Louisiana International Film Fest May 8-11

The 2014 Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program takes place May 8-11 at Perkins Rowe featuring films from all over the globe, including world and Louisiana premieres.

Programming includes dramas, animation, foreign-language, comedies, adventure and more in feature, documentary and short formats.

All films will be shown at Cinemark Perkins Rowe while workshops and other activities will take place throughout Perkins Rowe.

Tickets for individual films can be purchased at the box office and online closer to the festival dates. All-access passes are on sale for through the festival website, lifilmfest.org.

(Courtesy of postsouth.com)

Nicolas Cage’s Dumb Yet Fascinating ‘Trouble in Louisiana’ Trilogy

Nic Cage in The Trouble in Louisiana Trilogy

Anchor Bay Films/Millennium Films

Every few years, Nicolas Cage reminds us what a compelling screen performer he is and can be. While such reminders seem fewer and further between, the utter expendability of much of his recent filmography make strong performances like his brooding lead in David Gordon Green’s Joe all the more powerful – not because we forgot about Cage’s talents, but because we’re afraid that he might have.

Joe has been deemed (by this site and others) to be a “return to form” for Cage. It’s easy to declare with a handful of titles what form Cage is returning to. In celebrated roles like Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas, and Bringing Out the Dead Cage has displayed an uncanny ability to balance pathological self-destruction with varying undertones of dark comedy. He is the actor of choice for men who struggle outside the norms of society, yet wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else.

But outside of The Wicker Man, mesmerizing mash-ups, and whatever he was doing in Face-Off, it’s perhaps harder to concisely define the form that Cage is returning from when making films like Joe, despite the fact that it’s Cage’s more forgettable (and sometimes more batshit) work that creates the rule which highlights welcome exceptions. A recent, unofficial trilogy of particularly Cagean works speaks volumes to the one-of-a-kind spot that Cage’s stardom finds itself in now.

While these films do not share a producer, a studio, or any other factor that justifies their making beyond their existence as Nicolas Cage vehicles, Trespass, Stolen, and Seeking Justice (titles that are so boldly generic as to be nearly interchangeable) share such direct similarities that, once seen together, render them impossible to separate.


All of these films were shot in Louisiana (the former in Shreveport, the latter two on location in New Orleans), the state in which Cage once famously owned the “most haunted house in America.” Furthermore, these films all carried a production budget of a modest Hollywood genre vehicle (in the tens of millions), yet none reached a half million domestically; they were all unceremoniously dumped into theaters by their respective distributors in 2011 and 2012.

And yet each carries a pedigree that suggests an attempted appeal to mainstream audiences – or, at least, whatever audiences actually showed up for Season of the Witch. Trespass is a home invasion thriller directed by Joel Schumacher and co-stars Nicole Kidman. Stolen is a crime thriller directed by Simon West and co-starring Josh Lucas, Malin Akerman, and Danny Huston. And Seeking Justice is a wrong-man suspense film this side of carbon copy Hitchcock directed by Roger Donaldson and co-starring January Jones alongside Guy Pearce as a scenery-chewing baddie.

The fact that none of these films are very good (though all are their own kind of watchable) doesn’t fully explain the almost identical bad faith of their approximate releases. The invisible means by which these films came and went from theaters clearly does not reflect the intent of their design. The films included in what I’m calling the “Trouble in Louisiana” trilogy were certainly engineered to be forgettable, but – as they aren’t the work of first-time filmmakers and don’t bear the stamp of an uncommercial passion project – one must assume they were at least made to be profitably forgettable. Instead, Trespass broke the record for the fastest film to see a home video release after its theatrical debut, making the jump from silver screen to laptop in only 18 days. Stolen was pulled from theaters after two weeks, and Seeking Justice after three.

And then there are the plots. In each of these films, Cage’s character is put in a time-sensitive position in which he must defend himself, his loved ones, and all he holds dear from the threat of violence against a woman in his immediate family – his wife (Seeking Justice), his daughter (Stolen), or his wife and his daughter (Trespass). Whether he’s the glitz’d out realtor of Trespass, the redeemed career criminal of Stolen, or the high school English teacher (!) of Seeking Justice, Cage must invariably use his seemingly fearless masculinity in order to save a damsel in distress and restore order and contentment to the universe.

