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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.

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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 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.).

_________

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?

film movie camera lens.jpg
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)

Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Best of Me’ finds the best of Louisiana

A book is a precious, personal thing, not just to Nicholas Sparks but to any author. So the decision to reset Sparks’ romantic weepie “The Best of Me” from North Carolina to Louisiana for the feature-film adaptation — set to arrive in theaters Friday (Oct. 17) – wasn’t taken lightly.

Maybe it’s not a big deal to somebody who lives in Nebraska or Idaho or Nevada. But to a proud North Carolinian like Sparks, whose books always exude a certain Tar Heel State atmosphere, it’s tantamount to rewriting a main character.

The thing is, Sparks isn’t just an author anymore. For the second time in his career, he’s also a producer of one of his films. And so, in addition to ensuring the movie remains true in tone to the original story, he also found himself considering matters of practicality — which is a polite way of saying he had to pay attention to how much money it was going to take to bring his book to the big screen.

And from a bottom-dollar standpoint, it only made sense to shoot his film in the Bayou State, with its generous filmmaking tax credits helping to offset as much as a third of the production cost. As for the change in visual aesthetic required with resetting the film in Louisiana? Happily for Sparks, it was a fairly painless negotiation.

“One of the reasons why we filmed here is it kind of looks like where I live, to be quite frank — eastern North Carolina,” Sparks said last May on the Louisiana set of director Michael Hoffman’s film. “It’s funny, because I’ve been all over the South, and New Orleans looks closer to eastern North Carolina than South Carolina does. South Carolina has more tidal marshes and sawgrass coming up the rivers. But in this place, the waters are the same color, the creeks, the trees are the same kind of trees. The humidity’s the same. It’s actually closer to eastern North Carolina than any other place I’ve been.”

‘The Best of Me’ movie trailer, shot in New Orleans Nicholas Sparks drama scheduled to open Oct. 17, 2014

As he spoke, Sparks was sitting in the shade of some of the mammoth oaks on the grounds of Magnolia Plantation in the Terrebonne Parish town of Schriever, just outside of Thibodaux. Over his head hung great swags of Spanish moss. Not far away, bodies of water like Ouiski Bayou and Bayou Terrebonne stretched past.

Whether Louisiana or North Carolina, it was a very Southern setting — and to hear Sparks’ fellow producer Denise Di Novi tell it, that’s the real point.

“This is my fifth movie with Nicholas Sparks, and what’s really important to him and I is that the movie is in the South,” Di Novi said. “As long as the film is set in the South, we’re OK, because the feeling, the mood, the history, the romance of the South is very integral to his books. I would never switch the location and set it in New England or Southern California. It just would not work.”

Of course, it helped that Di Novi and Sparks had previous experience working together, and previous experience working together in Louisiana. They previously collaborated for the 2012 romance “The Lucky One” — also based on a Sparks novel, and also rewritten to swap Louisiana for North Carolina — throughout the New Orleans area. In fact, for “The Best of Me,” they ended up returning to many of their same rural shooting locations used in “The Lucky One,” such as Covington and Slidell.

Local moviegoers will have to watch closely to spot those local locations, as the film makes efforts to avoid hitting audiences over the head with the films’ Louisiana-ness, but they’re there all the same.

So audiences will get glimpses of Ursuline High School, of Marsolan’s Feed Store in Covington, of Squeal Bar-B-Q on Oak Street. They’ll also get lots of Magnolia Plantation, which serves as the home of one of the film’s main characters, the love-struck Amanda Collier, played as a teen by relative newcomer Liana Liberato and as an adult by Michelle Monaghan.

'The Best of Me': James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan
James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan dig into some crawfish in an image from the Nicholas Sparks-penned drama ‘The Best of Me,’ which was shot in Southern Louisiana (Gemma LaMana / Relativity Media)Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

 

“The Best of Me” also stars Luke Bracey and James Marsden — also playing the same character as a teen and adult, respectively — and tells the story of two former lovers who reunite 20 years after their initial romance was destroyed by circumstance. The question isn’t whether their love survived that 20-year absence. It has. The question is whether their new circumstances will prevent them from finally continuing their lives together.

As important as that Southern scenery is in setting the film’s romantic tone, Sparks said it was really that story and those characters that were of paramount importance to him. As long as those elements remained intact, he said, he wasn’t overly concerned with the fact that there might be more azaleas than palmettos in the frame or that his characters eat Squeal’s self-described “New Orleans-style” barbecue instead of North Carolina-style.

