GONZALES — Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez remembers the time he met film great Bette Davis while she was shooting the 1964 horror flick “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”
Davis played the reclusive and mad Charlotte Hollis, who was tormented by memories of her fiancé’s beheading decades earlier.
Martinez said Davis had stopped by at his brother’s gas station in Burnside near Houmas House Plantation, where the movie was shot. The teenage Martinez was washing cars at the station for his brother.
The now four-term parish president shared the story Monday as he and other members of the Ascension Parish Film Commission met for the first time in his offices following the Parish Council’s creation of the group Feb. 19.
The review of that and other movies in Ascension’s past came up as the commission set its order of business in attracting new movies to the parish.
Martinez said in a later interview that Ascension has locations that moviemakers want to use.
“I think now we’ll have an organization that will go out and promote Ascension Parish within the film industry,” he said.
The commission, an advisory board, already has some work to do and may be looking for funding from the Parish Council in 2016 and likely some changes to the parish’s recently adopted film permit ordinance.
Commission Chairwoman Tracy Browning, director of the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission, said she would like to see a website created where filmmakers could see pictures of potential shooting locations and get telephone numbers, permit and other relevant information.
Browning said she has learned that several film commissions use software known as Reel-Scout to build databases for that information.
Commission member Missy Jandura, executive director of the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District, shared several of her experiences working with filmmakers in the historic west bank city.
She noted filmmakers may have a hard time meeting new advance notice requirements and suggested some of the parish’s newly created location and impact fees could deter future films.
Jandura said she tracked the history of the parish’s new fee schedule and claimed it was originally proposed in a city elsewhere as a means of discouraging new films.
Jandura told the group about two filmmakers who told her the hourly location fees for the Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville and the old parish jail were too much because of uncertainties about the length of shooting times. The fee is $300 per hour.
She said one of them suggested setting the fee at a certain amount for eight hours and then moving the fee to a much higher amount per hour after eight hours to create an incentive for filmmakers to finish shoots more quickly.
Martinez said he is open to the change.
“I’m good with that. Y’all come back with some recommendations,” he said.
Any changes would need council approval.
Other commissioners are Mike Eades, president and chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corporation, and John Cagnolatti, Gonzales Tourist Commission chairman.
The group will meet on the fourth Mondays of the month at 1 p.m. The next meeting is April 27 at the Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.