Why New Orleans Is the New Moviemaking Capital

Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave are two blockbuster films with something in common, and it’s not just their Oscar nods.

Both were shot not on set in a Hollywood studio, but on the streets of New Orleans.

Louisiana has recently earned a new reputation as “Hollywood South.” There are 14 films and TV shows currently in production in New Orleans, far out-pacing Hollywood, and A-listers including Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt and John Goodman all have homes here.

Currently, actors Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick are shooting their new movie Mr. Right in New Orleans.

“I am obsessed with [New Orleans] so far,” Kendrick said. “Just everything about it is — it’s so unique. There’s just absolutely no other place in the country like it.”

Mr. Right director Paco Cabezas couldn’t say enough about shooting the movie there.

“[We] wanted a movie that was full of life so that’s why we came here,” Cabezas said.

Of course, there’s no party like a New Orleans party — the music, the food, the beignets -– but those are not the main reasons movie producers are choosing the Big Easy and the Bayou State over old familiar shooting haunts like Los Angeles and New York.

“We were thinking about Puerto Rico at one point, Columbia, Toronto, Georgia, and the one big reason we ended up coming [to New Orleans] was the tax credit,” said producer Bradley Gallo.

Moviemakers get a 30-percent tax break from the state of Louisiana, compared with the 20-25 percent offered in California and base of 20 percent in Georgia.

“Every dollar they spend in the state to a Louisiana-based company gets 30 percent back from the state of Louisiana,” said the state’s Entertainment Bureau spokeswoman Katherine Williams. “If they hire local crews and vendors that’s an extra 5 percent [looking at 35-percent tax credit] for every dollar spent.”

Those movies included 21 Jump Street, its sequel 22 Jump Street, Django Unchained, and even Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, just to name a few.

For Louisiana, film and TV production here meant $813 million added to the local economy last year, according to Film New Orleans. For local technicians like Earl Woods, it meant a steady paycheck. Like so many in New Orleans, Woods said he was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

“When Katrina came, business was probably down six months before the movies started trickling back in,” Woods said. “I think the movie and film business helped rebuild the city financially a lot.”

And not only does filming in New Orleans provide jobs, it also helps young up-and-comers in the business earn more responsibility faster, like Mara LePere-Schoop. She works as a production designer, a title she said she might have had to wait another 10 years to earn in Hollywood.

“I’ve been very fortunate down here because it’s been so busy, had a lot of access to things I don’t think I would have necessarily had in L.A. or New York,” she said. “In some ways it was kind of a fast-track apprenticeship, where I got to do things that in other places wouldn’t have happened as quickly.”

Beyond the tax credit and job opportunities, many credit Brad Pitt and the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as a major turning point for the city. Benjamin Button was one of the first big movie productions in a post-Katrina New Orleans, and Pitt has become one of many celebrities who have given both their talents and time to rebuilding the Big Easy.

“Brad Pitt really fought to bring Curious Case of Benjamin Button back to New Orleans after the storm,” Williams said. “They had planned on shooting it here and after the storm the studio was leary… I think he knew what it would mean for the city to showcase that it was dry and not under water and open for business.”

(Courtesy of kmbz.com)

FBI investigates Louisiana film maker for tax credit abuse

Louisiana’s lucrative film tax credits have attracted Hollywood film makers to the state for more than a decade. Now the FBI is investigating a Baton Rouge man for trying to illegally cash in on the credits.

George Kostuch, 45, was named by two other men who pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges last year. The FBI said he was part of a plan to inflate production costs to garner excessive tax credits.

Kostuch has not been charged, nor has he had any business in the northwestern part of the state.

Louisiana’s film tax credits are among the oldest in the country—since 2002. However it’s not an easy program to get into.

“It’s the big carrot we dangle,” said Pam Glorioso, Bossier City film liaison. “We love our area. We love our locations, but if we didn’t have those tax credits, we’d have nothing to offer.”

Glorioso said at 30 percent, Louisiana offers the highest tax credit to production companies. That means for every dollar spent here making a movie, TV show or commercial, the company gets 30 cents back. But not every production gets money back from the state.