These genre conceits feel cribbed and anachronistic, as if adapted from early drafts of ‘80s Schwarzenegger films, complete with a distant husband whose work prevents him from quality time with his family to a “bad guy” so caricatured that we have to take the characters’ word for it when they claim he’s threatening. Yet at the time, these films gesture (in a perfunctory effort at depth) to the drama taking place within Cage’s psyche. He’s a man burdened by the serious subjects that mobilize these three stories – rape, mental illness, and child kidnapping – yet the films never take stock in his burden, all weighing as light as a feather while fully earning their R ratings. On occasion, the trilogy’s paint-by-numbers approach to suspense treads slightly above mid-season CBS drama-level stakes and into something angrier, something stranger. Something more Cagean:

In short, these are generic, expendable Hollywood byproducts whose mundanity and tedium are occasionally interrupted with Cage performing in that uncanny, self-mocking yet somehow earnest way that only Cage can pull off. In his comprehensive career overview, Alex Pappademas said of Seeking Justice, “His work is still fascinating to observe even when it looks like work. Some actors make their acting invisible; Cage makes you think about what acting is and how weird it must be to do it for a living.” This is due, in part, to the fact that the films themselves are skeletons of “actual films,” allowing Cage to roam through them as Nicolas Cage, never as a fully fleshed character.

Cage performs all the motions and signs of existing in a film while never fully assuming any of them. Trespass, Stolen, and Seeking Justice all look and feel like movies, and all share the factors that make for legitimate filmmaking, yet none of them take themselves seriously enough to bother convincing anyone that the world they portray exists beyond the costumes and setpieces. Never have I been able to imagine more clearly the lunch table and the talent trailers sitting offscreen. These are not parodies or ironic subversions of your generic action thriller, but something odder and emptier. They feel like imposters films made to exist in a world of another film. If Nicolas Cage were to play a Last Action Hero version of himself, these are the types of films that his character would make, films that we would otherwise only see out-of-context clips of.

Had the Trouble in Louisiana trilogy been made before Cage’s masterful, crazed performance in Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, that 2009 role would have felt even more like a dark, hypnotizing meta-treatment of Cage’s outlandish, outsized onscreen persona – a glorious middle finger to any criticism or snark or ironic appreciation regularly leveled at “Nicolas Cage.” But each of Cage’s returns to form carries the promise that he will gravitate once again back to making more forgettable work many times over (he is currently slated to update Kirk Cameron’s role in a new reboot of Left Behind). And despite his monetary and legal troubles, Cage’s filmography doesn’t suggest that he chooses such an idiosyncratic slate of roles primarily because of the potential paycheck they offer.

The Trouble in Louisiana trilogy encapsulates the current state of Cage’s career because these three films produce an inevitable question: Why?

Why did Cage not only make one but three seemingly effort-free mash-ups of the thriller genre? Why does Cage choose the work he chooses at all? How does he see his screen persona, and his choice of work fitting into that?

Nicolas Cage isn’t interesting because his often unrestrained performance style makes for a formidable Internet cult, or even because he’s a talented performer ostensibly trapped in a system where he must work for a living. Nicolas Cage is interesting because his decision-making as an actor is so often counterintuitive and inexplicable. He’s compelling to watch not despite but because of films like those that make up the Trouble in Louisiana trilogy, films that demonstrate his continued practice of straying away from “form” in between occasional returns.
(Courtesy of filmschoolrejects.com)

Filming in Louisiana: Updates on ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Goosebumps,’ ‘When the Game Stands Tall,’ more

“Jurassic World,” Goosebumps” and “The Final Girls” have added to their casts. “When the Game Stands Tall” gets a trailer. “Terminator: Genesis” actress Emilia Clarke promises a “bad-ass” performance in that upcoming sci-fi sequel. All those stories and more are covered in today’s roundup of recent headlines involving Louisiana film productions:

Moviefone: Judy Greer, two others join New Orleans cast of “Jurassic World.” Greer, who shot “Jeff Who Lives at Home” in New Orleans in 2010, will return for the “Jurassic Park” sequel, set to start shooting in town in June. Also new to the cast: Katie McGrath (NBC’s “Dracula”) and Lauren Lapkus (“The To Do List,” “Orange is the New Black”). They join already announced cast members Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson. Colin Trevorrow directs. Full “Jurassic World” coverage here.

