory. Rebecca Ferguson is his mysterious love interest. It is directed by Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy.
Deep Water-Filming through Valentine's Day in New Orleans, this psychological thriller directed by Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful) stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas (the breakout star of Knives Out) as a married couple who take on extra participants, with deadly consequences for everyone involved. The tentative release date is November 13.
One Night in Miami-Regina King makes her directorial debut in this drama that recounts a 1964 meeting between Mohammed Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown to enact change in the soon-to-be integrated South. Filming wraps up in late February.
Night Teeth-This Netflix thriller about a young chauffeur whose life takes an unexpected, frightening turn because of two beautiful passengers began filming on February 3 and is supposed to wrap in early April. It stars Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon), Debbie Ryan (TV's Insatiable), Lucy Fry (Bright), and Alfie Allen (Jojo Rabbit, Game of Thrones). Director Adam Randall helmed 2017's iBoy with Maisie Williams for Netflix and last year's I See You starring Helen Hunt.
Sulphur Springs-This time-travel-based mystery series for the Disney Channel films in New Orleans from February to April. It stars child-actors Preston Oliver and Kyliegh Curran and is directed by Jennifer Phang (Cloak & Dagger).
Evil Eye-This horror anthology series for Amazon Studios is produced by Priyanka Chopra in conjunction with Blumhouse Productions. Filming began in December and will last through May.
Subsequent seasons of NCIS: New Orleans, Claws, and Queen of the South will also be filming through late spring to early summer. As for the films due to be released this year, we can look forward to the summer release of the long-awaited Bill & Ted Face the Music, with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprising their iconic roles. Rising star Issa Rae has two locally shot films due in the next few months: The Photograph, co-starring LaKeith Stanfield, which drops on Valentine's Day, and The Lovebirds, with Kumail Nanjiani, due in April. The Baton Rouge-shot war movie Greyhound starring Tom Hanks is headed for a May release date, and we should finally see some movement from film festival darling Synchronic, starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan, as well as the release of Body Cam, starring Mary J. Blige.
Looking back on this promising list of films and television shows, it becomes clear that we're in much better shape than we were a couple of years ago. Our state's entertainment industry was gifted a mulligan after an initially disastrous, post-cap period amid the valiant efforts of a governor who tried as best he could to right the wrongs of a preceding administration that bafflingly let our golden ticket slip away. While we will likely never regain the status we once enjoyed, judging from the projects listed, it seems as if we are finally on the right track to reclaiming a version of the Hollywood South crown, albeit a condensed one.