Producers met with Lafayette first responders Tuesday in preparation for a reality television show that reportedly will be a reboot of "Rescue 911" featuring Canadian actor William Shatner.
Lafayette is one of several cities being considered for the new reality TV series, according to Kate Durio, who leads the Lafayette City-Parish CREATE initiative that oversees filming projects in the area.
"They're sort of scouting," Durio said. "They're looking at multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana."
Baton Rouge is the only other Louisiana city being scouted, according to Durio.
A spokesperson with USA Network, which is reportedly behind the new series, said the project is in early development and but could not comment further.
Variety reported in October 2018 that a "Rescue 911" reboot was in the works with Shatner again serving as host of the series. The show will be a weekly, two-hour format that offers a live look at first responders as they take emergency calls, the entertainment publication reported.
Producers with the show captured footage with Lafayette 911 operators, police and firefighters Tuesday as they finalize locations to shoot the series. They told Lafayette leaders that the reality show would be filmed live but aired with a 30-minute to one-hour delay to protect the privacy of victims. It would feature emergency personnel responding to calls in about eight cities with Shatner watching and narrating from an offsite studio.
Filming would likely begin this summer, according to those who met with producers.
"We'll know for sure by the end of this week if they're filming with us," said Cpl. Bridgette Dugas, spokeswoman for the Lafayette Police Department. "If they choose us, they expect to start filming in July."
If Lafayette is featured in the series, it could be a boost to the area's economy because film crews would spend an entire season in the city to shoot the reality series and employ local people to assist, Durio said.
"Financially, it would have a huge economic impact," Durio said. "Crew members would be coming and staying in hotel rooms here in Lafayette for weeks and getting meals catered and hiring crew members on set. There are educational opportunities that would be huge for students at UL's Moving Image Arts Department who could be trained on set."
The series wouldn't just show the country what's happening in Lafayette. It would also show locals what happens when a 911 call comes in.
"The 911 operators would get recognition for the job they do," said Craig Stansbury, director of homeland security and 911 operations for Lafayette Parish. "They're sort of the unsung heroes. They're some of the least known about first responders, and I think this show could be a good portrayal to others of how they assist the public and what they have to go through on a daily basis during their shift."
It would also help people to better understand what information is needed and why when they make a 911 call, Stansbury said.
Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit agrees.
"I think it would give us an opportunity to show people exactly what firefighters do," he said. "A lot of times people see one part of the process, but they don't understand how everything comes together so that when we respond to an unfortunate event in a way that saves lives and prevents us from getting hurt."
The Lafayette Police Department will be featured in two other TV shows this year, Dugas said. The department has signed contracts to be included in A&E's "Live PD" and another show about sting operations that doesn't yet have a title.
"It would be a great thing for us," Dugas said. "Just getting Lafayette out there is a good thing. It'll bring good awareness to our city."
Lafayette is appealing to TV networks and filmmakers because of its size, culture and tax credits.
Louisiana provides a 25 percent base tax credit to in-state production expenditures for motion picture and TV productions. Companies can get up to a 40 percent tax credit — an additional 5 percent if they film a project outside of the New Orleans area and an additional 10 percent if the screenplay comes from a Louisiana writer.
As the leader of Lafayette's taxpayer-funded CREATE initiative — which stands for Culture, Recreation, Entertainment, Arts, Tourism and Economy — Durio is pushing for more film projects in the area.
"A show like this with such a positive focus on our first responders would be a huge morale boost to Lafayette," Durio said. "For families across the country to see our first responders and 911 dispatchers responding in high-stress, critical situations will give people a new sense of what our first responders are up against every day."