Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ready, set, go

Ready, set, go
By Jeff Roedel |
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There was a time when the Hollywood trades did not bother printing the name “Baton Rouge.” If an in-state film was not shot in New Orleans, then according to Variety or The Hollywood Reporter, it was simply made somewhere else “in Louisiana.” Change has come, though, and it is due in large part to the relentless efforts of the Baton Rouge Film Commission.

After Katrina temporarily shut down the New Orleans film industry in 2005, eyes turned swiftly toward Shreveport and Baton Rouge as new Hollywood hubs for using the lucrative tax incentives for film production that Louisiana had enacted just three years prior. That fall, Mayor Holden’s trip to Los Angeles to tell studio executives that Baton Rouge was A) dry, and B) open for business did more than just help reel in new prospects. Just a year later it attracted the city’s best prospect, someone to not only manage but leverage the attention the city was beginning to get.

A former veteran of Oscar-factory Miramax Pictures, Amy Mitchell Smith took office as director of the Baton Rouge Film Commission in January 2007. According to some of the group’s founding members, the commission had a reserve of enthusiasm but lacked direction. “As a commission, we were floundering somewhat,” says Stacy Simon, director of projects at Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “We needed someone like Amy.”

When Smith arrived, she inherited one Word .doc.

“It was kind of a makeshift local crew list, and that was the extent of it,” Smith says. “That and a cubicle right next to the receptionist at CVB.”

Still effectively connected with the CVB, but now joined by Katie Harvey—another New York transplant and a former post-production supervisor—the commission is a full-time staff of two tasked with selling the city as a filmable and hospitable location, then uncoiling the logistical challenges presented by the productions that say yes.

It’s a job that doesn’t watch the clock. Inside her office or out of it, Smith has to be always on, always available and always ready to meet needs, whether it is finding the perfect room or exterior location for a scene or presenting local traffic engineers with the production details they need to see before they can initiate a road closure.

Smith’s favorite films of 2010
Lovers of Hate

I saw the premiere of this IFC release at South by Southwest last March. It was made for less than no budget by up-and-coming director Bryan Poyser. This is one of the most inventive and hysterically awkward stories of a love triangle I’ve ever seen.
“The $600,000 productions get just as much attention as the $100 million production,” Smith says. “There’s goodwill to that, but the bottom line is the indie filmmaker of today could be your mega-blockbuster filmmaker of tomorrow. So when they have a really good experience in a market, they can end up being loyal to that market and laying permanent roots here, and we end up with our ‘Soderbergh’ back in Baton Rouge or growing our own ‘Robert Rodriguez.’”

Melinda Walsh is an actress and marketing specialist who has been on the Baton Rouge Film Commission Advisory Board since Mayor Holden founded it in 2006. She now chairs the group that advises Smith’s commission. Walsh has seen the monumental cultural change Smith’s work has helped trigger locally.

“There’s definitely been a shift,” Walsh says. “Baton Rougeans are more film-friendly now because they see the positive economic impact of having movies made here. And they are more understanding when they hear, ‘You’re going to hear gunfire in your neighborhood today, but don’t worry; it’s not aimed at you, and it’s not even real.’”

Part of that economic impact can be felt in the hospitality sector. According to Simon, who coordinates lodging for film productions and helps the commission scout locations with CVB colleague Kristen Maurel, the film industry was responsible for the city-parish booking an additional 22,000 hotel room nights in 2009.

Since last fall, Celtic has added 83,000 square feet of stage space on three new soundstages and another 25,000 square feet of production office space on its 23-acre lot.

Smith’s goals for 2011 are to formalize and streamline the city’s permit process for film production and to land a TV series for Baton Rouge.

Five years after New Orleans suffered a setback with Katrina, the city is back on its feet and home to one of the most talked-about series on television, HBO’s Treme. Film Commission member Mari Kornhauser is now a staff writer on the show, and Smith knows that dramatic television is more than just home to some of the best creative writing today. It is also a fast track to longevity for a market like Baton Rouge.

“Production work can be transient work,” Smith says. “But if we’re able to bring a television series here to Baton Rouge, and that pilot gets picked up by a network that commits to stay in this market, that’s a huge goal for this office, especially now that we’ve laid a strong foundation and proven ourselves.”

