Why Film in Jefferson Parish?

Move over, Hollywood, America’s filmmaking capital has shifted from southern California to the southeastern United States.

film-jefferson1Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish has become a place in which to make movie magic happen in recent years. In 2013, there were 18 different feature films shot in Louisiana, 11 of which were shot specifically in Jefferson Parish, including Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave.

When did this shift take place, and why did it occur? There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the immense amount of tax credits filmmakers receive by bringing their projects to Jefferson Parish.

The lower cost of living Louisiana, as opposed to a high-priced city like Los Angeles, has financial benefits all its own, but the real advantage is the tax rebates film crews receive for coming to Jefferson Parish, hiring local employees and involving local businesses.

The 11 films made in the Parish in 2013 cost a grand total just shy of $31.4 million, but those 11 films also collected a total rebate for more than $664,000 because of the financial incentives Jefferson Parish can offer.

Combine those savings with the Parish’s wealth of open space and proximity to the history, culture and bright lights of New Orleans, and it’s easy to see why Jefferson Parish has become such a popular destination in the film industry.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific advantages and credits filmmakers receive by bringing their projects to the Parish:

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For starters, film companies can earn a 3 percent tax rebate on qualified local spending if they locate their movie in Jefferson Parish. Their local spending must exceed $150,000, and they must have an office or soundstage set up in the Parish for the duration of the project. Should they meet both those criteria, they can earn their rebate through a number of forms of local spending, including:

  • Lodging for crew members in Jefferson Parish.
  • Payroll for crew members who resided in Jefferson Parish for at least six months before a film project began (indicating they are local residents).
  • Lease or rental expenses for a production office or soundstage set up in the Parish.
  • Any other spending at an establishment located in Jefferson Parish that pays occupational license or sales tax in the Parish.
  • NOTE: The per project cap on these incentives sits at $100,000, but can increase by another $10,000 if a film has both a production office and soundstage in the Parish.

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The state of Louisiana offers financial incentives of its own that span beyond the rebates Jefferson Parish can offer. In addition to those 3 percent tax breaks in the Parish, the state offers a rebate of up to 30 percent if a company is set up for a specific film, registers in the state, and spends at least $300,000 on the project.

If you spend $100 million on your movie, just for shooting in Louisiana … you can get $30 million back,” said Keith Morris, assistant professor of film studies at Dillard University in New Orleans.

Jefferson Parish is directly connected to New Orleans, and filming in the Parish can provide plenty of space and local amenities while also allowing for the possibility of some occasional filming in New Orleans, so long as your production office or soundstage are based in Jefferson Parish to qualify for the tax rebates.

Hollywood may still be the flashy central hub of the film world, but Jefferson Parish has become the smart choice in the industry. If the millions of dollars saved on film production still don’t convince you (the Parish alone has saved filmmakers $3.2 million before any state-imposed savings kicked in), then Oscar-winning films like 12 Years a Slave and Ray (filmed in 2004) ought to do the trick.