That’s because the underlying story is all about first loves and second chances — two ideas that Sparks says have universal appeal.

“My novels death with character, and really that’s the most important element,” Sparks said. “These are stories that deal with character and the entire range of human emotion, all within the context of a story that could happen anywhere.

“You know, these are novels that are popular around the world because these are the issues that people go through all around the world. It’s not just in America that people fall in love as teenagers. They do this in Brazil or Poland or Russia or anywhere else. And when they’re falling in love, it kind of feels like it can feel here when you fall in love. And the decision that Amanda’s facing here, they could be happening in a city, they could be happening in a different country. Because these are stories really about the authenticity of being human.”

It’s that very sense of universality that has turned Sparks into more than just an author. He is one of those few people who can be fairly described as a genre unto himself. Think names like Woody Allen or Tyler Perry — people who occupy such a specific space in the entertainmentsphere, and who have been doing it so successfully for so long, that their name comes with a meaning all its own.

'The Best of Me''The Best of Me': Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato
Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato star in the Nicholas Sparks-penned drama ‘The Best of Me,’ which was shot in Southern Louisiana (Gemma LaMana / Relativity Media)Mike Scott, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

 

Describe a movie as “a Nicholas Sparks movie,” and people know exactly what’s in store. Granted, that will make some roll their eyes and run, but for every person who wants nothing to do with repeated Valentine’s Day viewings of “The Notebook” or “Message in a Bottle” or “The Lucky One,” there is a legion of others ready to grab their hankies and dive in.

“Well, first, the guy’s a master at what he does,” said Marsden, a Sparks veteran, having played a role in 2004′s “The Notebook,” which is arguably the Sparks-iest of Sparks’ films. “He’s pinpointed and isolated what women want to see — and guys, for that matter, too. I get guys coming up to me on the street telling me ‘The Notebook’ is their favorite movie. He’s an icon.”

For an actor, there’s not only a sense of security in knowing that Sparks’ loyal following will turn out for the film, but there’s something additionally appealing about being part of something larger than “just” a movie, Marsden said.

“It’s great to be a part of something like this, because you’re in a world that people are drawn to, and it’s kind of a stage for you to come in and bring what you bring to it and live in this world a little bit,” Marsden said. “And you know, sometimes when you do a film that doesn’t necessarily have a big following from a specific author, you never know if anybody’s ever going to see it or want to see it. With this, you get the feeling that, all right, this has a built-in audience because of Nicholas — so that’s a good feeling. Like I said, he gets it right. He knows exactly how to do it.”

(Courtesy of nola.com)

Louisiana Film Prize inspiration for cocktails

Can I serve you a cocktail?

During Louisiana Film Prize?

At Abby Singer’s that might be bartender Kelli Sizemore’s Ramos Gin Fizz or bartender Patrick O’Brien’s Charlevoix Hemenway.

Prices? $9 each.

The stories behind them:

Sizemore wanted to come up with something “Louisiana made.”

“The gin fizz is a classic Louisiana cocktail originated in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century,” Sizemore said.

“I understand it was Huey P. Long’s favorite cocktail,” she added.

However, bartenders rarely make the fizzes anymore because they are so time consuming to prepare and because of the ingredients, Sizemore explained.

For instance, she found the orange flower water difficult to find, but finally came up with it at Sunshine Health Food Store. “Any time I have strange ingredients, I can always find it there,” Sizemore said.

She thinks cocktail fans will like the drink, which has a light touch despite its heavy ingredients.

Pair it with? “Maybe fish taco,” Sizemore answered.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 ozs. dry gin

½ Tbsp. egg whites

½ oz. simple syrup

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. lime juice

1 oz. heavy cream

3 drops orange flower water

1 drop vanilla extract (optional)

2 ozs. club soda

 

Not only is O’Brien a bartender, he’s also a filmmaker. His “Scotch on the Rocks” made the Louisiana Film Prize Top 20 and it’s also a finalist in the Atlanta Film Prize, Austin’s South by Southwest and New Orleans Film Prize.

He describes his Charlevoix Hemenway as a spicy drink with bites of apple, cider and caramel.

O’Brien wanted something spicy. “Which will taste like apple cider and caramel.”

None of the ingredients were difficult to find, but you have to know where to look for the Stolis Salted Caramel Vodka.

It’s stashed away with all the flavored vodkas in any liquor store, explained O’Brien.