The project must be shot completely in louisiana, and cost at least $300,000. But the companies must still get approved.

“The application is done online through the state,” Glorioso said. “They have a $5,000 application fee that’s required by the state in order to qualify. So they don’t just cavalierly put in an application, they have to be serious about putting in the application.”

A prepared tax return must also be turned into the state which could take months to complete.

“Having an audit, accounting system that it comes into,” she said. “It’s audited by our accountants in the state of Louisiana. There’s lots of eyes looking at it so abuse would be pretty tough.”

It’s tough but not impossible.

The Louisiana legislature raised the tax credit from 25 to 30 percent in 2010. That year they also made sure the credits would never end without legislative action.

(Courtesy of ktbs.com)

Film on the life of Hank Williams Sr. to be released in 2015

An old two-story white house sits on a highway in Alabama; it looks to be in need of a fresh coat of paint, but the early 1900’s era home has potential.

The signs of autumn pepper the front yard with all the beautiful colors of orange, brown and yellow. The sun radiates through stately trees whispering as the breeze carries their fallen leaves along its path.

“Cut!” the director yells.

People scramble to get ready for the next scene as others wait to find out their next move.

The old two-story white house is the scene for a movie on a legendary country star. Except the house is in Minden, Louisiana, being used in a film about that legendary country star – Hank Williams Sr.

“I Saw the Light” is a biographical film that chronicles his rise to fame and ultimately the tragic effect it had on his health. The film stars Tom Hiddleston as Hank Sr., Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Mae Williams (Hank’s first wife) and Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean (Hank’s second wife). Hank and Audrey had a son, the now famous Hank Williams Jr. He later had a daughter by girlfriend Bobbie Jett.

The film is directed by Marc Abraham.

Born Hiram King Williams, Hank rose to stardom at the tender age of 25 and died when he was 29. He was born in Mount Olive, Ala., in 1923, was small in stature and suffered from spina bifida, a debilitating birth defect in which the spine is literally split. According to the Spina Bifida Association, this split happens while the baby is still in the womb. The spinal column does not completely close.

Biographers indicate he suffered from alcoholism and was allegedly addicted to painkillers following a back injury.
Homeowners David and Ellen Parker, who live at 706 Lewisville Road, the home used in the film, said they are ecstatic about the experience.

“It’s an exciting experience,” David Parker said. “It’s interesting to see the whole process. You don’t realize what goes into it. Our son is in the industry, and now we really understand the relationships and the process.”
Slaid Parker, their son, lives in Shreveport.

Pattie Odom, economic/downtown development director for the City of Minden, said she’d worked with this particular scouting crew before, and they “are great.”

“This production company is very professional and very good at what they do,” she said. “It’s always good, and hopefully they spent some money in Minden. In the end, we’re getting ready to launch our (Northwest Louisiana Film Trail) for tourism. The more people that like Minden, the more we can draw to Minden.”

Lynn Dorsey, executive director of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she is thrilled about portions of the movie being filmed in Webster Parish.

“We are thrilled to have our 26th film shot partially in Webster Parish to add to our Northwest Louisiana Film Trail,” she said. “We hope it will be a hit movie so it will bring more national and international recognition to Webster Parish.”

Several stars have come through Webster Parish including Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher when they filmed “The Guardian,” Sandra Bullock in “Premonition,” Katie Holmes, Denzel Washington, Jack Black and many others.
The Northwest Louisiana Film Trail comprises much of northwest Louisiana from Shreveport/Bossier City to Webster Parish.

(Courtesy of press-hearld.com)

International studio goes local for its next film

Upload Films, a film production and post-production company with numerous film credits to its name, plans on bringing something entirely new to Louisiana as it has several times in the past.

With offices in both Hong Kong and California, and a subsequently expanding global market with massive room for growth, the Baton Rouge sector of Upload Films will be making its own film, entitled “Showing Roots,” in Baton Rouge from Dec. 1-20. The film is expected to be released sometime next year.