Deadline: “Goosebumps” scares up Ken Marino. The Sony-backed production, starring Jack Black and inspired by the creepy R.L. Stine book series for young readers, hasn’t officially announced that it will be shooting in Louisiana, although while he was shooting “22 Jump Street” in New Orleans last year, producer Neal Moritz told me he was looking at bringing the film here. Wherever it shoots, Black will be joined by newly announced cast addition Ken Marino (“Children’s Hospital,” “Bad Milo!”), who will play a blowhard high school coach who must deal with a monster invasion at his school. Amy Ryan and Dylan Minnette are also lined up to appear in the film, directed by Rob Letterman and set for a March 23, 2016, release.

The Hollywood Reporter: “Silicon Valley,” “Vampire Diaries” stars join Baton Rouge-shot “The Final Girls.” The film, a horror comedy, already is shooting in Baton Rouge, with Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”) and Malin Akerman (“The Watchmen”) starring. Now, they’ll be joined by Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) and Nina Dobrev (“The Vampire Diaries”), according to THR. Also joining the cast: Adam Devine (“Pitch Perfect,” “Modern Family”) and Alexander Ludwig (“Hunger Games”). “The Final Girls” tells the story of a young woman (Farmiga) who is sucked into a 1980s horror film that stars her recently deceased mother (Akerman), a former movie scream queen.

Variety: James Franco’s Mississippi-shot adaptation of Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” gets key financing. This little tidbit was actually buried in a longer story about New Films International’s financing of the World War II thriller “Pursuit.” A few paragraphs in, however, the story mentions how NFI also secured the final $10 million to complete production on Franco’s second Faulkner adaptation (the first: “As I Lay Dying“), which just completed production in Princeton, N.J., after shoots in Mississippi last fall and Los Angeles over the winter. The goal is to have it ready in time for submission to the Venice, Telluride or Toronto film festivals this fall.

The Los Angeles Times: “Terminator: Genesis” star Emilia Clarke promises a “bad-ass” Sarah Connor. This lengthy interview piece focuses mostly on Clarke’s role in “Game of Thrones,” which is about to embark on its fourth season. The last paragraph, however, should be of interest to those eager to see how the New Orleans-shot “Terminator: Genesis” takes shape. In that film — which starts shooting next month — she will play Sarah Connor, and the Times asked her what fans can expect. Her answer: “They can expect a bad-ass. There are differences that I believe will surprise and hopefully excite fans and people who aren’t so familiar.” Full “Terminator: Genesis” coverage here.

YouTube.com: NOLA-shot football drama “When the Game Stands Tall” gets a trailer. Check it out in the embedded video below. The film, which shot in town last year, focused on the real-life story of the football team at De La Salle High School in northern California, which at one points boasted an undefeated streak that spanned 12 years and 151 games. Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig, Laura Dern and Michael Chiklis star. “When the Game Stands Tall” opens in theaters Aug. 22.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan pictured on set of Jurassic World as filming kicks off in Hawaii on action movie sequel

It’s one of the most highly-anticipated movie sequels of all time. 

And on Thursday, Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan was pictured on the set of Jurassic World as filming kicked off on the set of the fourth movie in the franchise in Hawaii.

Khan, who will play the owner of the dinosaur theme park in the upcoming film, was seen shooting scenes in Honolulu Zoo, Hawaii, where a variety of props were also seen being loaded onto the set.

Kicking things off: Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan was seen on the set of Jurassic World in Hawaii on Thursday

Kicking things off: Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan was seen on the set of Jurassic World in Hawaii on Thursday


Props: A series of numbered buggies were seen being loaded onto the set of the fourth film in the dinosaur action movie franchise

Props: A series of numbered buggies were seen being loaded onto the set of the fourth film in the dinosaur action movie franchise

Among the items being taken to the set were a series of numbered buggies – similar to the ones used to tour the park in original 1993 movie – and a tube which was covered in a sticker bearing the warning ‘electric fence’.

