“Treme” filming on location in New Orleans
Celebrity sightings around New Orleans are becoming almost commonplace as the city attracts more and more film production business, and that must be a good thing. The chance of glimpsing a movie star on the street surely adds to New Orleans’ allure. But according to a recent report, the benefits of our rising star power go well beyond celebrity autographs.“Louisiana’s flagship incentive program has been a catalyst for substantial film production growth statewide,” consultant Cheryl Louise Baxter said in the report. During the period 2008-’10, about 92 films per year qualified for the tax incentives, almost triple the annual number that received the credits during the first six years of the program.
Baxter said that total spending by film producers in Louisiana also rose sharply during that same period, to a 2010 estimated total of $674 million. (Last year’s direct payroll spending by producers to Louisiana employees hit more than $5 million, according to the report.)
Among the Louisiana-shot feature films of 2010 were local productions that included the Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale thriller Contraband (set for a ’12 release), and the action comedy Red featuring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker.
Some 20 features currently under way in the state include the New Orleans productions Cogan’s Trade, starring part-time New Orleans resident Brad Pitt; 21 Jump Street, featuring Johnny Depp; and Medallion, starring Nicolas Cage.
Our burgeoning film industry is still in its youth and only beginning to establish its permanence with the studios, sound stages and support structure that help ensure long-term business and better jobs. Eventually, activity may expand to the point where it’s clear that we have a “real” local film industry. Until then, New Orleans may have to content itself with enjoying those celebrity sightings and knowing that our star is likely on the rise.
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Business, nonprofit and government are continuing to work together for the betterment of the community.
In planning for hurricane season, the Louisiana chapters of the American Red Cross and the Louisiana Industry for Film and Entertainment are joining in a new agreement this Friday to increase capacity to provide for disaster services and support for those services.
“Readiness is half the battle in recovering from disaster,” said Bobbi Zaunbrecher, CEO of the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross. “This agreement with LIFE allows us to better plan – to identify in advance the goods and services we can count on. It’s a partnership that will benefit people all across Louisiana in times of disaster.”
The mutually beneficial relationship will enhance and support disaster response. LIFE members are encouraged to engage their employees in Red Cross disaster preparedness training so that they and their families are more ready when disaster strikes and are able to recover more quickly, as well as be able to assist in disaster response in their community. The organizations also will consider how facility, human resource or material assets might be used to support Red Cross disaster response and fundraising, as well as other areas of cooperation and support.
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Taking advantage of increasing film production in Louisiana encouraged by the state's aggressive tax credits, Millennium Studios formally opened its doors Thursday in Shreveport.
Owned by Nu Image/Millennium Films, the 70,000-square-foot, $10 million project covers 6.7 acres. Construction started at the end of 2009, and the studios now include two soundstages, 14,000 square feet of office space plus hair, makeup, props, wardrobe, construction and production services.
The property also houses Worldwide FX, which employs 70 artists and graphic designers. The vfx house is currently finishing work on two features, "Conan the Barbarian" and "Trespass." Since it opened in 2009, WWFX has completed CGI and effects on such features as "The Expendables," "The Mechanic" and "Drive Angry in 3D."
"I applaud Nu Image/Millennium Films for having the vision to invest in the future of the film industry in the Shreveport region and for the large number of well-paid jobs it has brought to the area," said Shreveport mayor Cedric Glover.
Nu Image, parent company of Millennium Studios, has produced 16 pictures in Louisiana to date, 13 of which were lensed in the Shreveport area. Recent films shot there include "Leaves of Grass," "Drive Angry" and "Trespass." The company is currently in pre-production on "Playing the Field," starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel and directed by Gabriele Muccino; and Simon West's "Medallion," with Nicolas Cage, shooting in New Orleans.
"I am very excited to expand our operations in Louisiana, and we hope to bring a lot more productions to Shreveport," said Nu Image chairman Avi Lerner.
"We're thrilled that Louisiana's entertainment incentive programs have enabled Nu Image and Worldwide FX to make such a significant investment here," said Sherri McConnell, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, the state film office. "The tax incentives in Louisiana both for production and infrastructure development are a model that many other states and countries would do well to study."