Help Keep Louisiana Filming.

Louisiana Entertainment "Has your business picked up because of the local entertainment industry? From hardware stores to laundry services to restaurants - We want to hear your stories!!!"


I also say we need to do same thing share and prove ourselves in dollars and cents: What has the movie industry done for us as individuals, allies, and businesses in dollars? in order to prove that the movie industry has massive long lasting ripple effects and that it is good for our state. The Legislators, The Budget/Administration, and Governor need to know this, and we need to do this in order to prepare us to contact our State Representatives and Governor with a personal note with your own testimony from we their Constituents.

Therefore I am setting our May (or Extra Special meeting if have to depending on Session) meeting within two months which will be a Night of Testimonies "What Has the Movie Industry Done for You in Dollars and Cents?", which I like to do in form of a Show, Talk Show, and/or a Townhall style. I invite anyone and everyone with a camera to come and film and take notes.

I target the what it is done for you indivdiually and your family and to get your friends and businesses to do the same, then eventually get the Parishes and Communities to do same. Individual Testimony.

I will invite the Leaders, Organizers, Press and Players by to collect, render and view our/their Testimonies. This goes for Producers, Crew, Actors, Standin, Extras, Music, and Allies: Locations Property and Real Estate, Cleaners, Stores, Party Stores, Grocery Stores, Hotels, Beds & Breakfasts, Houses, Offices, Governments, Boat Companies, Restaurants, Chambers, Magazines, Advertisers, Automobile Dealers, Warehouses, Schools, Community College, Acting Coaches, Classes, Beauty Parlors and Barbers, Vintage Stores, Associations, unions, Clubs, etc. I ask you and to ask all those you know to in any business or individuals involved in movies to come and share your testimony.

We also need to prepare a Thesis like document to feed and invite people to also video/film their testimonies to upload to site or link on YouTube, etc. and render such in form a show along with. In order to prepare-just in case we have to-BE PREPARED to go to Baton Rouge, I plan to deliver in May/June and eventually may have to present to the Constituents, Lobbyists, Legislators, and Governor.

We need to centralize all Replies and Testimonies in one place, so I ask everyone to either post their testimonies here on our Message Board and/or on the new Facebook Site we created, and to do video's and post on YouTube, etc. and apply and share hotlink to such.!/LaFilmIndustry

I also suggest to students as a good topic for a doctoral dissertation or masters thesis in finance, budget, government, political science, and history.

We also need to inventory any and all schools that offer classes regarding film industry in front and behind the camera, such as NIMS, BPCC, the community colleges, privates, proprieties, etc. as we need to collect and share their testimony so we can stand and support them and thus expand our careers and industry.

Questions, please reply here, on the site, or contact me at or 225-235-7879 .


Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Orleans Actors have it going on

Shanda Quintal NOARC

"According to the state’s Office of Entertainment Industry Development, more than 100 productions in the state wrapped in 2010 (click to see list) with more than 50 percent of all productions made by companies based in Louisiana. Based on applications filed with the state, the combined total budgets of all the Louisiana projects exceeded $1.4 billion, the statement said.

I'm blown away, I'm in awe, and I'm proud to be here at this time.

When I moved back in 2007, there were more than 40 projects shot here in Louisiana. The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons had just wrapped that spring and I was duly impressed with my home state. I had been gone 10 years and I couldn't believe that a film of that size and caliber had been shot here.

And now that's a regular thing, here. Which means that opportunities for actors are here, too. And the types of roles are also opening up for actors. Two to three years ago, around 90% of the roles were 1-4 line day players. Now supporting and lead roles are also being cast in Louisiana. A high-profile MOW (movie of the week) project that is in pre-production now is looking for leads here in Louisiana.

We're doing it, guys. We have really and truly earned the moniker, HOLLYWOOD SOUTH. And it's a amazing time to be here.


The Expo was incredible. I had a good time and I hope you had a good time, too. You can see pix on the New Orleans Resource Center's Facebook page.