“Showing Roots,” though under wraps for the most part as it is still undergoing pre-production, is generating a reasonable amount of hype for a film from a relatively new and smaller studio. This is partly due to the fact that it is the studio’s first true full-production feature film.

Williams couldn’t say much about the specific nature of the film, but said the story hits close to home, and he felt it would be something that would make a lot of people in the area feel the same way.

“It’s a story that right when I saw it, I knew it was something I’d always wanted to make but just couldn’t quite put my finger on it,” said local Upload Films producer Todd Williams.

Almost exclusively known for its work assisting other companies with the use of its post-production facilities on Brookline Avenue, this marks the first time Upload Films will be entirely producing their own feature film, from shooting to sound to promotion and everything in between.

“We’ll be contracting certain services out that we wouldn’t be able to provide otherwise, like professional casting directors and that sort of thing,” Williams said.

Williams, committed to showcasing fresh faces and upcoming talent in the industry, has an extensive background in producing films and has had several appear as full features as well as others still on television. Under his guidance, Upload Films has done production work for films like Quentin Tarantino’s “Man with the Iron Fists” and Oscar-winner Martin McDonagh’s “Seven Psychopaths.”

“‘Showing Roots’ is a big thing for us,” he said. “It’s something we’ve really looked forward to doing for some time.”

In addition to Louisiana’s well-known tax incentives given to filmmakers both local and foreign who choose to shoot in the area, Louisiana has been said by several local filmmakers to have a sort of ethereal quality about it that makes for great storytelling.

“Not only have there been great stories made here in Louisiana, but we feel like there’s still a lot more the state has to offer as well,” Williams said. “It’s a great place to make films and a lot of people are starting to see that.”

Resumes are still being accepted by the company, and they acknowledge the impact local hirings will have on the community and vice versa.

“We know the movie has a good chance to turn out well because there’s just a lot of great, great people in the film industry,” Williams said. “We’re really starting to live up to that ‘Hollywood South’ nickname I guess.”

(Courtesy of lsureveille.com)

Bobby Jindal to appear in movie with ex-’Hercules’ star Kevin Sorbo

Restore America Rally

Gov. Bobby Jindal will be in at least one scene of a movie about human trafficking starring Kevin Sorbo, an actor best know for playing Hercules in the television show of the same name, according to the governor’s office.

In addition to acting, Sorbo is an outspoken Christian and conservative who frequently criticizes President Barack Obama. His anti-human trafficking movie, call “Caged”, is currently being filmed in Baton Rouge. The governor’s staff said they couldn’t disclose much about Jindal’s cameo on screen because of a confidentiality agreement.

Jindal has focused on curbing human trafficking while in elected office. Last spring, the governor introduced anti-human trafficking bills as part of his legislative package. He signed four laws aimed at stopping the human slave trade in Louisiana last June.

Jindal also appeared in an episode of “Duck Dynasty” earlier this year, alongside the Robertson family, who are outspoken Christian television stars. The episode centered around Jindal given the Robertsons at statewide Louisiana business award.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

Letters and words take flight in Louisiana studio’s 2nd Oscar shortlisted animated short film

Children’s author William Joyce saw the restored Fritz Lang silent movie “Metropolis” and wanted to make something like it for kids. That story, “The Numberlys,” has him in the running for his second Oscar in three years.

He mulled the idea over for some time: “I would love to bring that kind of grandeur to a children’s story — but what in hell would it be?”

After all, Lang’s 1927 opus is a tale of capitalist oppression, class conflict and romance: Not what most people would consider picture-book fodder.

Letters brought the idea to life for Joyce, whose Moonbot Studios in Shreveport won the 2012 Oscar for animated short movies with “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” and two daytime Emmys this year for a YouTube video commissioned by Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Over lunch one day, he thought, “What if you only had numbers and didn’t have the alphabet?”

“I do my best work on napkins,” he said Friday in a telephone interview from Shreveport. “I doodled up the designs of the five little numberlys and away we went.”

He turned Lang’s regimented dystopia into a black-and-white world where numberlys — little humanoids identified only by numerals on their chests — march in lockstep to a factory to make giant numbers. Five dissatisfied friends, named 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, deconstruct and reconstruct numbers to make something different.