Director Colin Trevorrow previously revealed that the film will be set 22 years after the first Jurassic Park movie back in 1993.

He wrote on Twitter: ‘This is a new sci-fi terror adventure set 22 years after the horrific events of Jurassic Park.’

Travelling in style: The buggies are similar to those used on the original 1993 movie

Travelling in style: The buggies are similar to those used on the original 1993 movie


Warning! A tube with a sticker saying 'electric fence' was also seen on the set

Warning! A tube with a sticker saying ‘electric fence’ was also seen on the set


Trevorrow also previously hinted that the storyline of the next movie would be heading back to Isla Nublar – the setting for the original movie – by tweeting a picture of the lush green landscape.

However, further details of the plot of the film are being kept tightly under wraps.
Actors Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard will also appear in the movie, while Vincent D’Onofrio will play the villain.

Young actors Ty Simpkins – best known for his role in Iron Man 3 – and Nick Robinson have also been cast in the blockbuster as the nephews of Howard’s physicist character.

Highly anticipated: The new film will be set 22 years after the first installment

Highly anticipated: The new film will be set 22 years after the first installment

Trevorrow has reportedly been working ‘in tandem’ with Jurassic Park executive producer Steven Spielberg to handpick the cast for the fourth instalment in the dinosaur series.

As well as shooting at Hawaiian locations including Honolulu Zoo and Kualoa Ranch – where the original film was shot – other filming locations include Louisiana, where they are thought to be shooting interior shots.

A tentative release date for the film has been set by Universal for June 2015.

(Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk)

ULL filmaker promotes Cajun culture in China

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Conni Castille, a documentary filmmaker and assistant director of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Moving Image Arts program, is spending this week in China promoting Cajun culture. The weeklong tour was organized by American Routes, a public radio show hosted by Nick Spitzer, a professor of anthropology at Tulane University, according to a news release from ULL.

Stops on the trip include American cultural centers, U.S. consulates and clubs in Guangzhou, Harbin, Nanjing and Shanghai. Castille will show and discuss two of her documentaries, “I Always Do My Collars First, a film about ironing, and “T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story.”

“Collars,” chronicles family life and domestic rituals in Castille’s hometown of Breaux Bridge, La. “T-Galop” reveals the role of the horse in Southwest Louisiana and includes an interview with famed jockey and Acadiana native Calvin Borel. “T-Galop” was chosen Documentary Film of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment of the Arts in 2013.

The Cajun band “Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy & Cajun Country Revival” is also part of the tour. In addition to the films and musical performances, Spitzer will conduct oral history workshops and give lectures on French Louisiana culture, according to the release.

Support for the tour, which concludes April 12, is provided by the U.S. State Department, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Institute of Technology, Tulane University and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

Jackson Parish native to film movie in Jonesboro

Film crews from Shreveport, New Orleans to roll into town

The actor best known for his role as Dr. Maloney in the critically acclaimed “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is returning to his roots and filming a movie in his native Jackson Parish.

Film crews from Shreveport and New Orleans will roll into Jonesboro this week to begin shooting Philip Lawrence’s “Coldwell Spring,” a murder mystery and court drama set in the fictional Choctaw Parish. The filming begins Tuesday and is expected to take about eight days. The crew then will head to New Orleans to finish shooting.

“This is my one shot at making a film,” said Lawrence, who as an actor also had an uncredited role as a U.S. Marine in Battle: Los Angeles, which was filmed in Shreveport. “This will determine if I’m going to be a filmmaker or go another direction. I know I’m going to have to bring my best.”

The Winnfield native is drawing from his childhood to bring an appropriate authenticity to the movie. As graduate of Weston High School, near Jonesboro, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Lawrence grew up around the people he wants to represent in film.

“I want to write these characters the way they really are. A lot of these characters are believable.”

He also is intimately familiar with small-town law enforcement; his stepfather was longtime Jackson Sheriff Van Beasley. And having practiced law after graduating from Tulane Law School, Lawrence can apply that experience as well to his film.

All of the North Louisiana scenes for “Coldwell Spring” will be filmed in Jonesboro.

