What do you look for when choosing your next filming location? There are so many elements in the process, many find it overwhelming.
Amidst record-high inflation, creative solutions are valuable and traditional answers may no longer serve.
When one looks at the recent tax credits offered in states such as New Mexico, Georgia, and Louisiana, it is easy to understand why film, TV, and media productions are moving outside of the traditional entertainment hubs.
The Ranch Film Studios in Chalmette (just outside New Orleans) is a great example of a film and TV studio thriving outside of Hollywood.
Louisiana, in particular, has an appealing history to Hollywood as far back as 1918’s Tarzan of the Apes and 20th Century Fox’s 1950 film Panic in the Streets.
Location, Location, Location
There truly is no city like New Orleans. With its delicate iron balconies and French architectural influence ever-present, the city at times feels like a studio backlot.
Whether you’re on Bourbon Street, in the Garden District, on Frenchmen Street, or right along the river, there are a plethora of options with designs so rustic and charming that Disneyland even has its own New Orleans Square.
Brass bands fill the streets while Spanish moss hangs from the trees in this historic port city.
From the forests to the swamps, Louisiana has much to offer in terms of locations across all parishes (their equivalent of counties).
The city has a knack for repurposing its history. For example, The Ranch CEO Jason Waggenspack and his partner Sidney Torres III are continuing the restoration and preservation of historic New Orleans structures while building state-of-the-art spaces for media companies to flourish.
The buildup of “Hollywood South” includes their purchase of a 225,000-square-foot Ford Model T plant from the 1920s which was an economic jewel of the city before the Great Depression.
Hoping to breathe new life into it, plans are underway to turn the structure into a massive content creation hub for film, television, animation, gaming and other entertainment-related companies.
The symbolic shift from historic site to media campus has become a local story in its own right as American cities turn to creative solutions for hulking factories from another era.
Another example would be The Ranch’s 2014 purchase and conversion of Katrina-blighted big box stores into a filming campus, a symbolic renewal after the historic disaster.
It’s Money, Honey
Louisiana offers a very attractive transferable tax credit up to 40% on total qualified in-state production costs.
There are additional perks on top of the base 25% credit that include an additional 10% for screenplays by Louisiana residents, and an extra 5% for projects shot outside of the New Orleans area. For more information on all qualified tax credit expenditures, click here.
As far as the region goes, the pool of potential crew members is expanding. According to Louisiana Economic Development, the state’s crew base has more than quadrupled in size over the last two decades, housing roughly 2,000 members in film and TV unions (including the DGA, SAG, and Teamsters).
Productions filmed at The Ranch include:
- Terminator Genisys,
- Deepwater Horizon,
- Bill & Ted Face the Music,
- Your Honor (Showtime),
- Secrets of Sulphur Springs (Disney+),
- The Lovebirds (Netflix),
- The Dirt (Netflix), and
- Home Team (Netflix).
It’s no wonder New Orleans was ranked the #1 small city in MovieMaker Magazine’s list of Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022.
White-Glove Boutique Services
By working outside of the traditional coastal location, visions can be accomplished with lower budgets while maintaining bespoke, hands-on service.
There is a close-knit community in the Louisiana film industry – lawmakers are familiar with producers and studio heads, and vice versa.
Those looking to expand into Louisiana production have dexterous options, and rumors about resourcefulness spread quickly.
For example, The Ranch provides local school’s arts programs with supplies and props from previous projects filmed on the campus.
Beyond building a strong infrastructure away from a current industry city, filming in New Orleans continues to ensure crew members remain community assets, representing a robust economic backbone.
As Moviemaker has duly noted, the breathtaking beauty of New Orleans will continue to draw storytellers from all over the world.
On the Move
With inflation at an all-time high, coastal employees in the entertainment industry are searching for an alternative in regard to affordable housing or lowering costs.
The average home price in Louisiana is $203,222 according to Zillow, with average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment just under $700 according to Rent Data.
Louisiana studios are renting spaces of equal size or larger for half of what studios in traditional movie hubs like Burbank, CA, are renting them for. The current trend of migration during the pandemic meant a boom for the South.
In fact, the American South was one of the top destinations for movers in 2021 according to US News.
The cloud has allowed for editing and collaboration to happen nearly anywhere, a mobile effort hastened by the global pandemic.
New Mexico and Georgia are truly fantastic, but in terms of diversity of culture, food, location flexibility, and cost of living, Louisiana should be an earnest consideration for any producing team or creative seeking a transition.
It is no small feat to build and maintain a successful operation outside of the standard industry coastal locations.
Unprecedented, novel times call for radical solutions, including reconsidering the physical locus of American entertainment.
By following this creative pattern, Louisiana has set itself up for a strong future ahead within an ever-changing entertainment landscape.
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