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TBT: Abandoned Six Flags/Jazzland, 40 photos

Source: Erik Jorgensen/Flickr

As Halloween approaches, we take a look back at one of New Orleans’ spookier locations.

It was once alive with happy faces, laughing kids and excitement.

Now, it looks more like something out of a bad dream or horror film. Haunting images capture a lifeless and decaying Six Flags Theme Park.

The park is located in New Orleans East and is visible from Interstate 10. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the theme park was abandoned.

The park opened under the name of Jazzland in 2000. Purchased by Six Flags in 2002, it was home to some of the biggest thrills in the state of Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina shut down the park. After accessing the damage and the cost to repair the park, Six Flags terminated their lease with the city of New Orleans.

The eerie and decaying remains have drawn curious visitors. It has also served as a shoot location for various feature films.

See all photos here: http://www.wafb.com/story/27165689/tbt-abandoned-six-flagsjazzland-40-photos

Mobile user? See all 40 photos here: http://bit.ly/1tFWYAO

(Courtesy of wafb.com)

Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger to shoot ‘Same Kind of Different as Me’ in Jackson, Miss., for Paramount

same kind of different as me greg kinner renee zellweger_edited-1.jpg
Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger are shooting the inspirational drama ‘Same Kind of Different as Me’ in Jackson, Miss., alongside fellow cast members Djimon Honsou and Jon Voight, Paramount Pictures has announced. (File photo/AP photo)

Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, Djimon Honsou and Jon Voight have begun production this week in Jackson, Miss., on the inspirational drama “Same Kind of Different as Me,” Paramount Pictures has announced. Michael Carney is will make his directoral debut on the film.

“Same Kind of Different as Me” is based on the best-selling nonfiction book of the same name by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent. Vincent is the author of the faith-based book “Heaven Is For Real,” the film version of which starred Kinnear and became a surprise box-office hit earlier this year.

The story, inspired by real events, revolves around the unlikely friendship forged between Hall, an international art dealer who will be played by Kinnear in the film, and a Moore, a homeless former Louisiana sharecropper (Honsou), as Hall works to save his struggling marriage.

Zellweger will play Hall’s religious wife, who “will lead all three of them on the most remarkable journey of their lives,” according to a studio synopsis. Voight will play the father of Kinnear’s character.

The film marks only the latest major Hollywood production to film in and around the Mississippi capital. Other notable recent projects to shoot in Jackson include the Oscar-winning filmThe Help” (2011) and the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” (2014).

“Same Kind of Different as Me” will be produced by Mary Parent and Cale Boyter through Disruption Entertainment, alongside Darren Moorman, Stephen Johnson and Hall. Chris Bancrot, Hans Graffunder, Michael Carney and Alexander Foard are executive-producing. Carney co-wrote the screenplay with Foard and Hall.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

‘Steel Magnolias’ still impacts town after 25 years

Hollywood came to Natchitoches 25 years ago. Some of the industry’s most famous folks made it their home and walked its streets.

And they made a movie you’ve probably heard of: “Steel Magnolias.”

They moved in just after July 4, 1988, and all were gone by the second week of September.

They shopped for groceries at Brookshires, ate at Mariner’s on the lake and the now closed Just Friends on Front Street. They roamed the streets. Ordered flowers for their wives.

They turned the town into a movie set.

Many residents became “stars” — at a glimpse — even if their scenes were not.

Those stars: Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, Sam Shepard, Tom Skerritt, Dylan McDermott. More: director Herbert Ross, whose wife, Lee B. Radziwell, is Jackie Kennedy’s sister, and producer Ray Stark.

They hunkered down, worked, played and made the town their home.

The film’s roots are in Natchitoches, called Chinquipin in the movie. Author Bobby Harling grew up here and wrote the story in 10 days time about his sister, Susan Harling Robinson, the mother of a 2-year-old son. It was about her fight with diabetes and her death of kidney failure after the pregnancy.

The saga of love and loss also is the story of the friendship between his mother, Margaret Harling — who died last year — and a group of women who met at Truvy’s beauty shop. Harling grew up in Natchitoches with his brother and sister. Their father, Bob Harling, divides his time between his son’s home in the country and their family home.

Robinson was played by Julia Roberts and her mother by Sally Field. Tom Skerritt represented the father, Bob Harling.

The search for a place to film “Chinquipin,” ended here after author Harling asked film officials to at least take a look. Associate producer Andy Stone did, after visiting Atlanta and Wilmington, North Carolina, and and en route to New Orleans and Dallas.

“If you really what to know why ‘Steel Magnolias’ was filmed in Natchitoches, the reason is (Natchitoches resident) Tom Whitehead,” said Stone in “Steel Magnolias Scrapbook.”