The dramatic courtroom finale will be shot in the Jackson Parish Courthouse. Once in theaters, viewers familiar with the area also will recognize Caney Lake, local highways and other scenes from Jonesboro.

The collaboration among official agencies throughout Jackson Parish has been a key to getting his movie off the ground, Lawrence said. “Everybody has just been tremendous. Without these people stepping up to the plate, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

He and Jackson Police Jury President Todd Culpepper hope the movie will bring some good news to a town and parish still recovering from years of controversy surrounding former Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson, who was convicted last year of malfeasance in office.

“Everybody that knows about it is excited,” Culpepper said. “It’s good news, and we’ll take good news over what we’ve been having.”

Lawrence said he wrote the screenplay in 2010 but put the project on hold while he filmed “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

He plans to enter “Coldwell Spring” in the New Orleans Film Festival in October and the Sundance Film Festival in January. Afterward, he’ll shop the film to theaters and for DVD distribution.

(Courtesy of bayoubuzz.com)

Louisiana International Film Fest organizers release several titles to appear on schedule

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Oscar winners Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer star in the New Orleans-shot romantic comedy ‘Elsa and Fred.’ (The Times-Picayune archive)

Although the full schedule for the Louisiana International Film Festival has not yet been released, organizers have offered a little insight into what’s on tap for the event’s sophomore year. The event is scheduled for May 8 through May 11.

The festival, which celebrates both nationally and locally produced films, will take place entirely in Baton Rouge this year — a change from the 2013 edition, which saw venues in both the capital city and New Orleans.

Dan Ireland, who co-founded the Seattle Film Festival and is a producer/director in his own right, returns to LIFF as artistic director this year and holds a heavy hand in creating the schedule. The full lineup is set to be released in the coming weeks, but organizers dropped the names this week of several films already verified for the schedule.

Among that number are a handful of Ireland’s favorites, although he admitted that picking those is like selecting “your favorite child.”

Already confirmed on the docket are Roman Polanski stage-to-screen take on “Venus in Fur,” Bernard Rose’s “The Devil’s Violinist” and “A Thousand Times Goodnight” with Juliette Binoche.

“The films, when you see them, you’re putting them eclectically together in a series, a smorgasbord or feast of films over a period,” Ireland said of the planning process. “Here, it’s four days, so wow, get your movie stamina out and hit the ground running.”

Ireland called “Venus in Fur” “dazzling,” noting the performance of Emmanuelle Seignur, Polanski’s wife.

“It’s witty, it’s sexy,” he said. “It’s about two people who absolutely hate each other and are turned on by each other at the same time.”

Ireland also underscored the importance of “The Devil’s Violinist.”

“It’s about selling your should to the devil for your art, and the music is staggering,” he said. The biopic stars renowned musician David Garrett as 19th century violinist Niccolo Paganini. During the screening at the film festival, Bernard Rose is scheduled to be in attendance as for a Q&A with the audience.

Tickets for individual film screenings will be available at the box office at Perkins Rowe and online in the coming weeks, but all-access passes are currently available online at www.lifilmfest.org for $100 and include entry to all films, gala premieres, cocktail receptions, workshops and parties.

Here’s a look at all the films LIFF organizers have released as certain to be on the schedule. (All available trailers are embedded below):

  • The New Orleans-shot remake “Elsa & Fred” stars Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer and is directed by Michael Radford. Read NOLA.com’s coverage here.
  • “Venus in Fur” is a French-language directed by Roman Polanski and based on the David Ives play of the same title.
  • “The Devil’s Violinist” will feature a Q&A with director Bernard Rose following the screening, and stars renowned violinist David Garrett.
  • “God’s Pocket” offers one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances caught on film, as well as performances from Christina Hendricks and John Turturro. It’s based on the 1983 novel by Pete Dexter. Click here to watch Hoffman discussing the role.
  • “The Double” stars Jesse Eisenberg in a comedy “centered on a man who is driven insane by the appearance of his doppelganger,” according to IMDB.
  • “A Thousand Times Goodnight” tells the story of a photojournalist, played by Juliette Binoche, who is one of the world’s best wartime photographers. However, the job often puts her and, ultimately, her family in danger.
  • “Freedom Summer” documents the Civil Rights Era in Miami by Stanley Nelson.

