Politics, Economy, & Hollywood South

Louisiana has housed and produced films since the early 1900s. Since then, it’s become the 3rd most popular production state (behind California and New York).

Tax Incentives Programs

There’s no doubt that the 2002 tax incentives created ‘Hollywood South.’ The incentives exist to develop and maintain an economic value to New Orleans. And it’s worked.

In fact, the tax incentives allowed New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) to provide job training seminars and workshops to locals. Last October, they held a FREE two-day workshop for interested applicants to learn the basic knowledge and skills for entry-level production work. That workshop, without city aid, normally costs students $200+ out of their own pockets.

Political Uproar

Governor Bobby Jindal unveiled a new tax plan last week that has stirred an epic uproar among filmmakers and local crew. Additionally, it sparked debates from non-film locals who remain hesitant about bringing Hollywood to NOLA. Debates focus on whether or not the new tax plan is viable for Louisiana’s economic revenue.

Like many of my peers, I moved here because of the industry and the lower cost of living.

The tax plan is said to be an effort to keep revenue for the state of Louisiana. It’ll do so by capping the amount of money paid to above-the-line filmmaking professionals.

Understandably, the governor wants to ensure that money generated by Louisiana remains in Louisiana. But incentives were put in place to boost the economy and provide jobs for local film crews. In order to qualify, productions in Louisiana must hire a certain amount of locals, and spend their budgets on local resources. That’s why a number of production-centric studios were, and continue to be created here.

Success For Hollywood South

In a news article published by NBC’s local network back in January, the industry was cited as having a record-breaking year for 2012. Mayor Landrieu was quoted:

“The film industry in New Orleans has become a major economic engine that puts hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, creating jobs and supporting local businesses.”

How did an article with that kind of sentiment precede a massive tax debate two months later?

Yes, those above-the-line filmmakers may take their paycheques elsewhere at the end of a production. However, for the duration of filming, every member of the cast and crew (resident or not) adds to local revenue. Out-of-towners must stay at local hotels. They must purchase food from local venues or caterers. Rent cars. Buy fuel. Go out drinking to celebrate the end of a long, hard day.

Why Local Filmmakers Should Care

The point of filmmaker outrage is that this proposal affects more than above-the-liners. It trickles down the production tree, ending with the locals. The same locals who earned our spots in the industry because of the creation of the tax incentives.

One major issue I have with the proposal (besides the obvious), is that the Lousiana Film and Entertainment Association (LFEA) offered up a compromise that would allow more control over saving Louisiana money without causing such a profound negative effect on the industry. Nothing from the compromise has been illustrated in the tax plan.

As of yet.

Jindal says he expects changes to be made to the proposal before it goes into effect. That hasn’t stopped protesters from voicing their concerns.

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