Stone explained that at the request of the Louisiana Film Commission, unpaid and unofficial Whitehead picked him up in Baton Rouge. He immediately asked Stone what it would take to film in this town.

Stone was so impressed with Whitehead he ended up on the movie’s payroll and on call 24 hours a day, doing everything from helping with a search for sets to driving Olympia Dukakis to Cherokee Plantation on a sightseeing tour.

And the stars were sightseers when not working. (When Whitehead took MacLaine up to Cherokee Plantation to meet the owner, the late Theodosia Nolan, the star insisted on going to the attic. “We felt for ghosts,” White recalled.)

Yes, before Louisiana tax credits, cameras in the streets of Shreveport, cordoning off a major interstate, there was Natchitoches.

One of the worldwide premieres was here, Nov. 11, 1989, with Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah making personal appearances.

It was a heady time for citizens of a small town.

Economic impact

Hollywood spent a lot of money while here. When they departed, the production left a legacy to the town.

The gift: a tourism industry.

“I believe the movie was impetus for the tourist industry in Natchitoches,” said L.J. Melder, whose son owns the Jefferson Street Townhouse Bed & Breakfast.

Jerry Pierce, Northwestern State University vice president of external affairs, agrees.

“Harling put his hometown of Natchitoches on the map with national and worldwide attention,” said Pierce, in a story in the Natchitoches Times.

“That provided impetus for the economic resurgence of the community that still benefits from being the backdrop of the stage play and film and of the real-life circumstance that inspired ‘Steel Magnolias.’”

Pierce pointed out the town was hard hit by the recession, businesses had declined, buildings were vacant, unemployment was up and tourism industry had tapered off.

Then “Steel Magnolias” pumped money into the economy during filming. And, when it hit the screens of the world, tourists started visiting.

And the tourism industry burgeoned once again.

Arlene Gould, Natchitoches Convention and Tourism Bureau executive director, does not have an official count of visitors, but 11,000 have signed in at the bureau.

“A large percentage are interested in ‘Steel Magnolias.’ And some come specifically for ‘Steel Magnolias,’” she said.

“It put us on the map,” said Gould. “For everyone who has seen the movie outside of Natchitoches it is synonymous with the movie. It had a tremendous impact on the tourism trade and on our community.”

Although Gould couldn’t put a dollar figure on the impact, she points out it certainly affected the hotel/bed and breakfast business.

Hud and Pam Robertson, of Marianna, Florida, didn’t come to town because of the movie, but were interested in the fact that it was filmed here once they arrived.

Emma Deshotels, who works at Georgia’s, said the shop on Front Street does a thriving business with “Steel Magnolia”-inspired souvenirs, such as photos, postcards, magnolia magnets and ornaments and mugs.

“Here is a magnolia out of fish scales!’ she said.

She also finds it amazing that the film is so loved by so many.

“For different reasons and all ages. One high school in Texas puts on the play,” said Deshotels.

And she said they specifically want to see the house where much of the filming is done and the tree where Tom Skerritt shot the birds.

“An opening scene of Daryl walking down front street,” said Gould.

And, Natchitoches is star struck. Channeling Hollywood, the town started the “Natchitoches Walk of Honor.”

The tour

To celebrate the 25th year, the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches will show three houses featured in the film on its Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes.

The event is Oct. 10-12. There are three tours: Candlelight, Town and Cane River Country Tour.

The buildings include the Steel Magnolia House at 320 Rue Jefferson, where the major part of the filming took place. Recently purchased by attorneys Dan and Desiree Dyess, it is the featured house.

Two more houses used in the film are on the tour:

• Sweet Cane Inn, 926 Washington St., built in the late 1800s for a U.S. congressman, and where President William Howard Taft was once an overnight guest.

• Fair Woods French Creole Cottage, 840 Rue Second, built in 1835 and restored in 2008, and noted for its purity of design.

“We are pleased that we have three ‘Steel Magnolias,’ including the house which is where the family lived in the film,” said tour chairwoman Julia Hildebrand, who wore a lavender dress when she was an extra in some of the scenes.

She also is pleased that for the 60th tour, the group is showing several houses which have not been on tour for several years.

A look at the Steel Magnolia House:

• Rare round brick columns on the front gallery.

• Twin parlors divided by pocket doors and mirror fireplaces at each end of the space are stopped with gold-framed mirrors.

• Exquisite twin chandeliers came from a Dallas bank which was in foreclosure when Dan Dyess purchased them and then kept them in storage for about five years.

• Dining room. The chandelier purchased at a shop in New York. The Louisiana Empire mahogany table was in the basement of a warehouse in Lafayette for 10 years. Since it was in several pieces, it took Richard Stempley, of Stempley’s Restoration and Refinishing Shop, more than three months to restore it. It included extensive work on some of the table leaves.