(Courtesy of NOLA.com)

LDWF issues film industry new regulations

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) adopted a notice of intent today for the establishment of permit regulations for Louisiana native wildlife used in the entertainment and film industry.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) developed the regulations in response to Act 550, passed by the State Legislature in 2012. This act added language to R.S. 56:105(A) to allow possession of Louisiana native wildlife for entertainment purposes.

The permit regulations establish general rules regarding permit requirements, animal origin, purchase and use of the animals, holding pen specifications, travel enclosure requirements and reporting requirements. Among the general rules are stipulations that the permit allows use of Louisiana wildlife species only and that animals must have been obtained from a licensed trapper, licensed Game Breeder or a licensed Nongame Quadruped Breeder.

Potentially dangerous quadrupeds, big exotic cats, and non-human primates, as listed in R.S. 56:6 and LAC 76.V.1.115 are specifically prohibited from being included under this permit.

By their nature, animals used in the film and entertainment industry are subjected to temperament testing, training, and handling for their use in this type of industry. The Film and Entertainment Industry Animal permit (FEIAP) has been developed by LDWF to protect potential human health hazards and animal welfare issues inherent in holding, training, and handling of non-domesticated animal species. It also addresses possessing native bird, reptile, and amphibian species in addition to mammals.

To view the full notice of intent, please visit http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/action-items.

Public comment will be accepted at the LWFC May 1st meeting and/or can be submitted in writing by mail to: Camille Warbington, LDWF Wildlife Permits Coordinator, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000, or via email to cwarbington@wlf.la.gov until 4:30 p.m., May 23, 2014. For more information, contact Camille Warbington at 225-763-8584.

(Courtesy of katc.com)

Hurricane season could bring movies back to NW LA

Shreveport’s film liaison says hurricane season is likely to bring feature filmmaking up from the coast and back to northwest Louisiana.

Shreveport native Tom Logan is already set to begin filming “Campin’ Buddies” on May 12. Film liaison Arlena Acree tells The Times (http://bit.ly/1mljE3o) that she’s in talks with a few other independent productions.

Logan, who acted in soap operas and TV series in the 1970s and 1980s and now writes, directs and produces, said he plans to hire most of his crew locally.

He said there are many reasons to film in Shreveport: some of the nation’s biggest movie tax incentives, a rural setting, and he knows the area, since he grew up there.

“Campin’ Buddies,” a comedy about a group’s attempt at camping, will feature Don Most, who played Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” Tom Lester, from the “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres” and Victoria Jackson from “Saturday Night Live.”

Fox 21′s new TV series “Salem” also has offered steady industry work, and industry locals hope its success could attract more.

The one-hour drama airs April 20 on WGN America. Production designer Seth Reed said more than 25 buildings were constructed for the exterior set in Grand Cane, using local carpenters, plasters and painters to create cobblestone streets, candlelit interiors, rustic shops and a town center.

“Our cast is really enjoying themselves,” said Fox 21 President Bert Salke. “Louisiana and Shreveport hospitality has been awesome and that’s a big deal.”

Salke said the production required a location that could offer the appearance of 17th century Salem, Mass., which was one of the key reasons the Shreveport area was selected. Others included the state and city tax incentives and the area’s established crew base.

“It’s been a pretty great experience and one that would allow us to say we’d come back,” he said.

(Courtesy of bradenton.com)

How Georgia Toppled Louisiana in Attracting TV Productions

Issue 12 BIZ Film Locations Illustration - H 2014

The Peach State used convenience (26 daily flights to L.A.!) and less regulation (but is it too lax?) to lure nearly $1 billion in 2013.

Call it the Civil War of the South. In 2002, Louisiana became the first state to offer film and television production tax incentives. By 2009, several dozen other states and countries had incentive programs, so the Bayou State raised the ante: Rebates rose from 10 percent of expenditures on everything from star salaries to props to as much as 35 percent (plus local breaks). The move paid off spectacularly: Spending by productions in Louisiana rocketed 55 percent between 2008 and 2012, making it the most popular state for film and TV outside of California and New York.

