By now, we all know that Louisiana earned the nickname “Hollywood South” by virtue of its meteoric rise as a major filmmaking center in the United States. But it’s also evident that the title is in danger of being lost due to competition from other states and the cost of administering the tax incentive program that supports the industry’s creation and growth at a time when the state is having budget woes. I have a unique perspective on what can be done to right the ship and lock in the title, which I would like to share with the citizens of Louisiana, the governor and the Legislature.
For more than 40 years, I’ve been a director and producer of feature films. Those films, including "Ray," "An Officer and a Gentleman," "La Bamba," and "Everybody’s All-American," have generated five Academy Awards and revenues of more than $750 million. Lesser known is my connection to Louisiana, where I’ve lived on-and-off with my wife, Helen Mirren, for over 35 years. I’ve been a longtime supporter of making Louisiana a major production center for film and television.
When Brandon Tartikoff (President of NBC from 1980-1991) and I first advised Greg O’Brien, then-chancellor of the University of New Orleans, about how to make Louisiana a production center, we suggested a two-pronged approach to building a film industry that is both permanent and self-sustaining.
The first prong was to incentivize major studio and network production with an incentive designed to offset production costs, thereby making Louisiana a less expensive (and very popular) place to shoot. That process would establish and fortify a foundation upon which the industry could be built — a sizable and well-trained crew and vendor base. Check.
But a crew and vendor base is not, in and of itself, an industry — it’s only part of one. To complete the process, you need to promote the headquartering of production companies in Louisiana. Those companies will make permanent investments and hire year-round staff. They will originate their own productions, own copyrights, pay taxes and grow the overall economy. Without them, the crews and vendor base built over the last 14 years will move on to wherever the studios and networks choose to focus. At the moment, Louisiana seems to be experiencing a bit of a meteoric fall, just as Georgia’s star is rising.
Louisiana, you’re on the cusp of realizing the return on your film industry investment. Go the extra step. Shift your attention to your local content creators. Change your tax incentive to encourage local headquartering. Lock in your ownership of a significant piece of the worldwide film and television industry. The time to act is now.
director and producer
Lake Tahoe, Nevada