• Furniture in the house came from New Orleans, Lafayette, Natchez, Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. It is mostly period with the exception of the beds on the second floor which are authentic copies.

• Breakfast room stainglass window shown in the movie was designed by artist Jokie Taylor and made by Rivers Murphy in the 1960s.

If you go

What: Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes.

When: Oct. 10-12. Hours: 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Oct. 10, Tour I Candlelight Tour; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 11, Tour II, Town Tour; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 11, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 12, Tour III, Country Tour.

Presented by: Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches.

Admission: $25, individual, one tour; $40, individual, two tour package; $50, three tour package; $10, any one house, Saturday or Sunday; $5, per tour, children, ages 6 to 12; and free, children under 6. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets may be purchased at any house during the tour. Tour Headquarters, Lemee House, 310 Rue Jefferson. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Oct. 10, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 11. Complimentary admission with tour ticket to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, 800 Front St.

Information: Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission- (800) 259-1714, or (318) 581-8042. Web site: Melroseplantation.org.

Houses on the tour

• The Blessed House, 318 Rue Nelken. Built in 1836.

• Scott Corner House, 104 Rue Poete. Classic Creole style with a West Indies influence.

• Pierson Townhouse and Garden, 570 Rue Front. Once the Opera House.

• Prudhomme-Rouquier House, 446 Rue Jefferson. Built in 1782 on land acquired through a Spanish Land Grant.

• Lambre-Gwinn House, 1972 Williams Ave. A 150-year-old house.

• Steel Magnolia House, 320 Rue Jefferson. Built prior to 1841.

• Fair Woods French Creole Cottage, 840 Rue Second. Built in 1835.

• Sweet Cane Inn., 926 Washington St. Built for U.S. Rep. Phanor Breazeale in the late 1800s and President Taft was once an overnight guest.

• Melrose Plantation, 3533 State Highway 119. Built around 1796, it is a National Historic Landmark.

• Atahoe Plantation, 1843 Bermuda Road.

• Cherokee Plantation, 3110 State Highway 494. Built before 1839.

• Oakland Plantation, 4386 State Highway 494. (Admission is free.) Part of the Cane River Creole National Historic Park and a National Historic Landmark.

Movie notes

• Sally Field shopped at Brookshire’s. During a long outdoor shoot at the Gahagan’s, MacLaine decided enough was enough until she got some yogurt, so off went someone to wake up a Brookshire’s manager to open the store for yogurt.

• Tauzin, the home of Coley and Sharon Gahagan was used for several takes, including the Christmas scene. And, Coley took Lee Radziwell, Ross’ wife/Jackie Kennedy’s sister water skiing on Cane River. (“And, at one point, she took her clothes off!” said Coley during a free wheeling discussion with Whitehead recently.)

• Tom Skerritt ordered flowers for his wife at Jeanne’s Country Garden.

• Dolly Parton, Dukakis, MacLaine and Sam Shepard were regulars at Mariner’s.

• Everyone stopped by Just Friends for a bite to eat because they liked the food and adored the owner.

• The armadillo cake in the wedding scene was made by a Natchitoches resident.

(Courtesy of shreveporttimes,com)

Louisiana offers good background for screenwriting

Louisiana has experienced a massive resurgence in media production of every kind, thanks to tax incentives aiming to keep filmmakers here and the state’s low cost of living. But according to Zack Godshall, the best Louisiana has to offer in film has nothing to do with the tax breaks or the cheap living conditions.

“I’ve lived here since I was two … this place is full of the stuff of stories,” Godshall said. “Characters, drama, it’s all here.”

Godshall, an alumnus who teaches an introductory screenwriting course at the University, has directed two separate films that were selected for the Sundance Film Festival, the first Louisiana filmmaker to accomplish that feat, according to the Department of English’s website.

His directorial debut, “Low and Behold,” which took place in a Hurricane-Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, was an official selection of the festival back in 2007, and his “Lord Byron,” filmed entirely in Lafayette for less than $1,000, was chosen for the 2011 festival.

“It was 100 percent cast and crew from Louisiana, which, as far as I know, is the only Sundance film to do so,” Godshall said.

Though he acknowledged the reason all his productions had low budgets arose out of necessity, Godshall said he was thankful for what the experiences taught him.

“I definitely want to do a larger-budget film one day, but I learned that there was a way to make a low-budget film that doesn’t require a compromise,” he said. “The story is what’s most important with anything.”

Godshall attributes his initial investment in filmmaking to a screenwriting class he took while attending the University.

“I was really interested in high school, and I had always liked writing and storytelling,” he said. “That class was what really helped me turn the corner and gain the confidence I needed to really commit to it.”

Right now, he’s working on what he describes as a low-budget mystery series shooting in Lafayette.

