Hollywood South is booming, but it’s not just feature films in the spotlight; television shows are choosing our state as their long-term home and traveling reality shows have made visits to the area. The state is attractive to potential show makers for a variety of reasons.
The city itself is a character in “NCIS: New Orleans,” a spin-off series of CBS’s crime drama. Executive producer Jeff Lieber explains the appeal of the show: “There are so few cities in America that come with their own soul and culture. When you do a spin-off, you need two things: a set of characters you want to invest in and something that makes you understand why you’re doing the spinoff, and the city turned out to be that. We couldn’t do this show filming it somewhere else.” It can be difficult to create a show set in New Orleans without the culture seeming cartoonish, but the crew of “NCIS: New Orleans” is working hard to accurately show life here. “Now that we’re settled into a series, we can be more true to the emotional life of the city. We’re really able to get more into the daily life of New Orleans,” says Lieber. One way they achieve this is by using locals as much as possible to keep it authentic. For instance, they held an advanced premier of the show for cast, crew, and some veterans at the World War II Museum before it aired nationally. “I’m totally thrilled to be shooting in a place that has as much character and life and has a populous that is devoted and protective of the city as it is. People really want us to try and get it right and for the most part I think we are.”
You can find a slice of the colonial northeast in Shreveport where the WGN series “Salem” is being filmed. The crew is tasked with making the country of Louisiana feel like the woods of colonial-era Massachusetts, and executive producer Brannon Braga has achieved that. “We needed a large piece of land to build the town that was situated between woods and water. The town is built to last; it’s a pretty special set,” explains Braga. The witches in “Salem” are spurring the witch hunt so that they can take control of the town. The dark show bewitched audiences during Season 1 and production has begun on Season 2 for release in the Spring. “At the end of Season 1, we had six cliffhangers, so we’re going to pick those up and broaden the world. We’ve only just begun,” says Braga.
Principal male actor Shane West certainly enjoys working on the show; the dramatic actor is originally from Baton Rouge. “Shane loves being back here. It worked out well for him because he can easily go see his family.” It’s more than just money for Brannon Braga, who had this parting sentiment for us: “There’s a great tax credit in Louisiana, but I want to comment on how great the people have been. Not just the crew, but the extras on the show and the people in town. They’ve been very welcoming, and we look forward to going back there.”
Reality TV also has a stronghold on the state either as a series or a few shows made in the state such as “Duck Dynasty,” “Swamp People,” and “Bayou Billionaires.” The ladies of “Gypsy Sisters” took a three-show vacation to New Orleans. Yet, other shows choose to be less exploitative and more helpful.
Since premiering in 2009, the A&E show “Hoarders” has visited Louisiana residents on three occasions in Gretna, Denham Springs, and Madisonville. Extreme cleaning specialist Matt Paxton has worked on many more local cleanups before the show began. He recently visited the local ServiceMaster Cleaning Service to spread the word on helping hoarders.
“I’m here raising awareness for hoarding. ServiceMaster is a national cleaning company and they brought me in to help clean hoarder homes. I’ve been doing this for nine years now, and I’ve had probably 10 to 15 cases in Louisiana. We’ve had some bad animal hoarding cases here,” says Paxton.
Hoarding can be triggered by traumatic events including national tragedies. “Hoarders” may be returning to Louisiana soon to deal with people still depressed by Hurricane Katrina. “I think we’re going to see the Katrina ones come in. It takes 10 to 20 years to see a super hoard,” says Paxton. New Orleans can travel far, as Paxton illustrates: “We had a guy who didn’t live near here, but was hoarding Jazz Festival prints from the seventies. The collection ended up being about $20,000. You’ll see people from all over the country hoarding beads because it brings them back to a happy place. They had fun at Mardi Gras.”
While shows like “Hoarders” have exposed the mental condition to the masses, there’s more work to be done. “The American Psychiatric Association has deemed it a mental disorder as of this year which brings in money for research. I want people to understand that hoarders are cool, interesting, normal people, but they have a disorder.” Visit servicemaster.com for more information on hoard cleanups.
Animal Planet’s show “Pitbulls and Parolees” demonstrates the plight of pitbulls as well as recent parolees, and the parallels between the two. The show began in 2009 featuring the Villalobos Rescue Center located in California, but the non-profit moved to New Orleans in 2011. Caretaker Earl Moffett was released on parole in 2012 and learned about this opportunity through his parole officer. Working with the rescue center and the show has helped him immeasurably. “Villalobos totally turned my life around. I don’t know where I’d be at today without these people. You have no choice but to become a good person,” states Moffett. Earl Moffett is a native New Orleanian who witnessed dog fighting in his childhood. “People just stereotype pitbulls breeds. I think it’s not the breed, it’s the owner. They’ll do whatever to please the owner, and if they want them to be crazy, they will.” Moffett has these words of hope for those who are heading down the wrong path or who will soon make the same difficult transition: “We are considered to be the place of second chances; you’re dealing with ex-offenders who are trying to adjust to society and you’re dealing with dogs that are being rehabilitated. For those who have experience being incarcerated, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, so never give up. I’m a prime example of that. Some of the kids that are doing wrong, there’s always room to change.”
Turn on and tune in to these locally-shot shows.