Their all-capitals alphabet takes color and flight. Letters float from the factory, assembling in midair to create words. The first is “JELLYBEANS.” Jelly beans rain down, bringing color and laughter. People get names and dance with joy.

Joyce and co-director Brandon Oldenburg turned traditional movie formatting on end to fit their art deco skyscrapers and floating letters.

“We had a really hard time getting our compositions into the horizontal format that movies are,” Joyce said.

One day a pen fell out of a storyboard “and the storyboard kind of just turned and went from horizontal to vertical,” Joyce said Friday. “It was like a ‘Eureka!’ moment. … So ‘The Numberlys’ is actually a tall short film.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced semifinalists Tuesday. “The Numberlys” is among 10 contenders for best animated short. Winners will be announced in February.

Like “Lessmore,” the new movie is accompanied by a book and a storytelling app. Both books were created first but showed up in public last.

“Once we’ve finished an app or a short you push a button and it’s out there. Publishing takes about a year to get the publishing lined up and the distribution lined up,” said Joyce, who wrote the book and illustrated it with Christina Ellis.

The vertical illustrations span two pages, requiring readers to turn the book sideways to look at them. Editors at Atheneum Books for Young Readers were concerned, Joyce said, asking, “Will children know how to read this book?”

Apparently they have, Joyce said: The book, published in May at $17.99, is selling well.

The $5.99 app is also selling well, Joyce said.

People who make short films “never expect to make your money back,” he said, but the combination of movie, book and app can change that.

He saw this with “Lessmore.”

“The app went viral, paying for itself and for the short film,” Joyce said. “And the book came out and it’s still selling incredibly well.”

(Courtesy of dailyjournal.net)

FBI widens La. film tax credit probe

Advocate Staff Photo by Heather McClelland Shot 11/21/08 trax#00014780a George Kostuch is one of two producers for the locally filmed movie,
Advocate Staff Photo by Heather McClelland Shot 11/21/08 trax#00014780a George Kostuch is one of two producers for the locally filmed movie, “Anytown.”

The FBI has expanded its investigation of fraud in Louisiana’s film tax credit program, scrutinizing a Baton Rouge producer suspected of playing a role in a scheme to bilk the state by reporting inflated production costs.

The producer, George M. Kostuch, founder of K2 Pictures, appears to have been implicated by two filmmakers who pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges last year and have cooperated with the FBI. Kostuch has not been charged.

In a case that illustrates the ways in which the tax credit program can be gamed, the convicted filmmakers, Matthew Keith and Daniel Garcia, have outlined for the authorities a web of deceit in which accounting records were falsified to make overstated movie expenses appear legitimate when scrutinized by an independent auditor and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

(Courtesy of bayoubuzz.com)

Pontchartrain Film Festival (Nov. 7-9) to highlight local filmmakers, student shorts, showcase Louisiana Film Prize winner

Chris Ganucheau_lfp.jpg
Chris Ganucheau was awarded the Louisiana Film Prize for his short, ‘True Heroes,’ which will be shown at the 2014 Pontchartrain Film Festival. (Jim Noetzel)

The Pontchartrain Film Festival, held Nov. 7-9 on the north shore of New Orleans, will include several features, screenings of short films by south Louisiana filmmakers, and shorts submitted for competition by area students. The festival, in its third year, has announced the short films selected for inclusion in this weekend’s event.

A highlight of the festival is expected to be a screening of “True Heroes,” a short by Chris Ganucheau of Covington. The film recently was awarded the $50,000 Louisiana Film Prize.

Ganucheau, who plans to attend the Slidell screening, also has worked on Hollywood South-shot productions such as “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Astronaut Wives Club.”

The slate also includes Jesse Williamson of Mandeville. His “Seventeen Summers” was among the top 20 short films in competition for the Louisiana Film Prize of 2013.

