NOLA: The New Hollywood
a conversation with Katie Williams, Director of Film New Orleans
by Marla Norman, Publisher
New Orleans as a center for jazz and Creole cooking sounds totally plausible. But New Orleans as the new Hollywood! “It’s true,” confirms Katie Williams, Director of Film New Orleans. “For the past few years, we’ve had an annual production of 8 to 10 feature films either shooting or preparing to shoot here in New Orleans.” With New Orleans film projects, in combination with projects across the state, Louisiana has surpassed California to become the film production capital of the world. In 2013, Louisiana produced 18 of 108 major feature films, while California and Canada each produced 15.
Tax credits are the primary reason companies chose to locate in Louisiana. “Louisiana has no cap on tax credits for film production,” Williams explains. “Most states have a fixed dollar amount. Once that amount is reached, no more films are eligible for tax credits. Companies know that here in Louisiana they can always receive credits.”
“And,” she continues, “This policy has been in place for the past 12 years. So, during that time, we’ve had a chance to build an infrastructure to support the film groups. We have sound studios, technicians, electricians, camera operators, makeup artists – everything a company needs to produce movies.”
Or win Oscar nominations! A short list of recent films produced in New Orleans includes many critically-acclaimed films:
Williams also works to help expedite permitting. And the permits themselves are free of charge – another incentive to stage in NOLA. How complicated do the shoots get? “Well,” says Williams with a slight grin, “Last year, for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we had a six-week long closure downtown, with tanks and fireballs. That’s the most difficult production we’ve ever had to schedule. But managing those kinds of complicated films further establishes our reputation as a place for production.”
Major films shot in New Orleans recently or currently in production include these:
Other films include 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube; American Ultra with Kristen Steward and Jesse Eisenberg; Get Hard with Will Farrell and Kevin Hart; Midnight Special with Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon. In addition to the feature films are television shows and commercials. “There were 60 last year,” Williams says, “with an estimated economic impact of $450 million.” TV serials currently in progress in the city include American Horror Story, produced by FX Network And NCIS: New Orleans by CBS.
Williams also works to partner local businesses with the film companies for whatever they might need from electrical services to furniture rental or office support and catering. Additionally, her office provides regular seminars to assist businesses in providing the services required for production. When asked if she recruits filmmakers as well? Williams smiles broadly, “Not at this point. They seem to find us without much problem.”
So, who knows? Maybe the Oscar Night red carpet will soon move to Bourbon Street!