“It’s sort of a spinoff of ‘Lord Byron,’” Godshall said. “We’re going to try to get it online in 2015, and we’ll probably have a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 as well.”

While Louisiana is full of relatively accomplished filmmakers like Godshall, it’s just as full, if not more, of aspiring young talent looking to break into the industry.

Finance sophomore Nicholas Leo, who also minors in film and media arts, is amid his first legitimate attempt at an original media production, a short film tentatively titled “The Story of Lon.”

“This story is my first attempt to actually make a real production that would give me credibility as a writer/director,” Leo said.

“The concept kind of came from an idea that in the art world, things are stretching more and more towards being more exclusive and making harder-to-understand art,” Leo said. “Lon is an artist who does very unorthodox works of art, and he’s heavily invested in them. He’s an eccentric type of guy, so much so that the film is narrated by his one and only fan.”

Leo, who has done short documentary work in the past to become more comfortable with the camera, said filmmaking is something he wants to spend his life is doing, but he has an unconventional take on the film industry as well.

“At the same time, being a finance major, I’ve always wanted to become independently financed,” Leo said. “Right now, there’s web, television and movies, but I feel like there’s more quality content out there waiting to be found. Exploring different ways to market and to showcase film is something I’m very interested in.”

(Courtesy of lsureveille.com)

Miss. Film Studios inks deal for production vehicles

Southern Glossary: Independent New Orleans & Louisiana films

The first feature-length film by Garrett Bradley, Below Dreams is an amalgamation of the type of young people the filmmaker met while riding Greyhound Buses between New York City and New Orleans, people she felt were not being taken into consideration when popular media outlets continuously used self-centered liberal arts majors as their sole symbol of a wide generation all suffering in the same economic downturn. In Bradley’s film, three 20-somethings (a single mother, an ex-felon, and a listless wanderer) make their way to New Orleans with hopes of finding a foothold they can use to eventually establish their independence - Saturday, October 18, 2014, 8:30 p.m. – Joy Theater & Thursday, October 23, 2014, 3:30 p.m. – Prytania Theatre

A twisted fairy tale film about two people who were soulmates during their childhood who take part in a psychosexual drama after a tragic event reunites them. With females all writing, directing, and producing, the film offers an update on the primarily male-dominated southern gothic tradition, with plenty of sweat, swamp, and sultry music to go around. Hurray For the Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segarra performs in the film - Saturday, October 18, 2014, 7:30 p.m. – Prytania Theatre & Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 9:45 p.m. – Theatres at Canal Place

An experimental film that was conceived, written, filmed, and edited all in the same room, Dream Throat uses an eclectic hotel room as the setting for a variety of short vignettes about tenants facing intense situations. The psychic residue of past tenants haunt the room, and the viewer is placed into the role of an omnipresent voyeur. The short film will also tour and evolve other stories in other hotel rooms as part of a long-term art project. You can still contribute to the Kickstarter - Sunday, October 19, 9:00 p.m. - Prytania Theatre

Buy tickets and see full listing info, including information about filmmakers in attendance at these films, at the New Orleans Film Society website. Visit Southern Glossary for feature previews and more through the festival.

(Courtesy of nolavie.com)

New Orleans Film Festival 2014 award winners: Movies on Charity Hospital, Huey Long among those taking home prizes

'Big Charity: The Death of America's Oldest Hospital'
The old Charity Hospital, as photographed Thursday, October 22, 2009 on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans. The story of the 300-year-old shuttered institution is told in the new documentary ‘Big Charity,’ a winner of the jury prize for Louisiana features at the 2014 New Orleans Film Festival. (Chris Granger / The Times-Picayune)

 

A documentary about an aging boxer returning to the ring, and New Orleans, in the hopes of reconnecting with his young son. A film about the son of the accused assassin of Huey P. Long and his family’s connection to one of Louisiana’s most notorious crimes. The centuries-old story of New Orleans’ iconic Charity Hospital.

All emerged as winners Sunday night (Oct. 19), as the organizers of the 25th annual New Orleans Film Festival announced the recipients of the festival’s 2014 prizes.

Director Thom Southerland’s “Proud Citizen,” about a Bulgarian playwright out of place in Lexington, Ky., earned the prize for best narrative feature. The award for Louisiana feature was shared by “Big Charity,” director Alex Glustrom’s historical documentary about the New Orleans health-care institution; and “Below Dreams,” director Garrett Bradley’s story of three souls whose dreams and ambitions draw them to New Orleans. The winners in both categories receive a $10,000 camera package sponsored by Panavision.

The award for best documentary feature, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize and two one-on-one consultations with film-industry insiders, went to director Brad Bores’ “When the Bell Rings,” about an aging boxer who comes to New Orleans as he works to put his life in order.

