Baton Rouge Film Commission looks to bring back former executive director _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Chairs for the staff of film "Pitch Perfect 2" sit clustered Friday, June 20, 2014 in Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge.

The Baton Rouge Film Commission is looking to appoint its former and first executive director, Amy Mitchell-Smith, back to her old job.

Mitchell-Smith left the Baton Rouge Film Commission a few years ago to become a producer. The Metro Council is expected to vote next week to appoint her as the commission’s executive director for 2016.

The contract for Mitchell-Smith would run through the end of 2016, and she would earn $90,000. As a producer, Mitchell-Smith helped produce or co-produce the 2014 horror film “Smothered,” the 2015 thriller “Zipper,” and the upcoming comedy “Sex Guaranteed.”

The commission’s most recent executive director, Liza Kelso, resigned in May to take a job in the private sector.

The Metro Council appointed Elizabeth Hutchison, the Baton Rouge programs manager at the New Orleans Video Access Center, as Kelso’s interim replacement. Her contract was for $33,000 and finishes at the end of this year.

The Baton Rouge Film Commission had taken credit for helping bring more than 350 productions to the area, and projected that they generated $1 billion in direct spending.

The commission was also heavily involved in lobbying the Louisiana Legislature this spring, and asked them not to cut generous film tax credits.

The state’s tax credits program for films reimburses filmmakers for 30 percent of their local expenses. It previously had no cap, and grew rapidly in the state budget.

Legislation passed in the spring limited the program to $180 million a year over the next three years. The program’s cost to the state has been more than $200 million in recent past years, and was more than $300 million in the last fiscal year.

The cap was projected to save the state $70 million in a small step to close a $1.6 billion state budget shortfall.

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