But as the industry gathers for the AFCI Locations Show in Century City from March 27 to 29, the landscape is changing: In 2013, Louisiana was not No. 1 in production spend, a key measure by which legislators approve breaks. Instead, Georgia, which has benefited from a boom in TV shoots, led in certified spend with $979 million, according to Lee Thomas, head of the state’s film office. Louisiana, by contrast, boasted more than $800 million in spending, according to state film commission head Chris Stelly. (California and New York remain higher despite steep declines in the Golden State.)

“Louisiana is still the king in terms of attracting movies,” says Kevin Klowden, a managing economist at the Milken Institute. “But Georgia has several things going for it. Besides incentives, there is significant infrastructure: studios, crews and, increasingly, investors.”

Since 2010, 11 studios have opened, expanded or announced plans to operate in Georgia, including Pinewood, which established its first presence outside the U.K. It joins Tyler Perry‘s studio, Raleigh and others. Tax rebates as high as 30 percent helped lure 76 series, specials and TV movies in 2012, the most recent year for which detailed figures are available. AMC’s The Walking Dead, Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva and BET’s original series now call Georgia home. Only California hosted more TV in 2012 with 215 projects, though it has lost most of the lucrative hourlong dramas that shoot (and spend) nine months a year.

Aside from crew and infrastructure, producers say they like the 26 daily flights from Atlanta to Los Angeles. “You don’t want actors stuck in airports changing planes — you’re usually paying them to sit there,” says Kris Bagwell, executive vp at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Atlanta, which opened 10 soundstages in 2010.

That city’s air hub was an attraction for L.A.-based producer Mark Johnson (the Narnia movies, AMC’s Breaking Bad), who is shooting two TV series there. “Some states have an A and a B crew base, and after that you are in trouble,” he says. “Georgia has real depth to its crew base.”

That’s in part because the state has benefited from the presence of Turner Entertainment in Atlanta, where generations of camera operators, editors, set designers and others have trained. “Georgia actually has had more people employed in the industry sector permanently in production than even Louisiana,” says Klowden.

Productions also are drawn by Georgia’s reputation as a favorable business climate. There are fewer hoops to jump through before the state will grant incentives, according to Adrian McDonald, lead researcher for Film L.A., who wrote in a March report that Georgia “is perhaps the worst offender in terms of reporting and transparency. … Of the top 10 states … Georgia is the only state lacking an audit requirement.”

Georgia does require a tax return, which is scrutinized. But as of last year, even that process was streamlined — lowering the payout time in most cases from over a year to a few months.

There also is less regulation, which some cite as a factor in the Feb. 20 death of camera assistant Sarah Jones during an apparently unauthorized shoot on Georgia train tracks for Midnight Rider. “When there isn’t much oversight coming from the state, it makes it easier to pull off something like that,” says Klowden.

Others maintain that Georgia is as cautious as other states. “You have a safety office; you go through procedures. I haven’t seen anything that says they are more lax than anywhere else,” says Johnson.

New York, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Illinois and Massachusetts also have stepped up their efforts to lure productions during recent years. That lends itself to shopping around. It isn’t unusual for a producer to model 12 or 15 different budgets before determining a location, says Joseph Chianese, senior vp at Entertainment Partners in L.A., “to see which jurisdiction is going to give them the best answers.”

As California works to stop the outflow of productions, some can’t wait and are following the work. Mario Gonzales, who has run Mario’s Catering in California for 31 years, has also been sending five-man crews, usually led by his three sons, on the road with catering trucks for the past six years to work movies like Dolphin Tale 2 in Florida, The Blind Side in Georgia and TV shows such as Chicago Fire in Illinois.

“We had no choice,” says Mario’s son Christian Gonzales. “There was no longer enough work in California to sustain our business.” But while five years ago a steady stream of industry professionals was moving to New Orleans or Baton Rouge, Ed Gutentag, a cinematographer, director and producer (True Lies, Heat), says he is moving his family to Atlanta.

“I can’t make the kind of living I need to make in California anymore,” he says. “There seems to be a lot of work there. I’m going to declare myself a Georgia local because producers want to hire as many local people as possible — that’s another way they can get a [financial] break.”

(Courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com)