Southern Screen Festival

With the Southern Screen Film Festival having started Wednesday, it's hard not to draw a connection between such festivals and the impact the film industry has had on the Lafayette economy.

The festival does not only let the people of south Louisiana experience films made locally and internationally, but it also attracts filmmakers from all over the world. And it allows local talent and dedicated workers in the entertainment industry to show their talent to colleagues from around the world.

The festival ends Sunday.

"Festivals like Southern Screen allow for local filmmakers to showcase their work and what they're capable of, as well as gives us a chance to see what filmmakers outside the state are up to," said Amy Wickenheiser, of Lafayette, who has worked on camera and behind the scenes in locally produced movies. "Southern Screen absolutely helps draw attention to all the talent we have in the area."

This year, Active Entertainment and Curmudgeon Films will spend $4.7 million for five films in Louisiana, according to a small films economic impact analysis by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. The five films will create about $3.2 million in new income for Acadiana residents and will generate 33 cents for every dollar spent in Acadiana.

"With Lafayette and Acadiana's home-grown creative identity, it's a natural progression for our community to move toward another creative industry, such as film, to make our mark," said Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the authority. "It is important to understand the value film production can bring to the region. These companies bring out-of-state money to local businesses. Combining the financial benefits and the region's unique cultural assets makes Lafayette a logical destination for film production such as those who were in Lafayette this summer."

Gothreaux said the films being produced in Lafayette also help employ and train a local workforce for future film activity, which makes the region even more attractive to movie producers. Some of the major films recently produced in the area were the SyFy original movie "You Might be the Killer" and the Lifetime Original Movie "The Christmas Contract." What's special about "The Christmas Contract" is the story is also set in Lafayette and promotes the annual Noel Acadien Au Village at Acadian Village.

"From a marketing standpoint, having 'The Christmas Contract' not only be filmed in Lafayette but to have the city named Lafayette in the film and having the Christmas Festival in the movie be named and reflect Noel Acadien Au Village will be a great promotion of our area and Acadian Village," said Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. "These films have a huge following, and we are looking forward to having our area showcased."

Film tourism already has been shown to be popular through Louisiana's recently unveiled film trail that takes tourists across the state to see the filming locations of popular movies that have graced the big and small screen such as "King Creole," "Steel Magnolias" and "Bonnie and Clyde." Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser even said people constantly ask where they can find the nonexistent Bourbon Street zip line used in the movie "Girls Trip."

The Southern Screen Film Festival also helps keep the local creative community connected. One of these creatives is Kody Chamberlain, who not only writes and draws comic books but also creates pilot scripts and concept art for major motion pictures such as "Bad Country" and "Watchmen." He said he would love more work to come to Louisiana because he normally has to telecommute with companies in Los Angeles.

"Southern Screen is a great festival, and I've been involved multiple times doing panels, workshops and live table readings," Chamberlain said. "Personally, I've found Southern Screen to be a fantastic networking opportunity, and I think it does wonders for helping to build and sustain our creative community. The 'scene' is something that often gets overlooked, but it's incredibly important to creators. Southern Screen is a vital part of that scene."

Acadiana business today: Tru by Hilton opens in River Ranch; Southern Screen Festival this week in Acadiana

Follow Dan Boudreaux on Twitter, @dan_boudreaux

Business Reporter