Monday, April 13, 2009

Where are the Film Productions for Shreveport?

Where are the Film Productions for Shreveport?
By Christopher Moore

Trying to be patient for work to come to Shreveport is much like waiting for the Titanic to sink. You know its coming, but do you go down with the ship, or do you swim for the life boats?
We are in Mid April moving fast into May and up here in the North nothing is happening. Researching the Internet, reading Production Weekly, and IMDB I see plenty of productions in New Orleans in the form of 9 on the ground and 2 in Baton Rouge, Lafayette has 3 and Shreveport 0. Zero is a hard number to swallow when you are trying to feed yourself. The options are not too easy to deal with either. You can follow the work which is an industry standard but it is much harder to get a job in a city which you do not live. You can wait out the drought but at what cost, bankruptcy? The point is that this is a tough time for all if you work in the North for film in Louisiana.

There is a question of the tax incentives and the fate that lands in the hand of the Governor Bobby Jindal and Legislators. Will we continue to be competitive or will we fall to the way side? I do not know the Governors opinion but I have heard that he intends on keeping the 25% tax incentives rolling for an additional 2 years and decreasing after that year to year. State Representatives state that they would be happy to back anything that film professionals could prove had a reasonable rate of return. Not increasing the incentives to 30% or even as high as 40% would secure us as the leaders outside of Hollywood. Keeping at the 25% that we have presently just makes us exist. That is a big problem because that will not keep us competitive with other states like Georgia, and Michigan and it seals the fate two years down the line by decreasing our incentives.

The economy has an effect on the industry as well. Entertainment as a whole is not suffering as much as production work. People spend money on entertainment when the economy is bad but the real problem lies in that production companies who make films are having trouble finding funding to make films. Shreveport lost a Bruce Willis film due to funding and “The Courier” seems to be on hold for the same reason.

The competitive nature of the industry is a real an issue. As Louisiana started the incentives in 2002 they were the only ones really offering tax breaks. Now over 40 states offer some sort of incentive with Georgia, New Mexico and Michigan are direct competition with Louisiana. Georgia seems to be the biggest threat considering they have a metropolitan city which is easy to get to, a large crew base and plenty of studios to work in. There will always be competition which is the nature of the beast but making your state stand out is what Louisiana needs to do to keep in the fore front.

Unfortunately what seems logical of advancing the incentives to 30% which would make our state the most competitive state along with Georgia in the country only under the State of Michigan? Michigan has a huge incentive which can not be beat but, Michigan does not have the crew base and the weather plays a factor there continuously. Louisiana has thousands of crew members all of which will be effected by the incentive decision. Many jobs depend on a positive decision by lawmakers. It is hard to think that the only way to stay competitive and keep crews working through the incentive but it is the reality of the production companies chasing the best deals. The State of Louisiana just released a study that claims that for every dollar spent on incentives the state had a return of $6.64. I know it is simple in it’s infancy but if I could spend $1 dollar and get a return of $6.64 I could not loose.

With all of that being said, where are the productions? I recently sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council members of Shreveport and asked them the same question along with the question of where do they stand with the incentives? I fully expected most of them to answer me with a few statistics and maybe the answer that they agree or disagree about the future of the incentives. What I got instead was an email from the Mayor telling me that they were doing plenty of things to increase the cities productions. Unfortunately he did not state one single instance where something positive is here or coming in the next month. It seems funny to me but it is almost like a secret society of what goes on in film here. It is an uneasy feeling when your job depends on the city and the state to make the right decisions and yet you have no idea of what that might be.

I only received one reply from a city council member and that would be City councilman Calvin Lester. He stated he had been researching with city officials and Parish Commissioners on methods to make Shreveport more marketable but did not state what that might be. He also stated that they were researching additional tax incentives which seem like a great idea. He stated again that they were researching ways to bring high end music and video productions as well as post production to the area. All of this is great and shows that the city may be working towards something in the future but research does not pay the bills. My concern is what about productions right now for the City of Shreveport? Where are the productions for April, May, and June and how will crew members survive while they city is researching the ideas of bring more post production, music videos, and local incentives?

I am watching crew members leave in droves taking with them their money they spend locally. They are moving South so they can work and moving to other states while Shreveport is really at a stand still as far as productions go. Crews are now making permanent residences in other cities which mean our crew base is dwindling too. While everyone is researching and talking about what could be done I really want to know about what is being done right now? I do not have the answer and it seems that no one else is willing to fill anyone in on what may or may not be going on in the city.

I recently got a break in the form of the tax incentives meeting at the Independence Stadium. I thought now finally, my questions would be answered. I took notes and could not wait for the meeting. It was a great turn out and there were over 150 people who attended from all parts of the film industry. There were producers, caterers, and crew members, union member’s studio heads along with the Mayor, the head of the film office, state legislators and State representatives but again where was the city council?

The Mayor started out with a short speech and then he passed the microphone to the audience. The questions started out with one person after another asking the same question. Where are the films for Shreveport? The answer was simply, we need to worry about the tax incentives and then the city will in turn have more movies. This seemed to be a slap in the face again for all crew members who are already going broke waiting for films. The answer that the city had for everyone is simply, don’t worry? There is no need to worry about films in Shreveport because if the state does not pass a better incentive we will not have films here anyway. So the message is, without the incentives, there is no film for Shreveport. I feel much better now that I know there are no films in Shreveport; they are waiting for a better incentive.

New Orleans film office says business is great which is great for the state but it does not help the crew members who would like to stay in Shreveport keep the crew base here. New Orleans has plenty of productions moving forward down south. The overlook for the state hinges on the incentives and the increasing of those incentives. Increasing the incentives would secure filming in Louisiana for the future. Adding together all the issues the state has, we still don’t have an answer for Shreveport films. So where are the films?

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