Louisiana’s film industry tax incentives pros and cons

The film industry is growing but is it costing the state too much?

New Orleans Film Society Executive Director Jolene Pinder (front) says Hollywood South is the No. 1 hub for film production.

 

New Orleans Film Society Executive Director Jolene Pinder (front) says Hollywood South is the No. 1 hub for film production.

This is the first in a two-part series. Part 2 will appear in next week’s Gambit.

At the opening night of the New Orleans Film Festival in October, merriment prevailed inside the Civic Theatre in downtown New Orleans. On hand for the U.S. premiere of the locally-shot Black and White, local actors, producers, technicians and cinephiles celebrated another entry in the annals of “Hollywood South,” the industry built since former Gov. Mike Foster signed the state’s film tax incentive program into law in 2002. As New Orleans Film Society Executive Director Jolene Pinder introduced the film, she noted a statistic borne out by the crews populating city streets, plantation houses and sleepy bayous from here to Shreveport.

Hollywood South is “the No. 1 hub for film production,” Pinder said. The crowd went wild.

In 2012, according to a study prepared for the state-run pro-business group Louisiana Economic Development, film and television production generated more than $1 billion in sales at businesses in Louisiana, along with $718 million in household earnings from 14,000 jobs.

 The film Black and White, shot locally, premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival in October.

  • The film Black and White, shot locally, premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival in October.

As in silver screen fairy tales, however, the rags-to-riches narrative of Hollywood South bears only partial resemblance to a more complicated reality. In order to win the competition for “runaway productions” — the industry term for films and television series fleeing the high costs of Hollywood — Louisiana’s tax incentives have transformed from an inducement into a necessity. To eliminate, reduce or cap the credits would risk a precipitous decline in local production, but offering a permanent tax break of more than 30 percent to one of the world’s most lucrative creative businesses is questionable at a time when Louisiana’s budget crises are forcing deep cuts elsewhere.

Though analysts, public officials and industry figures may disagree as to the budgetary and overall economic consequences of the tax incentives, most agree the continued success of Louisiana film and television production depends on the credits themselves — for better and, perhaps, for worse.

State legislatures across the country are debating the value of similar programs, asking if an industry so heavily subsidized by taxpayer monies can be considered “independent” and “self-supporting” — particularly if tax incentives, which originally were intended to “sunset” once the industry was established, become extended into perpetuity.

In the 1990s, when films and television series such as The Big Easy, JFK, Orleans and Primary Colors set up production locally, observers predicted boom years ahead. In one local news segment, excerpted in a commemorative documentary on “The New LA Filmmakers” produced for the New Orleans Film Festival, those interviewed predicted that the year 2000 would see Louisiana rank with New York and Los Angeles as a production capital.

“[O]ne way or the other, the demand for movies, whatever form they take, will likely still be around,” the correspondent ventured. “And Louisiana has a good chance to be center screen and up close when the call for action rings out.”

By the millennium’s turn, however, these dreams of grandeur proved premature. As Canada’s favorable exchange rate and production incentives drew the industry away from the United States, the amount of direct spending on film and television in New Orleans declined by more than 50 percent between 1996 and 1999. The lesson was clear.

“Hollywood has no loyalty,” says Todd Lewis, a producer on Black and White and a production manager on The Fantastic Four, filmed in Baton Rouge and slated for release next year. “They’re going to go wherever the best deal is.”

“Ten years ago there was really no motion picture production in the state of Louisiana, Now we’re talking about film as a major part of our economic DNA.” Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment

In 2002, then-State Sen. Jay Dardenne (now lieutenant governor) and former State Rep. Bryant Hammett sponsored the legislation that inaugurated the current tax incentive program. In its first iteration, the law provided a sales tax exemption to productions with budgets exceeding $250,000; a 10 to 20 percent tax credit on local wages; and a 10 to 15 percent tax credit to investors. (The lower rates applied to productions with costs between $300,000 and $1 million, while the higher rates applied to productions with costs higher than $1 million.)

“We were looking at ways we thought we could diversify Louisiana’s economy and to bring in new business and develop an opportunity for the creation of new jobs in the state in the creative world,” Dardenne told Gambit. “We’ve far exceeded what we could have imagined back then.”

“When it was first proposed, the state had this vision that we could create a cottage industry in Louisiana where our kids … could go out and start to produce, direct and develop movies and [television] pilots,” says Leonard Alsfeld, president and CEO of FBT Film & Entertainment, a subsidiary of First Trust Corporation that offers “turnkey” services to out-of-state production companies.