He thinks his cocktail will be good with dessert, but also teamed with a steak.

Here it is:

Charlevoix Hemenway

5 ozs. Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum

2 ozs. Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 ozs. Stolis Salted Caramel Vodka

2 ozs. cream

1 oz. apple juice

(Courtesy of shreveporttimes.com)

Louisiana Film Prize Festival is around the corner

The New Orleans Film Festival’s 25th Anniversary Coincides With Industry Growth

Although New Orleans has recently been deemed one of the top locations in the world for film production, film has been part of the city’s core long before Hollywood recognized its potential. It all began with the inception of the New Orleans Film Festival in 1989, at a time when it still wasn’t the norm for every city to host its own festival. Twenty-five years later, however, the New Orleans Film Festival is climbing the ranks, getting closer in size and stature to Sundance and Tribeca, while staying true to its original values and mission – to engage the filmmakers and industry.

“We are focused on filmmaking hospitality,” said the film festival’s Executive Director, Jolene Pinder, who joined the festival four years ago, bringing with her a unique perspective from her filmmaking days. “What keeps our identity unique is the way we engage the local industry, showcase New Orleans as a film hub and bring an impressive group of people to the festival.”

Since 2011, the film festival has seen significant growth that has brought in more world premiers, submissions and film delegates from the industry, further legitimizing its credibility. In the past year alone, the submissions have increased considerably as well. In total, 2014 festival film submissions increased by 41% from 2013, bringing in work from 86 different countries – a 37.2% increase in additional countries.

Pinder admits that, while the growth is amazing, it’s almost hard to plan for how much of it they should expect each year. After anticipating a 20% growth this year, they witnessed double that amount in submissions. However, as the amount of competition and diversity continues to increase at the New Orleans Film Festival, its focus still relies on helping filmmakers make personal connections.

“The events leave an impression on those coming in from the outside,” said Pinder, adding that each event still has its expected amount of formalness without being stuffy.

This brings us back to filmmaking hospitality. The New Orleans Film Society, which anchors the annual film festival, gives the participating filmmakers two free nights at a sponsoring hotel in New Orleans, while they attend and present at the film festival. This is a gesture that really helps the filmmakers, and allows the film society to showcase New Orleans as a hospitable and welcoming place for the creatives within the industry.

“This is something we do for all the filmmakers, whether they are presenting a full length film or a two-minute short,” added Pinder. “We treat all the filmmakers like the talented professionals that they are.”

Academy Award-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, second lined with the cast of ’12 Years a Slave’ in New Orleans fashion after the world premier at The New Orleans Film Festival in 2013.

Academy Award-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, second lined with the cast of ’12 Years a Slave’ in New Orleans fashion after the premier at The New Orleans Film Festival in 2013.

The New Orleans Film Festival commemorates its 25th anniversary this year, coinciding with the peak of the film industry’s presence in New Orleans. Louisiana has been named the top destination for film production in the world as New Orleans continues to be transformed for blockbuster films such as Jurassic World and Terminator Five. In addition, the city has been the landscape for Academy Award winning movie 12 Years A Slave, which held its star-studded New Orleans premier last year at the film festival.

This year, the New Orleans Film Festival will open with the U.S. premier of the New Orleans-shot film Black and White, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, which recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. In addition, this year’s film festival will welcome newcomers, such as Marcos Barbery, whose film By Blood has been licensed to be broadcasted on one of the country’s largest public media stations, due to connections that the film society helped curate in preparation for the festival. By Blood chronicles the conflict faced by the freed black slaves from the Cherokee Tribe as they try to regain tribal membership, raising more controversial conversations in racism and sovereignty.

“New Orleans has become an increasingly global city,” said Barbery, who has serendipitously relocated to New Orleans from Brooklyn to work on a film project with the city. “It’s a city that everyone knows, but has taken on this identity where there are more and more artists taking on creative work, and can make a living doing so.”

With growth, come growing pains.  The film festival’s biggest tasks include staying focused on filmmaking hospitality, industry engagement and keeping a high percentage of the festival programming scheduled with films from the open call submission, while popularity, demand and competitiveness continue to get bigger. However, things look promising for the festival with its ideal formula. It’s in a top destination city with a hot film industry surrounded by inspiration, scheduled with red carpet screenings and industry events, and engages all its participants, making the New Orleans Film Festival the top growing film festival.

The New Orleans Film Festival will run October 16th-23rd in New Orleans.

(courtesy of forbes.com)