The prizes were announced Sunday (Oct. 19) during the festival’s annual filmmaker luncheon and announced via the New Orleans Film Society Twitter feed. The winners of the festival’s audience awards — given to best narrative feature, documentary feature, narrative sort, documentary short, Louisiana short, animation, experimental and music video — will be announced after the conclusion of the festival, which runs through Thursday (Oct. 23) at venues around town.

The full list of New Orleans Film Festival 2014 winners follows:

Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature: “Proud Citizen,” directed by Thom Southerland

Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature: “When the Bell Rings,” directed by Brad Bores.

Special Jury Award for Documentary Feature: “61 Bullets,” directed by Dave David Modigliani and Louisiana Kreutz.

Jury Winner, Narrative Short: “Afronauts,” directed by Frances Bodomo.

Special Jury Award, Narrative Short: “Skunk,” directed by Annie Silverstein

Jury Winner Documentary Short: “White Earth,” directed by J. Christian Jensen.

Special Jury Award, Documentary Short: “Le Taxidermiste,” directed by Prisca Bouchet and Nick Mayow.

Jury Winner, Experimental Short: “Escape from Planet Tarr,” directed by Luigi Campi.

Special Jury Award, Experimental Short — Honorable Mention: “Infinite Now,” directed by Julie Pfleiderer

Helen Hill Jury Award for Animation: “Proximity,” directed by Joshua Cox.

Special Jury Award, Animation: “The Box,” directed by Michael I Schiller

Jury Winner, Louisiana Feature: “Below Dreams,” directed by Garrett Bradley.

Jury Winner, Louisiana Feature: “Big Charity,” directed by Alex Glustrom.

Jury Winner, Louisiana Short: “Church in Black,” directed by Kenna J Moore.

Special Jury Mention for Ensemble Cast: “Loveland,” directed by Joshua Tate.

Cinematography Award, Louisiana Narrative Feature: “Below Dreams,” directed by Garret Bradley

Cinematography Award, Louisiana Narrative Short: “Call Me Cappy,” directed by Maja Holzinger.

Best Editing Award: “Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle

Apex Award for Best Sound in a Louisiana Film: “Bury Me,” Directed by Brian Kaz

Apex Post Award for Best Sound in a Louisiana Film, Honorable Mention: “Una Vida,” directed by Richie Adams

Apex Post Award for Best Sound in a Louisiana Film, Honorable Mention: “The Veil,” directed by Gwendolyn Grange

Programmer’s Award for Artistic Vision: “Unmappable,” directed by Diane Hodson and Jasmine Luoma.

_________

25th ANNUAL N.O. FILM FESTIVAL

What: The annual eight-day celebration of film, featuring screenings, panel discussions, workshops and parties, all organized by the New Orleans Film Society.

When: Events daily through Thursday, Oct. 23.

Where: Venues throughout the metro area, including the Prytania Theatre, The Theatres at Canal Place, the Chalmette Movies, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Civic Theatre, the Carver Theater and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center.

Tickets: All-access passes ($200 for film society members; $250 for non-members) are available at neworleansfilmsociety.org and grant passholders the opportunity to reserve seats for all screenings and VIP access to all parties and special events. Single-screening, general admission tickets available at the film society website.

Details: Find a full schedule and description of all festival films online at neworleansfilmsociety.org. Visit NOLA.com/movies throughout the festival for daily best bets and daily schedules.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

New Orleans Film Festival 2014 marks a homecoming for Kevin Costner’s NOLA-shot ‘Black and White’

For “Black and White” director Mike Binder, it was cut and dried, open and shut — and, well, black and white. His film, as he wrote it, was set in Los Angeles, and so it would shoot in Los Angeles, period, full stop, end of story.

Sure, the much-ballyhooed filmmaking tax incentives offered by Louisiana sounded great, especially for an independent film such as his. But it simply wasn’t a Louisiana movie, so — although dispatched by “Black and White” star and producer Kevin Costner to scout New Orleans as a possible shooting location for the film — Binder’s mind was made up. He couldn’t shoot his movie in any other place than Los Angeles.

“When Mike Binder got to town, I had never met him,” producer Todd Lewis remembered. “He was only here for one day, and the first thing he said to me when he got off the plane is, ‘I’m never going to shoot this movie in New Orleans. This movie is set in Brentwood, Calif. I’m here because Kevin wanted me to come here and meet you and take a look around, but we’re not going to shoot this movie here. I’m telling you.’ ”

But Lewis knew something Binder didn’t. A Mobile, Ala., native who had spent years living in Los Angeles, he is among the legions of those who came to Louisiana to work on a film but who has never left, setting up house in New Orleans with his Lafayette native wife, also a film industry worker. With more than a half dozen Louisiana productions under his belt — including credits on “21 Jump Street,” “The Final Destination” and “Knucklehead” — Lewis knew well that when it comes to so-called location states, Louisiana is about as versatile as they come.