The original legislation provided for non-transferable credits, and Hollywood producers without Louisiana state tax liability faced a choice: Persuade Louisiana taxpayers to become investors, or move elsewhere. At least one project, a remake of the 1949 boxing drama The Set-Up, foundered, and Stuart Benjamin, the producer of Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, complained in the spring of 2003 that the incentives were “a tad more than an idle gesture.”

The legislature sprang into action, approving a measure later that year to make the credits transferable, meaning producers could sell their tax credits, which many of them do — essentially converting state funds into cash, rather than paying down taxes. A 2007 revision cleared the state to purchase tax credits directly from investors at 72 percent of face value, and in 2009 the legislature increased the buy-back rate to 85 percent. Taken together, these changes made the credits more liquid, more valuable and more secure, leading to the recent explosion in film and television productions.

In 2003, 15 productions with $79.6 million in Louisiana expenditures were granted $34.1 million in credits; in 2012, 91 productions with $717.2 million in Louisiana expenditures were granted $222.8 million in credits.

“It was a monster change in the direction of the state,” Alsfeld says. “That single decision is the reason why, last year, we had the largest number of $100 million films in the world [shot in the state of Louisiana].”

Though state officials and industry advocates cite infrastructure development, the size and skill of the labor pool, the temperate climate, the state’s varied geography and Louisiana hospitality as elements in the success story, the tax incentives are and always have been the dominant factor in the growth of Hollywood South.

“Ten years ago there was really no motion picture production in the state of Louisiana,” says Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment. “Now we’re talking about film as a major part of our economic DNA.”

“As long as the tax incentives are here, they will always be determinative in bringing new productions to the state,” Lewis says. “The business will always be in L.A. But L.A. will never be cheaper than New Orleans. L.A. will never be cheaper than Atlanta, either.”

The state’s motion picture tax credits once were intended to “sunset” gradually in 2010 and 2012 as Louisiana film and television production came into its own and became self-sustaining. That rollback was quietly revoked in 2009. Policymakers and taxpayers now are in a no-win situation: Extend the lucrative tax incentives indefinitely or watch the industry flee elsewhere.

North Carolina is an example of the latter scenario.

Over three decades, the Tar Heel State became a popular outpost of the film and television industry, due in large part to incentives similar to those in Louisiana. North Carolina developed an extensive film industry infrastructure and a pool of skilled labor. Producer Dino de Laurentiis even built a studio complex in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina in the 1980s, where he shot movies like King Kong Lives and Year of the Dragon.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the state where The Hunger Games and Iron Man 3 were shot is slated to replace its current incentives, of which more than $83 million were claimed in 2012. Taking its place: a temporary $10 million grant program.

Critics of the decision contend that the state’s motion picture industry now faces dire  consequences.

“As soon as the debate came up last year, we started to get phone calls from our clients,” says Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. “Once you become an unattractive place to do business, your clients don’t call you up and say, ‘We were going to come to N.C. until you changed the incentive program.’ They just go somewhere else.”

Guy Gaster, director of FilmNC, the state’s film commission, offers a more sanguine view. The long history of film and television production in North Carolina, the size of the state’s motion picture industry and the depth and maturity of the crew base will continue to draw new projects, Gaster says, though he acknowledges that the complexion of those projects may change.

“Hollywood has no loyalty. They’re going to go wherever the best deal is.” — Todd Lewis, producer of Black and White and a production manager on The Fantastic Four

“It definitely takes us out of consideration for some types of films, like your larger feature films,” Gaster says. “I don’t think we can take a leading role with them, but we can certainly play a supporting role.”

The move to replace North Carolina’s current program, which offers a 25 percent tax rebate for qualified production expenses with a cap of $20 million per project, reflects a renewed emphasis on fiscal discipline by leaders of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The new law limits the state’s total outlay for all productions to $10 million, with no single project to receive more than $5 million, for the first six months of 2015 — at which point elected officials are expected to debate longer-term proposals regarding what inducements, if any, the state will offer the motion picture industry going forward.

“Worst case scenario, we end up with a severely reduced program, or an eliminated program, and the industry can’t survive,” Griffin says of the forthcoming legislative session. “Plain and simple.”

The scrutiny directed at the North Carolina policy, passed as a 15 percent rebate in 2005 and raised to 25 percent in 2010 in order to compete with incentive programs in Louisiana and Georgia, follows the reduction or elimination of similar initiatives in Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin, among other states. In contrast, California recently passed a measure to increase funding for its motion picture tax credits from $100 million to $330 million over the next five years in an effort to stanch the loss of film and television production. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 states and Puerto Rico currently offer such incentives.

In Louisiana, where the motion picture tax incentives are likely to be the subject of debate during fiscal legislative sessions in 2015 and 2017, officials continue to monitor developments elsewhere, according to State Sen. J.P. Morrell.

