More Projects Bring Growing Work for Hollywood South
Louisiana offers a unique lifestyle equipped with its own set of rules and a great variety of food and music right at your fingertips. The Wall Street Journal ranked New Orleans as the #1 Most Improved Metro in the USA; likewise, Forbes gave New Orleans the #1 ranking for “America’s Biggest Brain Magnets.” Throw in festival season, charbroiled oysters and affordable rent to sweeten the deal, and our laissez-faire way of life is appealing no matter in what industry you work. Why would anyone want to leave?
Some argue that there is a limit to the number of quality jobs available and a cap on the growth opportunities that Louisiana provides. Historically, after high school the local scholar leaves Louisiana in search of better opportunities. However, now that we have entered the digital world, we can thank modern technology for the decentralization of several industries, particularly film and television production. The ability to produce movies with a quarter of the equipment once needed and the desire to find cheaper labor shifted billions of dollars outside L.A. and New York into markets that offer savings. In case you missed the memo, Louisiana has become one of the largest markets for the film production industry, with more than 25 projects either in preproduction or currently filming – and that’s just the spring list.
This is a monumental year for those of us in Louisiana who have been waiting to see the industry boom. It’s hard not to notice the increasing number of Louisiana productions grossing big at the box office, winning awards and breaking out new talent. Let’s not forget to acknowledge competitive film tax credit incentives for drawing the industry to Louisiana, countless jobs created, and a major source of income for the state. The influx of million-dollar movie productions has attracted a rising number of transplants from major markets, all in the name of the entertainment business. This is the opposite of what Louisiana is used to. Now people are pouring into the state by the thousands. Those who moved away to bigger markets are returning home to take part in the movie-making magic. Actors, crew members, directors, musicians and producers from across the world want to experience the indigenous quality of life that Louisiana supplies, one they can afford.
Louisiana now has another powerful stream of income from the entertainment industry that equals revenues from tourism. According to a study by the Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association (LFEA), the Louisiana film industry has hit the billion-dollar mark and has strong growth potential, supporting 2.2 million jobs and accounting for $137 billion in total wages. The local workforce has grown to 8 to 10 crews strong, with studios like Quixote and Gold Circle Films setting up operations with plans of expansion throughout Louisiana. To continue the growth of the entertainment industry in Louisiana and establish a permanent stream of income, we need to remain competitive as a state. Our aggressive approach to attract a large share of a multibillion-dollar business through tax credit incentives positions the state to secure a permanent piece of the market and ensures long-term revenue to our economy. Despite more than $1.1 billion in sales at firms within the state, $770.6 million in household earnings for state citizens and 15,184 jobs, there are still some in legislature who disagree with the positive economic impact of the entertainment tax credit incentives and want to place tighter restraints on the total amount of tax credits claimed annually. Does it make sense to put a cap on an exponentially growing revenue stream to the state? We have to spend money to make money and the key is to spend wisely. Due to Louisiana Economic Development’s entertainment tax credit incentives, roughly $5.71 is returned to the local economy for every $1 invested by the state. As legislature is set to reevaluate film credits in 2015, we must move as one unit to urge the state to maintain its competitive stance in the entertainment industry.
Essential organizations like LFEA were created to advocate the growth of the state’s entertainment industry. By educating the uninformed on how much the state profits from such investments and challenging government on proposed regulations, LFEA protects the economic development and interests of Louisiana’s film and entertainment community. LFEA’s president, Will French, describes Louisiana’s entertainment tax incentives as “shrimp nets” that keep revenue flowing in and catch talent living in the state. French also emphasizes how critical it is for the state’s long-term success to stop the migration of local talent and keep them within. An activist for the film community and a native New Orleanian, French points out that the “brain gain” trend that Louisiana is experiencing spawns from the digital movement, noting, “The editing platform is now a Mac on steroids enabling a more efficient process on location when shooting digitally. You can see it immediately on set.”
In an effort to determine the effect of Louisiana’s tax credits on the growth of our labor force and businesses, LFEA created the “Brain Gain” survey. It’s geared to all who live in Louisiana and work in the entertainment industry, focusing on their decision to reside here. The survey can be found on the organization’s website at www.lfea.org, and everyone is encouraged to contribute to the study.
There are three very important stages in the film business: production, marketing and distribution, the later of which are still rooted in the major L.A./NY markets. Casting takes places where the relationships are but, as production continues to spread, it becomes more cost effective to hire locally. Now that production is more transportable and production and distribution costs are increasing, it just makes sense to film where crew labor is cheaper, saving millions in payroll. The natural progression toward the permanent presence of the entertainment industry in Louisiana continues to strengthen as more studios call New Orleans home, providing the infrastructure needed to house big-budget productions.
LFEA’s finance committee chair and Gold Circle Films producer Scott Niemeyer is producing his fourth movie in Louisiana and attributes his choice of location to the state’s competitive entertainment incentives and the overall cost effectiveness of relocating operations. Qualifying for an additional 5% tax incentive by hiring in-state labor is very valuable to productions such as Niemeyer’s Pitch Perfect 2, which hires locally as much as possible to save on tickets, per diems and housing. As the demand for experienced crews increases, Niemeyer describes now as the best time for skilled labor to relocate to Louisiana and encourages locals who want to move up in the industry to seek specialized training in preparation for a busy season.