If the state could double as Hawaii in “Battleship” and New York City in “Empire State” — and even as outer space in “Ender’s Game” — well, then it could certainly double as Los Angeles. In fact, it had done that previously, as the shooting location for “Battle Los Angeles.”

'Black and White': Kevin Costner and Mike Binder
Director Mike Binder, left, and actor Kevin Costner dicuss a shot on the New Orleans set of the drama ‘Black and White.’ (Tracy Bennett / Black White LLC)Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

 

He would have only one day to convince Binder of that, but Lewis didn’t need more than one day.

“He had never even been in Louisiana,” Lewis said. “Everybody’s got Bourbon Street and the French Quarter in their heads — and certainly we don’t have Woodland Hills, Calif., around here. So we spent a whole day (with) the locations manager … and took Mike around, and then he flew back the next day. That night, I got a call from Kevin. He said, well, he talked to Mike. I said, ‘How’d it go?’ He said, ‘He can’t shoot the movie any other place but New Orleans.’”

And that’s exactly what they did. Binder’s film, a legal drama co-starring Octavia Spencer, is still set in Los Angeles. But nearly every frame of it was shot in New Orleans.

“And I think it was a home run,” Lewis said.

A HOLLYWOOD SOUTH HOMECOMING

Lewis was talking in the film’s Prytania Street production office — or what remained of it anyway. After 25 days of principal photography, the production had wrapped the day before, and the office staff was busy packing up to make room for the next production.

That was in summer 2013. Now, 14 months later — and in something of a full-circle moment for the production — “Black and White” is set to make its U.S. premiere on Thursday (Oct. 16) in the same city in which it was shot, screening as the opening-night selection of the 25th annual New Orleans Film Festival, which runs for eight days.

The screening will be preceded by red-carpet arrivals and will be followed by an in-theater Q-and-A session with Binder and as-yet unnamed “special guests” from the film. Because this is New Orleans, that will be followed by a second line from the theater to an opening-night shindig.

It’s only fitting, both for the festival and for “Black and White.” After all, despite its setting, it is a New Orleans production through and through. It was shot here, it co-stars local son Anthony Mackie, the score was written by New Orleans native Terrence Blanchard and all but three members of the film’s crew are locals.

'Black and White': Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer
Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer shoot a scene on the New Orleans set of the drama ‘Black and White.’ (Tracy Bennett / Black White LLC)Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

 

Granted, Lewis is the first to admit that the state’s filmmaking tax breaks are the real reason that Binder’s film — and so many other productions — even considered shooting in New Orleans in the first place. But, as with Binder’s experience, once most film folks get a chance to look around, once they work with local crews, once they see all that the city has to offer beyond Mardi Gras beads and Hurricanes, they’re convinced.

Fortunately for Lewis, he didn’t have to sell Costner on any of that. In addition to shooting “JFK” in New Orleans, the two-time Oscar-winner shot both “Mr. Brooks” and “The Guardian” in Shreveport, so he knew what the state had to offer.

We talked about it for a long time,” Lewis said. “And he said, ‘You have to tell me: Is there any way to do this movie in Los Angeles in this budget range?’ And I said, ‘Not with you and Mike. You guys don’t do lower-budget movies. You need the rebate, and Louisiana offers you every single thing you’ll need to do the movie here.’ I’ve said that a million times. I tell a lot of people that.”

Then they come, they shoot their film — and they are converted.

“It’s amazing,” Lewis said. “It is. Mike told me, ‘If I can do it, every movie I make from here on out, I’m going to do in Louisiana.’ He had a wonderful experience here with his family, it was a great filming experience with our crew, we had a great local casting director, and she put together some really good actors for us. And he and Kevin took advantage of everything, all the way down the line. It just says a lot about what we’re doing here.”

‘THE DELICATE CONVERSATION’

The selection of “Black and White” as the film festival’s curtain-raiser marks the third consecutive year the fest has opened with a high-profile locally shot film. (Last year, it was “12 Years a Slave.” In 2012, it was “The Paperboy.”) Beyond that, though, Binder’s film gives the festival a chance to celebrate a project that people already are talking about.

Binder’s film made its world premiere last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it garnered positive notices right out of the gate. The performances of Costner and Spencer were both singled out, but there’s also the fact that the film arrives with a certain modern relevance.

In it, Costner plays a lawyer grieving over the death of his wife — a tragedy that followed the years-earlier death of their teenage daughter during childbirth, which left Costner’s character and his wife as the de-facto parents of their newborn mixed-race granddaughter.

But with his wife now gone, that granddaughter’s maternal grandmother (played by Spencer) has decided the girl belongs with her son, a troubled young man but one who is, after all, the girl’s biological father. What’s more, she’s willing to fight for custody, taking Costner to court.