“We’re all closely watching the implosion in North Carolina,” he says. “The entire film industry abandoned North Carolina overnight. North Carolina is a graveyard.”

Asked if California’s new law is evidence that even the most highly developed motion picture infrastructure is no guarantee of an industry presence without a competitive incentive program, Morrell claims that it’s too early to tell. He cites California’s “oppressive” tax structure and “convoluted” process for obtaining credits as reasons for production to remain in Louisiana.

“I will be more worried if lots of films and [television] shows that are scheduled here, if they all flee back to California, that will be a key red flag for the legislature,” he says. “Since California has passed that incentive program, we have seen no movement in our schedule of film productions.”

click to enlarge Dawn of the Planet of the Apes filming shut down streets in the CBD for weeks in spring 2013.

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes filming shut down streets in the CBD for weeks in spring 2013.

Ever since Canadian cities lured film and television productions away from Hollywood in the 1990s, there’s been competition to bring “runaway productions” to other cities and states. Despite the cachet and jobs of Hollywood coming to town, the primary beneficiary of the interstate competition for productions is, of course, the motion picture industry itself. In 2002, five states offered a cumulative $1 million in tax incentives for film and television; by 2010, 40 states offered nearly $1.4 billion.

Warning that business will dry up should states decide to end or limit such policies is common, and even the mention of changes is enough to rattle producers, according to Alsfeld.

“It hurts the industry and stops progress while the debate occurs, and that’s unfortunate,” he says. “They play into the hands of competitive states who love to see us flog our business. … The minute you use that word, ‘cut,’ ‘limit,’ ‘cap,’ they go where there’s a better incentive.”

“We’re all closely watching the implosion in North Carolina. The entire film industry abandoned North Carolina overnight. North Carolina is a graveyard.” — State Sen. J.P. Morrell

Since Louisiana adopted its current tax incentive program in 2002, each new round of proposed changes has been accompanied by similar words of caution from industry advocates — and each time, the revised law has emerged more, not less, lucrative for Hollywood.

In 2005, when former State Rep. Hammett proposed an annual $40 million cap on the total tax credits awarded, Malcolm Petal, chief executive of Louisiana Institute of Film Technology [LIFT] Productions, warned, “Any fundamental change will put us back at the beginning with all the other states that are starting a program like this, and we will have lost a significant advantage.” The revisions signed into law later that year ended up increasing the transferable investor tax credit to 25 percent on qualified spending, with no overall cap. (In 2007, an FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigation linked LIFT to a scandal involving former State Film Commissioner Mark Smith, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges; in 2009, Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison.)

As the gradual “sunset” of the incentives approached (the credit was slated to decline to 20 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2012), a number of states inaugurated or expanded competing programs, “We were in Michigan and Georgia’s taillights,” Baton Rouge-based producer George Kostuch said,

In July 2009, the investor tax credit increased to 30 percent — and was made permanent. Louisiana’s Hollywood South rolled on.

Even a rather modest change laid out in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 2013 tax plan, which called for a $1 million cap on the amount of each actor’s salary that productions could claim as a qualifying expenditure, led to further predictions of doom and gloom for Louisiana film production.

“If such a cap is instituted in Louisiana, it will likely result in the bankruptcy of all the major studio facilities in the state and the loss of more than 10,000 jobs,” Will French, president of the Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association [LFEA], wrote to LFEA members at the time, according to a report in The Times-Picayune. The proposed cap failed to materialize.

“The folks who created this program for the state, who are no longer working for the state, always intended this to be a path to a sustainable industry,” says Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a fiscal watchdog group. “But if you listen to the industry themselves, they’ll say, ‘If you do anything to mess with these credits, we’ll go someplace else.’ An industry that can grow up in a state in the course of a decade can leave just as quickly.”

Supporters of Hollywood South tax incentives say these changes have bolstered a nascent industry that promises to define Louisiana’s economy for years to come.

“It has been consistently strengthened over the years, and it has paralleled the growth of the industry,” says Carroll Morton, manager of Entertainment Industry Development in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Office of Cultural Economy. “You can’t say that the two are not intertwined, because they are.”

Morrell cites Canada’s video game production industry as a model for Hollywood South. That industry required two decades of analogous credits to create the infrastructure and skilled labor force necessary to succeed with reduced incentives. It would be “disastrous,” Morrell says, to rein in Louisiana’s motion picture tax credits before reaching that point.

But no amount of infrastructure, experience, training, interest or glamour is enough to keep film and television production tied down; the bottom line is all.

Southern California had been the industry’s home for about 80 years, when Canada and then several U.S. states, including Louisiana, lured enough business to emerge as serious competitors. Despite a 30-year track record of successful projects, sources say North Carolina is poised to lose several productions to other states next year as the debate over its incentive package continues.

