Louisiana outpaces Los Angeles, New York and all others in 2013 film production, study shows
If this year’s Oscars proved one thing, it’s that Louisiana is making some of the best movies out there right now, as four of the six highest-profile Academy Awards went to New Orleans-shot films. Now it would appear the Bayou State is making more of them than anyone as well.
A report released late last week by the nonprofit Film L.A. — the city of Los Angeles’ film office — shows that the Louisiana film industry in 2013 overtook that of California for the title of the film-production capital of the world. Of the 108 major-studio productions released into theaters last year, 18 were shot substantially in Louisiana, according to the study. Among them: the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” as well as such impressive box-office performers as “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “The Butler” and “Now You See Me.”
California and Canada tied for second place, with 15 films each, followed by the United Kingdom (12) and Georgia (9). New York was the primary location for just four films last year, tying it with North Carolina for eighth on the list.
The catapulting of Louisiana to the top of the overall production list marks a major shift in longtime trends, although one that’s been more than a decade in the making. Since the state adopted its filmmaking tax credits in 2002, film and TV production has steadily grown throughout the state, with thriving production hubs putting down extensive roots in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Still, until now the state has been a third-place finisher in most production rankings, behind Los Angeles and New York.
And make no mistake: The state’s tax-credit program — which has inspired similar programs in a number of other states — is largely responsible for the surge in local productions. Local officials will be quick to point to the bolstering of the local film infrastructure over that time, including the development of a deep and skilled crew base, as an incentive for productions to keep returning to the Bayou State. But more than anything it’s the 30 percent tax credit that producers say keeps them coming back.
“Louisiana’s emergence as a film production center happened quickly,” the report notes. “After just 10 years of investment in the film industry, the Pelican State surged ahead of California, the nation’s one-time film production capital. Louisiana, which some have taken to calling ‘Hollywood South,’ is now outpacing the real Hollywood by a key measure of film production volume.”
In addition to giving supporters of the Louisiana industry reason to exchange high-fives, the nonprofit group’s first-of-its-kind Feature Film Production Study provides an interesting snapshot of the health of the local film industry as compared to those in other locations, many of which serve as competition for Louisiana when it comes to luring major film productions.
As far as job creation goes, Louisiana finished second in Film L.A.’s ranking of production-industry jobs. Canada was tops with 14,170. Louisiana boasted 13,690 jobs, followed in order by the U.K. (13,032), California (8,566) and Australia/New Zealand (5,694).
From a dollars-and-cents standpoint, Louisiana finished fourth on the study’s ranking of the budget value of films shot in various locations. Canada was first, with $1.3 billion worth of films being shot there. After tax credits were figured in, that resulted in industry expenditures of $887 million. The United Kingdom was second, with a $1.2 billion budget value, resulting in $750 million in local expenditures after tax credits. California was third, with $1.1 billion in budget value ($1 billion in expenditures after tax credits), followed by Louisiana ($976 million in budget value; $750 million in post-credits spending) and Georgia ($415 million in budget value; $261 million in post-credits spending).
The study did not take into account television production.
While the Film L.A. report was cause for celebration by supporters of the Louisiana film industry, it was a cause for continued hand-wringing on the West Coast, where so-called “runaway production” has been a major concern for that state’s economy for several years. Since its release late last week, the Film L.A. report has reignited calls for California to sweeten its own five-year-old tax-incentives program, with specific calls for an “uncapped” tax-incentive program like those in the busiest location hubs, including Louisiana.
In fact, that’s exactly the solution proposed by the Film L.A. study. Los Angeles Mayor Paul Garcetti reportedly has thrown his support behind a bill, currently before the California Legislature, to do just that.
“The film and entertainment industries are absolutely essential to California’s middle class, and this underscores the importance of our work to level the playing field against the other states and countries who are luring our jobs away,” Garcetti was quoted as saying in the report. “These jobs not only support California families, they generate revenues that pay for schools, infrastructure, and other state services.”
Producer Harvey Weinstein, speaking Saturday at the UCLA Entertainment Symposium — and as reported by Variety — also urged the expansion of California’s tax-credit program, saying it all comes down to a simple matter of math. “There’s no reason for us not to shoot here (in California), except when you do the numbers here and when you do the numbers in New Orleans, it is much more attractive financially,” Weinstein said.
Even if California tweaks its tax program, Louisiana is likely to remain in the mix for the title of the hardest-working location in show business for the next couple of years, with a raft of major productions setting up shop — or preparing to set up shop — in-state. Among the more notable productions on tap for the local production industry in coming months: “Terminator Genesis,” “Jurassic World” and “The Fantastic Four.”
The Film L.A. study focused on 108 live-action and animated movies produced by the six major film studios (Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, Sony and Twentieth Century Fox) as well as five so-called “mini-majors” (DreamWorks, Lionsgate, The Weinstein Co., FilmDistrict and Relativity Media).