The resulting civil action threatens to rob Costner’s character of the last vestige of his previous life while at the same time touching on what Costner describes as “the delicate conversation of race.”

“It really handles something in a way that’s quite unique and it finds itself in an entertaining package,” Costner said last year on the film’s New Orleans set. “I really appreciate the skill level that (Binder) brought to this screenplay. It’s a very sad movie and very dramatic and painful — and funny all the way through it. It’s just funny. He is able to draw humor out of pain so uniquely, more so than any writer that I have worked with and (any) director. He is able to eke out a laugh without it being a cheap laugh.”

“Black and White” executive producer Cassian Elwes — himself a fan of Louisiana’s tax credits, after having shot such films as “The Butler,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “The Paperboy” and “Hateship Loveship” here — echoed Costner’s sentiments, adding that he hopes Binder’s film not only entertains audiences but prompts a larger, deeper conversation.

“I read it right when we were making ‘The Butler,’ and it just struck another chord in me,” Elwes said. “That movie was so important to me, and this one is going to be very similar in the way it’s going to make people laugh, it’s going to make people cry, and in the end it’s going to make people think, and it’s going to make people continue the dialogue of bringing the country together as one.”

“Black and White” kicks off the New Orleans Film Festival with an opening-night screening Thursday (Oct. 16) at 7 p.m. at the Civic Theatre (501 O’Keefe Ave). That will be followed by an encore screening at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St.).

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25th ANNUAL N.O. FILM FESTIVAL

What: The annual eight-day celebration of film, featuring screenings, panel discussions, workshops and parties, all organized by the New Orleans Film Society.

When: Events daily, starting Thursday, Oct. 16, and continuing through Oct. 23.

Where: Venues throughout the metro area, including the Prytania Theatre, The Theatres at Canal Place, the Chalmette Movies, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Civic Theatre, the Carver Theater and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center.

Tickets: All-access passes ($200 for film society members; $250 for non-members) are available at neworleansfilmsociety.org and grant passholders the opportunity to reserve seats for all screenings and VIP access to all parties and special events. Single-screening, general admission tickets go on sale Monday, Oct. 13, at the film society website.

Details: Find a full schedule and description of all festival films online at neworleansfilmsociety.org. Visit NOLA.com/movies throughout the festival for daily best bets and daily schedules.

(Courtesy of Nola.com)

Louisiana Film Prize Announces Its $50,000 Winner

Five Finalist Filmmakers Awarded with iTunes Distribution and Fest Appearances

SHREVEPORT, La., Oct. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Winners of the 2014 Louisiana Film Prize (www.lafilmprize.com) were announced at a sold out awards ceremony held on Sunday, October 12th in downtown Shreveport. Louisiana Film Prize Founder and Executive Director Gregory Kallenberg was joined by his team to make the announcement. The festival’s top award of $50,000 cash – judged by a mixture of audience and celebrity judge votes and is one of the world’s largest prizes awarded to a short film – went to True Heroes by Chris Ganucheau of New Orleans.

Chris Ganucheau, winner of the Louisiana Film Prize 2014 accepts the $50,000 cash grand prize.

 

The Top 5 films, as judged by audience and judge votes, receive iTunes Distribution through Shorts International along with automatic festival appearances around the country. Those films are: Based on Rosenthal by Stephen Kinigopoulos, True Heroes by Chris Ganucheau, Snip by Eric Rippetoe, Lovable by Erica Silverman and Zac Taylor, and A Bird’s Nest by Christine Chen. The Top 5 will receive iTunes distribution along with automatic festival appearances around the country.

In addition to the top prize, $3,000 Founder’s Circle Filmmaking Grants were awarded to five films: #TheFutureIsCrowdFunded by Mindy Bledsoe; Lovable by Erica Silverman and Zac Taylor; Based on Rosenthal by Stephen Kinigopoulos; True Heroes by Chris Ganucheau; and Addam by Alex Nystrom. The Best Actress and Actor Award, a new prize which consists of a $1,000 award to each, was awarded to Chelsea Bryan of Angel of Joy and James Palmer of Snip.

Preliminary economic impact numbers provided by festival organizers show that the festival’s economic impact on northwestern Louisiana (from films produced for the Film Prize and the festival weekend) has grown significantly since the inaugural event in 2012. In the first two years, the Louisiana Film Prize brought in over five million dollars of economic impact. The estimated economic impact of the 2014 event is close to three million for the area.

“It’s amazing how the Film Prize has been able to plant a flag for country’s independent filmmakers,” said Kallenberg. “This is an example of how northwest Louisiana is becoming a beacon for all creative industries.”

(Courtesy of wfla.com)

Louisiana’s film tax credits: What is everyone else doing?