Lori Wyman - Lori is the Casting Director for both "Burn Notice" and "The Glades" and she brings in actors from all over the Southeast region. Her ONE DAY SEMINAR/WORKSHOP on AUDITIONING FOR FILM AND TELEVISION takes place THIS SATURDAY, January 29. Check out her YouTube auditioning for film and television videos. Call the office to register 305 354-3901.

Ryan Glorioso - Louisiana Casting Director for "The Expendables," "Vampires Suck," "Butter," "So Undercover." The class will cover improv work, on-camera scene work/auditioning techniques, and video audition dos and don’ts. Actors attending will be sent a scene to prepare for the workshop on February 13th. Ryan's workshop is currently full, but if you'd like to get on the waiting list, please click here.

ACTING COACHES AND UPCOMING CLASSES (my, my the list has grown...)

Casey Groves - 917-969-8698, - Casey just started his Auditioning for Film classes at del Corral this week and it's possible to still join. Monday or Wednesday evenings.

Daniel Dupont - 504-722-2229, - Offers on going weekly classes. Two classes in New Orleans (Saturday and Tuesday) and Baton Rouge (Sundays).

Douglas Griffin - - Check to see when his next week program begins.

Dean West - - Offers a Basic Technique Class. Will also be holding an on-camera auditioning technique and scene breakdown workshop at the end of March.

Garrett Prejean - 504-218-0055, - Offers Beginner, Acting 1 and Acting 2 classes and workshops. Website lists class schedule.

Jaqueline Fleming - 504-849-9020, - Ongoing scene study for kids and adults. Also offers auditioning technique, improv and on-camera workshops.

Jennifer Schemke - 310-467-0996, - Adult Beginning Improv, Teen Improv, and a Scene Study Basics and Beyond class. All three beginning in early February.

Jerry Katz - 225-614-6601, please use contact form on his website to email - Ongoing scene study. Classes in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Jackson, MS.

Lance E. Nichols - - 4 weekend "Acting for the Camera" workshop beginning April 3rd at The People Program in New Orleans. Detailed information will be released in February.

Veleka Gray - - Offers classes in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Covington. Classes include showcase with agents and casting directors.

Break a leg, folks."

Baton Rouge Film Commission Receives Economic Impact Report $196M Spent in Baton Rouge

Motion picture productions filming in the Baton Rouge area spent an estimated $196 million here in 2010 and accounted for 33,500 hotel and motel room nights, according to an economic impact report released to the Baton Rouge Film Commission Tuesday.

In all, 26 films and television projects were made in Baton Rouge last year, resulting in an estimated Louisiana payroll of $116 million.

"Our Baton Rouge Film Commission has done a tremendous job selling our city as a great place for production," said Mayor-President Melvin "Kip" Holden, "and they have set even higher goals for the future."

Holden said Baton Rouge Film Commission Executive Director Amy Mitchell-Smith works closely with his office to aggressively pursue projects and overcome any obstacles which could send film productions to another city.

"With our success, Baton Rouge is building an experienced workforce that makes filming here even more attractive to the television and movie industry," Holden said. "Although the state tax credits help, we still have to be creative enough to show that Baton Rouge can provide diverse locations, top notch infrastructure, and the ability to manage the logistical challenges that arise with projects of all budgetary ranges. This year, Third Street was transformed into a street in Hong Kong and the city-parish provided a location appropriate for a NASA laboratory, which showcases our wide range of capabilities; but we still compete every day to be successful with this industry."

Nearly two-thirds of the local spend for 2010 came from two blockbuster projects – the vampire-themed fantasy romance, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” and “Battleship,” a science-fiction thriller based on the popular Milton Bradley board game.

According to the state Office of Entertainment Industry Development records, “Battleship” spent an estimated $67.6 million in Baton Rouge in 2010, and had a Louisiana payroll of $37.7 million.

The state records show that Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn had an estimated local spend of $65.5 million in the Baton Rouge area in 2010, and is estimated to spend another $32.7 million in 2011 as it continues filming here.

"What sets Baton Rouge apart is our continued passion and commitment to the motion picture industry," said Mitchell-Smith. "As a result our film commission office is extremely responsive in catering to the vast needs specific to each and every production."