“Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler” in Louisiana

tn_LennyThe Story of Louisiana’s Film Industry Growth

by Leonard Alsfeld President & CEO of FBT Film, FBT Investments and FBT Advisors

Article Originally Published in Louisiana Film and Video Magazine April 2010

Fed by a desire to create jobs while cultivating a new industry for Louisiana residents, the state’s legislators passed their historic film tax credit program and then sat back to watch history be rewritten. The first movie produced under the program was Crusader Enter-tainment’s Ray, which won a “Best Actor” Academy Award for Jamie Foxx, while advancing Louisiana to the forefront as a premier loca¬tion to make movies.

Over the next 5 years, more than 250 movies, documentaries, mini-series, music videos and commercials drew over $2 billion into the state, earning tax credits of more than $350 million. Overnight, Louisiana moved into the number three spot for produc¬tion dollars spent in the U.S.

Hoping to build on that success, on July 1, 2009, the state increased the tax credit to 30 percent (5 percent additional for Louisiana labor) on all dollars spent in Louisiana. Additionally, the state guaranteed the purchase of cred¬its at 85 cents on the dollar. This bold move led to a record first quarter in 2010, with 26 produc¬tions carrying budgets close to $400 million.

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The recent grand opening of Second Line Stages in New Orleans, honored as the nation’s first LEED-certified “Green Stages,” immediately attracted Warner Brothers’ mega-production Green Lantern. Shreve¬port boasts the only automated wave production tank in America, and Stageworks of Louisiana offers 52,000 square feet within two stages. Raleigh Studios’ Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge has four state-of-the-¬art stages where Sony’s Battle: Los Angeles just wrapped. In Jefferson Parish, the Nims Center Studio—the oldest studio in Louisiana—has been the location for many productions such as Failure to Launch, The Curi¬ous Case of Benjamin Button, and Glory Road.

In August 2009, Entrepreneur Magazine called New Orleans “The Iconic City,” and “one of the ten best cities to start a business.” Taking a cue from this profile, FBT Film and Entertainment looked to set up a production services facility and recruited Swift Street Produc¬tions to organize a business suite inside the Second Line Stages in New Orleans. They solicited and signed Ease Payroll and Accounting Services, Endgame Entertainment of New Orleans and Endgame Finance, Absolute Video, and Ruby Red Productions. These new Louisiana businesses offer their talents and services to other produc¬tion companies, while qualifying as “Louisiana Spend” partners. FBT Film Credit, First Bank and Trust, and First Insurance Agency (repre¬senting Film Finances) also set up shop to offer a turnkey environment for out-of-state production. 

With a credit liquidity issue hang¬ing over Georgia and Michigan, the recent cap being considered by Massachusetts, and the cancellation of the Iowa program, Louisiana raised the bar dramatically and now stands as the leading lady for world¬wide motion picture dollars.