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Outside of Louisiana, more than 40 states offer some sort of incentive to producers looking to film. (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archives)
If you were to take a look at the map of states offering film tax incentives in 2002, you’d see one lone
bright spot. Louisiana jumped on the bus before it was clear anyone else was willing to go to the
party, thus starting a race to offer cheaper and cheaper locations to Hollywood that has only recently
begun to slow down.

 

It all started when the cost of filmmaking in Canada dropped significantly, giving birth to the term

“runaway productions” as producers looked to cut costs and headed north.

Louisiana had already offered some level of incentive for about a decade, but the program didn’t pick up any steam until the 2002 legislative makeover. Today, more than 40 states offer tax incentives to entice filmmakers into their territory, although some states are beginning to pare down what they offer.

“A lot of people would say they’re part of the DNA now,” said Adrian McDonald, a research analyst with the nonprofit Film L.A., which coordinates filmmaking in Los Angeles and observes industry trends. “Louisiana and New Mexico were the first, and they spread like wildfire. Now, they’re on the retreat a little bit.”

As one region offers more and another offers less, Hollywood has been known to adjust plans to find the greenest pastures. With North Carolina pulling back hard on the reigns of its incentives, at least one production has already scouted Louisiana as a possible alternative.

Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in the states and regions. For up-to-date and exhaustive information about every state and every province in Canda, check out the map provided by Cast & Crew, which you can find by clicking here.

Georgia

Then governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter opened the Georgia Film Office in 1973 following the success of the movie “Deliverance,” which was filmed in the state’s mountainous region. It took more than 30 years, however, for the state to create a tax incentive program aimed at bringing in more filmmakers.

Today, Georgia’s incentive is among the most generous and offers a 20 percent transferable credit, plus an additional 10 percent if the producers agree to embed a Georgia logo and add a link to www.TourGeorgiaFilm.com on its promotional websites.

Nationally, Georgia is likely Louisiana’s biggest competitor when it comes to growing industries outside of California. In recent years, the state has hosted filming for “42,” “Trouble With The Curve,” “Flight” and “Lawless,” plus television shows like “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries.”

California

The home of Hollywood only started offering tax incentives in 2009, and even then the package was pretty slim compared to other states. That changed in August, however, when that state’s legislature more than tripled the size of its program.

The new program offers a pool of $330 million, of which qualified projects can apply to get a piece. The credits will be awarded on the basis of how many jobs a production will support for a value of 20 percent to 25 percent of qualified expenses. (There are some additional specifications as to how many of certain types of projects can receive the credits.)

Many experts agree, however, that even the bigger pot of cash could be too little, too late, and that Hollywood’s difficulty with runaway productions is a horse that’s long since left the stable.

Canada

Our neighbors to the north were the first to create a full-scale tax credit incentive program, which they did in 1997, which producers of “Titanic” immediately jumped on. Today, Canada offers a refundable federal tax credit equal to 16 percent of qualified, residential labor costs. Combined with provincial offers, total credits can range from 37 percent to 70 percent of eligible labor costs and 25 percent to 30 percent of other local expenses. The country also offers an extensive program for post-production work.

Other productions filmed in Canada include “Mean Girls,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Chicago” and even “American Psycho.”

North Carolina and Michigan

As NOLA.com movie writer Mike Scott pointed out, movie producers have no problem admitting that they follow the money. Legislators in both North Carolina — known for productions like “Hunger Games” and the 1990s teen soap opera “Dawson’s Creek” — and Michigan — which benefitted from Canada’s credits by sharing labor — have worked to cut back on the amount of state tax credits being offered in their states. The result has been fairly dramatic.

North Carolina first began its program in 2005, according to Beth Petty, the director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission. More recently, the state capped its program at $10 million in total, according to the Wall Street Journal. It also  capped its per production credits at $5 million, which that publication notes was one-fourth of what it paid for “Iron Man 3″ in 2012.

With North Carolina’s credits so diminished in 2015, Petty said productions are already looking to move elsewhere, among them “Homeland” and the HBO series “Banshee.”

As for Michigan, the tax credit cap was halved, going from $50 million to $25 million last year. The state was hosting dozens of productions annually until 2012, but that has taken a hit since the cap decreased.

Here’s a listing from the Michigan Film Office of what has wrapped there recently.

International

Canada is not the only international player when it comes to movie tax incentives.

The biggest players outside North America is likely the United Kingdom, which offers one of the most aggressive programs with a 25 percent credit for budgets more than £20 million ($32,488,000), and 20 percent credit for projects under that threshold. Films must be intended for theatrical release, but only 10 percent of the project’s total budget need be spent in the U.K. to qualify and there is no cap.

Hungary is also considered a major player with a 30 percent cash rebate for international productions, according to Film New Europe.

(Courtesy of nola.com)