Even Louisiana is not immune. In 2013, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Georgia surpassed Lou-isiana in total certified production expenditures, $979 million to $800 million.

Indeed, as state legislators in Baton Rouge and across the country debate the merits of motion picture tax incentives in the face of substantial budget shortfalls, the political pressure to revise such programs continues to mount. Implementing cost-saving measures now, including overall or per-project caps on the credits and withholding tax on “above-the-line” salaries for directors and stars, reduces the risk of more drastic and damaging changes to Louisiana’s incentive program in the future, according to Sherri McConnell, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment from 2007 to 2011 and principal of entertainment business consulting firm McConnell & Associates.

“The scare tactic that industry completely dries up with any tweak in the program isn’t necessarily true if we do it smartly,” McConnell says. “We cannot continue down this path in the same manner that we are. There is no question that the economic impact is diminishing every year. … The businesses that have either expanded or developed to support Hollywood production will rely on those tax credits and government subsidies in perpetuity if it stays the way it is, and that’s just not a good economic development strategy.”

(Courtesy of bestofneworleans.com)

Exclusive: Sony Emails Reveal Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt’s Plans For ‘Ghostbusters’ Film

Leaked emails from Sony reveal Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt’s ultimate plan to team up for a “Ghostbusters” spin-off film, with Tatum comparing it to “Batman Begins.”
 

The widespread proliferation of Sony’s internal documents, which were disseminated online by a hacking group dubbed “Guardians of Peace” have, despite Aaron Sorkin’s protestations, revealed plenty of eye-opening items, including a staggering gender pay gap within the upper echelons of Hollywood.

There have also been plenty of fascinating revelations concerning the studio’s planned all-women Ghostbusters franchise. Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and scheduled for release in 2016, it reportedly “isn’t a sequel to the 80s movies and it is gonna be totally original with completely different characters,” according to an email sent in October from Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, to Ivan Reitman, producer/director of the original Ghostbusters films. Pascal further alleges via email that Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, and Lizzy Caplan have all expressed interest in the project, and that Ryan Gosling has inquired about the film’s male role.

“So… in a curious turn of events – the Russos and Channing want to develop Ghostbusters as a vehicle for Channing and Chris Pratt to do together,” wrote Minghella.

Now, emails uncovered by The Daily Beast have revealed that Sony and one of the studio’s biggest stars, Channing Tatum, are planning a Ghostbusters spin-off film starring pals Tatum and Chris Pratt. The two appeared in the 2012 movie 10 Years together, which was produced by Tatum as a starring vehicle for his wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and Tatum has a longstanding relationship with the studio, with the 21 Jump Street franchise and the recent Foxcatcher, the latter for indie shingle Sony Pictures Classics. Pratt, of course, just exploded with Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming lead in Jurassic World.

An email from Tatum to Pascal concerning Ghostbusters dated August 21 says, “Let us show the world The DarkSide and let us fight it with all the glory and epicness of a HUGE BATMAN BEGINS MOVIE. I know we can make this a huge franchise. Fun adventure craziness. COME OONNNN!!!”

The following day, an email from Hannah Minghella, co-president of production for Columbia Pictures, to Pascal and a team of Sony execs outlines Tatum’s plan: to star in a Ghostbusters spin-off film with Chris Pratt produced by the Russo brothers, who helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

“So… in a curious turn of events – the Russos and Channing want to develop Ghostbusters as a vehicle for Channing and Chris Pratt to do together,” wrote Minghella. “The Russos, Channing and Reid have been brainstorming ideas and want to create a whole new mythology that would support multiple movies (the way that Nolan reinvented Batman). To be clear – the Russos want to produce (not direct) and while Channing and Chris are looking for a movie to do together they haven’t mentioned this to him yet because they weren’t sure how we’d react.”

Minghella adds, “They want to make it simultaneously super scary while also super funny. They love the idea that they are mortal heroes who are believers in the paranormal and the only people who can defend mankind from a paranormal threat. I know we’re mid negotiations with Paul [Feig]. I’m not sure whether we’d ever develop two different versions simultaneously. Joe Russo is open to the idea that both movies could be developed in partnership so they compliment one another within the same Ghostbusters universe. Apparently the Russos are very close to Paul and Joe suggested Paul could be attached to direct both. Personally I think it’s possible for the female version to co-exist with this other version so maybe they’re not mutually exclusive.”

The Sony execs all reply with extreme interest in the project, with Pascal simply writing, “fuckkk.”

(Courtesy of thedailybeast.com)

‘Birdman’ top Golden Globe nominee

“Birdman” is soaring. “Boyhood” keeps growing. “Selma” is on the march. And “Unbroken” is … missing in action.

