TV Stranger Things copy for Red

From left, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp share a scene in 'Stranger Things' season 2. The show's third season is now on Netflix

Crafty Apes, the developer of visual effects for major movies such as "Jumanji: The Next Level" and "Little Women" and television series such as "Stranger Things" and "Star Trek: Picard," is expanding to Baton Rouge with operations at the Celtic Media Centre.

Crafty Apes has begun hiring visual effects specialists for its initial projects in Louisiana. The company will create a minimum of six permanent jobs, with an average annual salary of more than $116,500, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the company’s launch will result in eight new indirect jobs. The company expects to ramp up to 20 permanent direct jobs within six months, cofounder Chris LeDoux said.

With principal offices in Hollywood and Atlanta, the company also operates studios in New York, New Mexico and Canada.

“Crafty Apes was looking for a community that had the talent, space and industry support to succeed, and they found it in Baton Rouge,” said Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

Launched in 2008, Celtic Media Centre offers office, studio and screening space, in addition to several sound stages where many major motion pictures and television series have been filmed.

Crafty Apes offers a range of visual effects services, including computer-generated imagery, set supervision, 2D and 3D compositing, VFX consultation and digital cosmetics.

Longtime locals and veterans of the Louisiana film community Sam Claitor will lead the office as head of production and Kolby Kember is VFX supervisor.

LeDoux said the studio will allow the company to better serve clients in Louisiana on their film and television projects, use a state tax credit and hire visual effects professionals from a pool of local talent.  

The company will tap the state's Entertainment Job Creation Program, which was created by the Louisiana Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2017 to encourage investment in permanent jobs in entertainment content creation. For jobs paying $45,000 or more annually, the employer can claim a 15% payroll tax credit. That credit increases to 20% for new jobs paying more than $66,000 a year. A similar credit was established for music-related companies.

“The program already has attracted several companies in New Orleans and one in Shreveport, and I am glad to see it expand to Baton Rouge, Edwards said.

In 2019, five companies joined the program, committing to create 111 new direct jobs.