Louisiana Film Industry News 

Movie industry reaches fever pitch (Shreveport Times)– 06.02.2008

By Alexandyr Kent

Eric Kopeloff got a taste of how big his next movie could be while browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble on Youree Drive in Shreveport. An executive producer with “W.,” Kopeloff spied a thirtysomething couple. The man held the May 16 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Its cover sported Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Banks in full makeup as President George W. Bush and the first lady. The bookstore couple were engrossed.

“She was reading a homemaker magazine,” Kopeloff recalled. “He was reading the article aloud for her. He was saying ‘God, I can’t wait to see this movie.   It’s going to be so wild.’ It was just really nice to hear people be so vocal about it.”

“W.,” directed by Oliver Stone, is filming through mid-July.  It’s the latest production to come here during a busy 2008.

Val Kilmer and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson are starring in “Microwave Park.” Jack Black and Harold Ramis made “Year One.” Ice Cube played coach for “The Longshots” (aka “Comeback”). And Samuel L. Jackson returned here for “Soul Men.”

In total, 14 movie and television productions have shot or begun shooting in northwest Louisiana this year. They total $185 million in production value, according to Arlena Acree, Shreveport’s director of film, media and entertainment. At least a third of those budgets has been spent locally.

‘W.’ ups Shreveport’s profile

Shreveport’s reputation gets a boost by many producers who’ve shot here.

“I’ve heard only positive comments,” said Kopeloff, who also produced “Monster’s Ball” in New Orleans. “The truth was there was no negative.”

That producers are talking positively about Shreveport — and reading about its growth in national publications — will only help the city’s reputation. But how big of a local impact could an Oliver Stone movie and building press attention have?

“Huge,” said Stephen Katz, co-founder of the Center for Entertainment Industry Data and Research. He studies how the movie industry has pushed beyond California’s borders.

“First thing you want to look at is ‘Field of Dreams,'” Katz said. Filmed in Iowa and released in 1989, the iconic baseball field set attracts an estimated 65,000 pop culture tourists per year, according to the Dyersville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Will ‘W.’ be iconic?” Katz pondered. “You never know. … Let’s say the experience goes really well for the producers. They are going to tell their friends. You can write all the articles you want. If a producer is happy, he talks. A couple hundred people is your whole audience. More than that, the city itself gets in the news.”

In other words, word of mouth is invaluable.

Kopeloff and other producers will tell you, however, the Louisiana’s tax credit program is the main reason they are here. Productions costing more than $300,000 receive a 25 percent tax credit on in-state expenses and an extra 10 percent on Louisiana labor.

“You are always chasing tax credits,” Kopeloff said.

Since Stone has made four movies in Texas and many scenes of “W.” are set there, Shreveport just made sense.

“The landscape, foliage and the way it looks here really works for a lot of the things in Texas,” Kopeloff said. The production also has found locations to double for Crawford, Texas; Kennebunkport, Maine, and even Colorado. It will erect White House sets inside StageWorks of Louisiana, a large soundstage in downtown Shreveport.

When scouting locations, Shreveporters have expressed interest in how the president would be portrayed.

“They really have been more inquisitive than positive or negative,” Kopeloff said. “We’re really doing a portrait of the man. We’re not trying to make a piece that is highly controversial.”

Producers follow good will

Jerry P. Jacobs, a producer on “Disaster Movie,” didn’t quite know what to think of Shreveport before he landed here. He knew the city’s industry was busy but not much else.

“All anyone had said was that there wasn’t a lot to do, that I would be bored out of my mind,” said Jacobs, who brought his family here from Los Angeles, partly because there is no direct flight from Shreveport. “I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a totally nice city. There’s plenty to do. We rented affordable houses on the golf course for affordable prices. It’s great. It’s not at all what I was expecting.”

Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, producer Peter Safran called Shreveport “an incredibly welcoming city.” He’s also producing “Disaster Movie” (aka “Goodie Two Shoes”), a spoof project starring Carmen Electra and Kim Kardashian. It wraps early this month.

“They have been able to shut down major streets downtown without major problems whatsoever,” Safran said. “Frankly, it’s easier to shoot there than on many studio back lots.”

Since producers are in the business of making movies affordable, they keep an eye on what other states offer in terms of tax incentives. New Mexico, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have been successful in luring productions. And Michigan recently got on board by offering a 40 percent rebate on in-state expenses.

“Michigan’s new tax credit is going to get people there,” Safran said matter of factly, and it’s just another sign many states are interested in taking a piece of the Hollywood pie.

With Shreveport’s three proven production facilities — StageWorks of Louisiana, Mansfield Studios and Stage West — and a $10 million studio set to be built by Nu Image/Millennium Films, it doesn’t appear the city’s business is going to slow soon.

“Our infrastructure has improved and we’ve added more vendors,” Acree said. She’s also excited the Louisiana Wave Studio, a 750,000-gallon facility built in 2005 for “The Guardian,” has attracted recent business from a Jim Carrey movie called “I Love You, Phillip Morris” and the locally made “Microwave Park.”

A possible strike by the Screen Actors Guild at the end of June could disrupt production on a national level, but it has contributed to a recent fury of production nationwide.

“Everybody who makes movies is making a movie right now,” Jacobs said.

While the industry, as a whole, could see a downturn during the summer, Acree believes Shreveport will stay busy.

“I think we’re going to have several projects this summer because they’ve already made agreements with SAG,” Acree said.

With many locally made movies set to be released, the buzz about Shreveport may also carry into the summer and fall. “The Longshots” (aka “Comeback”) is aiming for July 25, “Disaster Movie” for Aug. 29 and “Soul Men” for Nov. 14. And if all goes as planned, “W.” will be released before the presidential election.

Eric Kopeloff, executive producer for “W.,” wouldn’t guarantee it but said they’re working toward that goal.

“I think it would be really interesting,” he said.

Dropping a locally filmed Oliver Stone movie into Oscar season would excite Shreveporters, too.

Article originally posted on the Shreveport TImes website:
http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080601/NEWS01/806010324/1060

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