In nominations for the 72nd annual Golden Globes announced Thursday in Beverly Hills, California, the season’s Oscar favorites largely stayed on course, with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman” spreading its wings the widest. The comedy, starring Michael Keaton as a has-been Hollywood star trying to mount a serious play on Broadway, led all films with seven nominations, including best picture (comedy or musical), best actor for Keaton and nods for supporting players Edward Norton and Emma Stone.

“Although at times it felt we were flying without a net in this crazy film experiment, this has brought enormous joy to me,” said Inarritu, who stitched together the backstage drama with lengthy, graceful shots.

There were quirks, as there often is with the Hollywood Foreign Press, a collection of about 85 mostly freelance journalists.

For her leading turn in “Annie,” 11-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, of Houma, surprisingly landed amid a best actress (comedy or musical) group that includes Julianne Moore (“Maps to the Stars”), Helen Mirren (“The Hundred-Foot Journey”), Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”) and Emily Blunt (“Into the Woods”).

Wallis previously received an Oscar nomination for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Among the TV categories, two series shot in New Orleans, “True Detective” and “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” received multiple nominations.

“True Detective” is nominated for best TV movie or mini-series. The series’ stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, are each nominated for best actor. “True Detective” co-star Michelle Monaghan received a best supporting actress nomination.

“American Horror Story: Freak Show” lead Jessica Lange received a nomination for best actress in a mini-series or TV movie. Her co-star, Kathy Bates, is nominated for best supporting actress.

Also in the film category, Richard Linklater’s epic coming-of-age drama “Boyhood,” critical darling and perceived Academy Awards front-runner, landed five nominations including best picture (drama), The World War II code breaker drama “The Imitation Game” also received five nods.

Though the Globes don’t have much relevance to the Academy Awards, some fortunes did shift.

Jennifer Aniston, fresh off a nomination by the Screen Actors Guild for “Cake,” seemed to clearly join the best-actress fray with a nod from the Globes, too. Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” also honored by SAG, picked up a surprising four nominations, including best picture (comedy or musical) and best actor for Ralph Fiennes. And Angelina Jolie, long a favorite of the Hollywood Foreign Press with seven previous nods, saw her highly touted WWII prestige drama “Unbroken” shut out entirely.

“Selma,” the story of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march, netted a strong four nods including best picture (drama) despite losing out in Wednesday’s SAGs. The “Selma” team, which also earned a best-actor nomination for David Oyelowo, watched the nominations together while promoting the film Thursday at a Toronto hotel.

Director Ava Duvernay, who became the first black woman nominated for best director by the Globes, has previously attended the awards as a publicist for films like “Dreamgirls.”

“This year I’ll be at the party with a seat in an actual chair instead of standing on the side,” Duvernay said. “It’s going to be thrilling.”

Thus far, “Boyhood,” which Linklater filmed intermittently over 12 years to capture the passage of time, has cleaned up with critics and been thrust to the fore by its remarkable time-lapse production. It was nominated for Linklater’s direction and script, as well as the supporting performances of Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

“Audiences embrace this movie when it’s broken all of these rules,” said Arquette. “I’m hoping that it will give studios a little more bravery to support projects that are different.”

Moore, now a three-time nominee, is considered the favorite for best actress thanks to her performance as a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.” Along with her and Aniston are Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”), Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) and Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”)

Jones’ “Theory” co-star, Eddie Redmayne, who stars as Stephen Hawking, was also nominated for best actor. Joining Redmayne and Oyelowo are Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”).

“I’ve been a bit frantic,” Redmayne said on the phone from London. “I’m trying to finish all my Christmas shopping in a day, and now I got this phone call. I’m about to have a few mulled wines to celebrate.”

The World War II code breaker drama “The Imitation Game,” starring Cumberbatch as mathematician Alan Turing, also went over well with the HFPA. The Weinstein Co. release won nods for best picture (drama), Keira Knightley for best supporting actress, Graham Moore for best screenplay and Alexandre Desplat for best score.

The tragic wresting drama “Foxcatcher,” which also won Mark Ruffalo a supporting actor nod, rounded out the best drama field.

In the best picture, comedy or musical, category, “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” were joined by “St. Vincent,” “Into the Woods” and — in a surprise — the independent British film “Pride.”

On the outside was Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” starring a beefed-up Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. It went unnoticed, as did Mike Leigh’s J.M.W. Turner biopic “Mr. Turner.” Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic “Interstellar” landed only a nomination for Hans Zimmer’s score.

Fiennes and Keaton were joined in the best actor, comedy or musical, category, by Bill Murray (“St. Vincent”) and a few less-expected choices — Joaquin Phoenix for “Inherent Vice” and Christoph Waltz for “Big Eyes.”