Also being shown are “Sandwich’d,” by Northshore High School graduate Chris Hewitt, who now works for Dreamworks; and “Mind Games,” by Caterina Picone, which won best drama and best overall in the St. Tammany Parish Student Film Competition of 2013. Picone is also a college intern with the festival and organizer of the student film competition.

The screening of “Story Time,” by Baton Rouge Director Clay Achee, will feature the screen debut of Fred Martinez, president of Slidell Little Theatre, which is hosting the film festival.

The Short Film Showcase will include “Free Man,” by Justin Leyba and “Film Noir,” by Chris Ganucheau and Simone Marthinsen.

College-level shorts in competition include “Repurposing,” by Nicholas Leo; “The Anniversary,” by Jessica Voelker; and “Why I Had to Move Out,” by Michael Pagones.

The festival’s showcase of student-submitted shorts includes high school films “I Want To,” by Zoe Zollinger; “The Goods,” by Brett Beard; “Upstairs Candy Trading Co.,” by Will Nichols; and “Conscription,” by Nick Ramey.

The audience will vote for their favorites in the college and high-school level competitions.

In addition to the shorts, the festival includes longer features. On the topic of oil fracking, “Dear Governor Cuomo” (75 minutes) is by National Geographic filmmaker Jon Bowermaster and directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Alex Gibney.

The second feature of the festival, “Home Front,” (101 minutes), directed by Glen Pitre, is a drama that centers on south Louisiana’s connection to WWII U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico and German POWs who worked the sugar cane fields. It stars Tatum O’Neal, Julian Sands, Tim Curry, Eion Bailey and Lacey Chabert.

“Bayou Maharajah” (90 minutes) is a documentary by Lily Keber about pianist James Booker and “Wings of Wood,” (23 minutes) by Maurice Martinez, will introduce audiences to creole woodcarving.

The festival will take place at Slidell Little Theatre, 2024 Nellie Dr., Slidell. Single event tickets are $5 each. For further information on tickets, movie times, and full festival details, call 985.326.6822 or visit Pontchartrainfilmfestival.com.

(Courtesy of NOLA.com)

Emile Hirsch, Zoe Kravitz to shoot ‘Vincent-N-Roxxy’ in Louisiana, according to report

'Killer Joe': Emile Hirsch
Emile Hirsch shoots a scene for the drama ‘Killer Joe’ at the shuttered Six Flags New Orleans theme park. Hirsch will be returning to Louisiana this December to shoot the crime drama ‘Vincent-N-Roxxy,’ according to The Hollywood Reporter. (Skip Bolen / Lionsgate Home Entertainment) (Skip Bolen)


Add Emile Hirsch and Zoe Kravitz to the growing roster of celebrities preparing to film in Louisiana
this fall. The two actors are set to shoot the crime drama “Vincent-N-Roxxy” in the Bayou State


Written and directed by Gary Michael Schultz, the film will tell the story of two young rebels who fall in love, only to have their violent pasts catch up with them.

” ‘Vincent-N-Roxxy’ is a very personal story for me and, at its core, it is a story about love, family and the unrelenting presence of violence,” Schultz told THR. “I am very inspired by the work of Emile and Zoe and cannot wait to tell this story with these remarkable artists.”

It’s unclear where in the state Schultz’s film will shoot, but if it ends up in the New Orleans area, it will join a crowded late-year production slate. Among films currently shooting or preparing to shoot in the area are:

Paramount’s Will Ferrell comedy “Daddy’s Home” as well as the studio’s secretive thriller “Valencia”; Warner Bros.’ Gerard Butler sci-fi thriller “Geostorm” as well as its George Clooney-produced political comedy “Our Brand is Crisis“; and such independent projects as the biopic “Trumbo,” starring Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and Diane Lane; the drama “Man Down,” starring Kate Mara, Shia LaBeouf and Gary Oldman; the romantic comedy “Mr. Right,” starring Anna Kendrick and Gary Oldman; and the long-gestating horror filmAbbatoir.”

That’s on top of a raft of television projects shooting in the area, as well as ongoing production activity in Shreveport and Baton Rouge.

(Courtesy of Nola.com)

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)