Louisiana’s Emerging Young Filmmakers

Posted on May 9th, 2016 by Leonard Alsfeld

Louisiana has earned the nickname “Hollywood South” in the past decade as it nestled its way into the film industry as one of the best places for production. Remarkably, during this time not only has Louisiana joined the likes of California and New York in its creative endeavors but it has also surpassed these states, taking its rightful place as the “tent pole” film capital of the country by 2014. Now, thanks to legislative efforts like HB 829, young local filmmakers are pouncing on the opportunity to utilize the abundant resources that are available in this local industry.

Louisiana’s Emerging Young Filmmakers

Opportunities in Louisiana for Creative Industries

Louisiana has done a spectacular job of drawing productions from around the world to Louisiana for production through its remarkable film tax credit program, first established in 2002. This program spurred locals to learn the ropes of the entertainment business, as well as gave creatives a way to get involved in the industry on a variety of projects– tent pole or small budget.  As a result, our local crew base is now extraordinarily deep and talented, and our union membership has grown exponentially. Fourteen years later, Louisiana is home to state of the art studios and all elements of a solid motion picture infrastructure to support the most robust industry in the country. Add to that the hungry emerging filmmakers and the idyllic natural landscape of Louisiana and it quickly, and understandably, has become the capital of film production.

The news laws from the 2015 legislative session have been a cause for debate and critique in the media since their inception.  Louisiana still opens its doors wide for investors and producers to bring their projects to the state, but the new laws also help investors focus on local talent and craftsmanship. As a result, this offers lower costs than the traditional LA or New York salaries while also opening opportunities for young hopefuls to explore their own craftsmanship.

A Closer Look at One Group of Emerging Young Filmmakers

In an effort to support its own, the state has engaged new measures to keep locals here and employed by increasing the percentage of credits that films receive if they use local labor and also providing an incentive to filmmakers who have smaller projects but use a majority of Louisiana residents to make the film. These changes can be attributed to the overall culture of Louisiana, a state that looks after its own. 

Today, Louisiana is now an approachable location for emerging filmmakers as they try to make their place in the industry. As Peter Santoro of FotoKem describes this emerging talent, there are “young, indigenous filmmakers developing in Louisiana” and they are “asking how we can help them.” Indeed, the latest changes help the emerging talent by offering greater tax incentives to this group in particular than any other group in the industry.

One particular group of filmmakers that took complete advantage of this support is the men behind the independent film, People. Shane McGoey, Eric Winder Sella, Harrison Huffman and Kyle Wiedemann first came together to create a film that ultimately flopped within its infancy. Without taking a breath to realize the small failure, they wrote an entirely new script within nine days and secured funding and support for their new project. They managed to film the entire project within a miraculous six days and have since been celebrating the success of People. The group admits in the publication Inside Northside that much of their success is owed to the support of Hollywood South and the unwavering faith that the local industry instilled in them.

Why “The Other LA” is Different

The infamous southern hospitality extends beyond the neighborhoods and well into the film industry. In fact, instead of seeking to attract the biggest names today, the State of Louisiana seems to be seeking out the young, fresh, homegrown talent. Santoro recognizes this unified support in the state and argues that “the state is recognizing that these local filmmakers need fostering & support and are wanting to give these filmmakers more incentives, rather than outside companies who film here.” We can see this support both in the local community, as well as the local legislative acts, demonstrated by HB829 and other measures.

Louisiana has been nicknamed “Hollywood South” due to the comparable industry to Hollywood of Los Angeles that has developed here over the past decade. As of late, however, Louisiana also provides wrap-around support to indigenous talent not only with the support of tax credits but also the creative freedom to work, and maybe re-work, from scratch. Our Hollywood South is tailored to help those starting in the industry, whether they want to work as part of a crew or want to direct or produce their own film—a chance that many starting out in Los Angeles may not get.

Investor Tax Credits Available

Elements of HB 829 were implemented to encourage investors to support film production in Louisiana and reap similar benefits, with the stipulation that the crew, the rights to the screenplay, and the location are all native to Louisiana. Investors of these lower threshold films should feel no difference in their spending or in their tax breaks. The only noticeable difference is that the production team, itself, must be made up mostly of Louisiana natives. This bill ensures that money can continue to flow to Louisiana, but also that once the filming is over it remains in the local economy in Louisiana.

Who’s Eligible?

The changes to the program were designed to provide tax credits to all motion picture production companies based in Louisiana that meet some basic requirements. Generally, the total expenditures in Louisiana must exceed $300,000 or meet the threshold of $50,000 for local Louisiana productions. All sorts of film types qualify under this bill, including the expected feature-length motion pictures as well as commercials, documentaries, miniseries, music videos, and even any other digitally-distributed motion pictures. The expenditures included in this bill cover most of the typical production necessities with the stipulation that they are resourced from local businesses and talent rather than brought to Louisiana from another state. What is even more commendable is the fact that local investors can also qualify for these tax credits so long as their investments are funding local work and they meet certain criteria set forth in the bill.

Louisiana Still Supports Its Own

While the latest legislative changes may have scared some of Hollywood from filming in Louisiana, it certainly hasn’t dimmed the industry there. This culture support its own, but also encourages others to come here as well.  Peter Santoro of FotoKem has seen the changes unfold and noted that even with all the business that FotoKem does with filmmakers around the world, the general culture in Louisiana has “created a fabulous support network” with each other. Santoro argues that his experience in FotoKem demonstrates this as well, proving that Louisiana supports its own on every conceivable level.

Over the years, Louisiana earned the robust title of “Hollywood South” with some tweaking of its legislation to provide tax incentives to the nationwide film industry. With the same creative legislative thinking, Louisiana is now directing its support and funding to its own indigenous industry. The Louisiana film industry is well and thriving and with the devoted support of the legislation, it appears that it will help fashion a brand new layer of the industry within itself here. As is true to its reputation, this southern hospitality expands beyond its friendly neighbors and lives vibrantly even in an ever-evolving film industry program.

For more information on tax credits or getting started in the Louisiana film industry, contact us!