The Globes, though known for sometimes idiosyncratic choices like “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” or “The Tourist” in years past, secured the attendance of one star — George Clooney — ahead of Thursday’s nominations by selecting the actor-director for its honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Meryl Streep added her 26th nomination (eight wins) with a best supporting actress nod for the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods.” She joins Stone, Arquette, Knightley and Jessica Chastain for “A Most Violent Year.”

“I have no words,” said Stone, noting that she was honored to be a part of “the beautiful madness that is ‘Birdman.’ ” “Now can someone please explain who this ‘Meryl Streep’ woman is?!”

In supporting actor, J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Robert Duvall (“The Judge”) rounded out the field of Hawke, Norton and Ruffalo.

In the TV categories, “Fargo” led with five nominations, including best TV miniseries or movie. HBO dominated with 15 nominations, while upstarts Netflix (seven nods) and Amazon (two) also made inroads.

The best drama series nominations went to “The Affair,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Good Wife” and “House of Cards.” The nominees for best TV comedy series are: “Girls,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Silicon Valley” and “Transparent.”

For the third time in a row, the Globes telecast will be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The show will air live from the Beverly Hills Hotel in California on Sunday, Jan. 11. Last year’s awards drew 20.9 million viewers, marking it the most-watched Globes since 2004.

Last year, the Globes chose the eventual Academy Awards best-picture winner, “12 Years a Slave,” as its best drama. Best comedy or musical went to “American Hustle.”

(Courtesy of theadvocate.com)

Legislators to examine how to make sure Louisiana gets its fair share of taxes from film industry

J.P. Morrell
State Sen. J.P. Morrell and an entertainment industry commission is studying ways to make sure Louisiana is getting its share of taxes from the film industry.

The Entertainment Industry Development Advisory Commission discussed ways to make sure Louisiana is getting its fair share of taxes paid by those who work in the state’s film industry during a meeting at the Capitol on Monday.

The commission heard a presentation by Rebecca Harshberger, a vice president at entertainment payroll firm Entertainment Partners, gave a presentation on the legalities concerning loan out companies, which many production companies use to pay workers in the film industry.

Legislators are concerned Louisiana might not be getting all of taxes it’s owed, or that the state is getting it years down the road, because of how the companies work. The loan out companies pay production corporations that then pay the actors, producers, directors, etc.

The committee members want to get a better handle on who is paying the state (and how much) by taking what the state is owed on the front end, rather than waiting to be paid.

“I think there were a lot of mistaken assumptions by a lot of us who aren’t CPAs or tax lawyers that there was some front end withholding, and apparently there isn’t,” said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. “The fact that we get something around the 6 percent (tax rate) over potentially a three, four, five, 10, 15 year period, I think that’s eye opening and some what disappointing even though I think that we probably get our appropriate portion at some point.

“In a state with such dire financial straights, finding out that we may get our portion back eventually, I think that’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Some in state government are beginning to more closely scrutinize the Louisiana film industry, particularly its tax credits. The Legislative Fiscal Office has reported the state gave away $256 million last year in film tax credits, a growth of $100 million over the previous year. The state is also facing midyear budget cuts and a $1.2 billion deficit for next year’s budget.

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said clearing up some of the payroll tax questions would make sure those involved in the process are being compliant with the law.

“It’s not a feel-good measure. This is capturing income that belongs to Louisiana, tax revenue that belongs to Louisiana,” Stokes said. “I think it’s important that we do it in the cleanest way possible, and we make it as transparent as possible.”

The problem with solving the issues seems to be time. Morrell, who chairs the commission, said they’re not on pace to present any legislation this session. He is forming two subcommittees to examine the payroll questions and the tax credits. The general consensus on the payroll issues seems to be taking the money on the front end of any transactions.

“We’re going to get our money. Granted, we may not be able to hold onto all of it once everybody files whatever it is they’re supposed to file, but the fact that we have the money certainly incentivizes the individuals and their loan out corporations to file whatever it is we require them to file,” said Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette.

(Courtesy of nola.com)

Louisiana spent more on tax credits for ‘Green Lantern’ than it did on the University of New Orleans


In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Ryan Reynolds is shown in a scene from “Green Lantern.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The amount of money Louisiana offers in tax incentives for film and television is more than six times as large as it was a decade ago, according to Louisiana Department of Economic Development data.

In 2013, $251 million was spent on incentives, compared with $40 million in 2003. Incentives have increased for three consecutive years, and the state has been a shooting location for films like “Green Lantern,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Twilight,” and television shows like “American Horror Story” and “Salem.” According to the Advocate, Louisiana spent more on incentives for “Green Lantern” than it’s spending at the University of New Orleans this year.

“The only way the movie tax credit program works is you have to keep paying them that incentive every year,” Travis Scott, president of Public Affairs Research Council, told the Advocate. “I think one of the movie promoters gave the best argument against this program when he said, ‘If you change or eliminate this program, we’ll all go to Georgia tomorrow.’ That, to me, speaks volumes.”

In 2013, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) proposed tax plan was criticized by film industry leaders who said it would “cripple” the industry. Jindal eventually did not push for the cuts.

But a handful of states have begun reconsidering their film incentive programs, including North Carolina, where the state legislature allowed their program to expire. In Maryland, a state study recommended the legislature allow their incentive program to expire, while Nevada lowered the amount it offers annually.

(Courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

4 comments Does Michigan’s film incentive program compete with industry leader Louisiana’s? View breakdown

Michigan’s incentives for film production in the state could change next year if Gov. Rick Snyder decides to approve or alter a bill passed through the Senate and House and sign it into law this month.

Any changes in film incentives could determine whether or not Michigan will get big name films because the state is in direct competition with others for the work.

A bill passed through the Michigan’s House and Senate — if signed into law by Snyder — would cap the state’s contribution to a film’s productions and personnel expenditures at 25 percent.

The House, with a 73-37 vote, moved forward with its bill to extend the state’s film incentive program beyond 2017. But it differs from a Senate version, passed in November, which would extend film credits without a 7-year sunset provision approved in the House version.

Louisiana’s film incentive program, with a tax credit of up to 35 percent, is considered the industry’s leader. Film work in the New Orleans metro area reportedly outpaced work in Los Angeles, New York and all other states in 2013.

View at the end of this post a breakdown of how Michigan’s film incentive program stacks Louisiana’s. The details may surprise you.

A report released in March by the non-profit Film L.A. — the city of Los Angeles’ film office — shows the Louisiana film industry in 2013 overtook that of California for the title of the film-production capital of the world.

Louisiana’s film industry, according to the report overtook California last year for the title of film-production capital of the world.

The report says Louisiana accounted for 18 of the 108 major-studio productions released into theaters in 2013.

Among the movies shot substantially in Louisiana: “12 Years a Slave” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “The Butler” and “Now You See Me.”

California and Canada tied for second place for film production in 20143, based on the study. Each accounted for 15 films.

Michigan accounted for just one major-studio production film, “Oz The Great and Powerful,” with a reported budget value of $200 million. The study says 53 percent, or $105 million, was spent in Michigan.

Film incentives in MIchigan have helped lure other high profile films to Detroit in recent years including “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Transformers 4: Age of Extinction.”

“Batman v Superman,” starring Ben Affleck (Batman) and Henry Cavill (Superman) is directed by Zack Snyder and is expected to spend up to $131 million in Michigan.

Most of the work was done over a six-month span that ended in October. Snyder’s film is slated for a March 26, 2016 release.

“Transformers 4,” directed by Michael Bay, was released this year. It was awarded by the Michigan Film Office an incentive of $20 million on $81,933,992 of projected in-state expenditures.

Michigan’s 2014 film incentive program vs. Louisiana’s

Michigan

- Provides motion picture productions a 27 percent credit on total in-state expenditures and an extra 3 percent for expenditures at a qualified facility or post production facility.

- Incentives tied to a $2 million qualifying salary cap per employee per production.

- Caps: Payments for Michigan producers shall not exceed 10% of expenditures, 5% for non-MI producers

Louisiana

- Provides motion picture productions a 30 percent transferable tax credit on total in-state expenditures (up to 35 percent transferable tax credit overall), including resident and non-resident labor, with no cap and a minimum spending requirement of $300,000.

- Offers an additional 5 percent payroll tax credit for productions using in-state labor.

- No cap.

(Courtesy of mlive.com)

‘Pitch’ trailer features several BR spots

Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Crews work to film 'Pitch Perfect 2' in June at BREC's Highland Road Community Park in Baton Rouge.
Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND — Crews work to film ‘Pitch Perfect 2′ in June at BREC’s Highland Road Community Park in Baton Rouge.

Those are just a few of the local sites which pop up on the just-released trailer for the feature film “Pitch Pefect 2.”

The film was shot over the summer in Baton Rouge and is a sequel to 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” also shot in the city, mostly on the LSU campus.

According to the movie database IMDb, the new musical comedy follows characters Fat Amy and Beca through their senior year at Barden University.

The movie’s returning stars include Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow. “Pitch Perfect 2” marks the directorial debut for actress/executive producer Elizabeth Banks. The movie also stars Skylar Astin, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Katey Segal, Adam Devine and Banks.

The film opens in theaters May 15, 2015.

To view the trailer, go to http://youtu.be/KBwOYQd21TY.

(Courtesy of theadvocate.com)

Descendant of Huey Long assassin creates film

Huey P Long Photo by By Uncredited news photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Every family has its secrets. For some, it means the rocky ending to a longtime marriage or the revelation of once-unknown step-siblings. With other families, these secrets can help unravel some of history’s most famous obscurities.

Yvonne Boudreaux, a filmmaker and University alumna, has worked on many well-known projects, including the NBC series “Revolution” and the films “Machete” and “Paranorman.” For the last five years, Boudreaux has been working on “61 Bullets,” which explores the 1935 assassination of former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long.

The alleged assassin, the late Carl Weiss, is long remembered for his seemingly unassuming character, living in Louisiana as a successful doctor with a new family. Now, Boudreaux has taken the notorious killing into her own hands. This telling of the story is significantly important to Boudreaux, considering she is Weiss’ great-niece.

As the producer of “61 Bullets,” Boudreaux worked alongside her longtime film partner David Modigliani to find any and all facts in this checkered story. The inspiration for the film came during Boudreaux’s time in grade school, where she first learned about her ancestor who had long been hidden from conversation.

“In eighth grade Louisiana history, I found out that my great uncle supposedly shot Huey P. Long,” Boudreaux said.

Though the story of Long’s killing has been told and retold through film and television, “61 Bullets” addresses the life of both Weiss and Long by interviewing descendants from the men’s families. Boudreaux’s personal connection with the assassination allowed her to delve deep into a topic that was never spoken of among her family members

until now.

“There are these stories that exist that no one has heard yet,” Boudreaux said. “I wanted this collection of stories to be told collectively. I had access to my family … and we reached out to the Long family and were able to get some real good stories.”

Along with the accounts of her and Long’s family, Boudreaux consulted forensic experts and police officials who reopened the case in the 1990s. These resources came together well for Boudreaux, who found even further investigative means through the word-of-mouth channels of local citizens who have discussed the assassination for decades.

“Especially in Louisiana, you say, ‘Oh, my uncle knows somebody,’ or ‘My aunt knows somebody,’” Boudreaux said. “We just bounced around recommendations of someone the interviewee would tell us. That’s what we did for five years … interviewing anyone and everyone who had some kind of expertise on this event.”

Despite the 70 years of animosity that could have grown between the Long and Weiss families, the film’s focus on Weiss rather than the assassination itself eased any tension that could rise from the sensitive subject.

Boudreaux’s approach as a filmmaker instead of a relative made the interview process smoother and less pejorative. The filmmakers wanted to take any perceived judgment out of the process and maintain a search for facts about the people involved in the assassination.

Boudreaux cited a particular difficulty in obtaining subjects due to the event’s age. Since the assassination occurred nearly 70 years ago, many witnesses and ancestors have since died.

“It’s not heavy-handed,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a collection of stories. It’s not about who did it. It’s about the aftermath and the effect that this had on people.  It was very hard to make this documentary because most people that were alive when this happened are no longer with us. A lot of the evidence has been buried or is washed away.”

So far, “61 Bullets” has been screened in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans with apparent differences in reaction. With the assassination being common knowledge and often taught in history courses, Louisiana audiences received the film’s information with surprise to both the in-depth research and what Boudreaux and her partners uncovered.

For attendants in Texas, “61 Bullets” comes across as an emotional account from family members, including Carl Weiss, Jr., and the reverberation that the assassination caused throughout Louisiana.

“In Texas, the whole other response was more of a human, personal response because they’re meeting the son of an alleged assassin,” Boudreaux said. “For them, they thought that was really intense and fascinating. It’s so interesting to see this very different connection.”

“61 Bullets” is scheduled to play Sunday, Nov. 30, at the Shaw Center at 2 p.m. From there, Boudreaux hopes to have the documentary accepted by

Independent Lens from PBS.

(Courtesy of lsureveille.com)

ABC’s Nightline labels New Orleans new movie-making capital

In case ya missed it, New Orleans’ booming film industry took center stage on Wednesday’s Nightline.

The story was called why New Orleans is the “new” movie-making capital.

While the nation hears about success, the state wants economic data to see if all the productions are worth the tax breaks.

The Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association is spearheading a costly economic impact study hoping the data will prove to state leaders that film tax incentives are worth protecting.

Much of the $150,000 is already raised.

But more is needed to fund the study to protect tax credits that would “keep” New Orleans the movie-making capital.

The L.F.E.A still needs to raise money on kickstarter to move forward with the study.

(Courtesy of wgno.com)

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)