Bright future seen for film and TV in Hollywood South
Don Ames Reporting
New Orleans and Louisiana have certainly proven themselves as viable and desirable location sites for motion picture and television projects. But, it's hoped that Hollywood South will become much more than just scenery.
"We've always had blockbusters or 'tent-pole' type productions shooting in Louisiana," says Chris Stelly, Executive Director of the state's Office of Entertainment Industry Development. "Most recently, we've had Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we've had Oblivion, we've had the last two Twilight's shoot here. So, we're well familiar with big budget films."
"At this point, we have three major productions that will be shooting at the same time...Fantastic Four, Jurassic Park and Terminator 5," says Stelly. "We're well on our way to meeting the numbers that we set for last year and probably exceed them again this year."
The Fox feature film Fantastic Four will begin shooting March 24th in Baton Rouge. Universal's Jurassic Park 4 will shoot for 11 weeks in New Orleans starting in June and the Paramount feature Terminator 5, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, will shoot April through July in New Orleans.
But, beyond location, the state is looking to further develop the industry, as a whole.
"We're always working towards establishing an independent, self-sustaining industry, so the film industry will be one of those industries in Louisiana that's here to stay," Stelly says.
He says sound stages, full production facilities and studios may well be the future of the film in Louisiana, in addition to its location filming.
"We certainly have a very, very mature infrastructure...a great, deep, skilled crew base to meet every need of studio-type film, as well as television."
"We're really doing well on the TV side, with several series shooting in the state right now. So, we're really starting to show some signs of growth on the creative television side and there's a lot of interest in what we're doing."
Current TV success stories include Salem, True Detective on HBO, and American Horror Story: The Coven. And, there's an upcoming spinoff of the NCIS series to be shot in New Orleans.
Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider officially opened the John Schneider Studios in Holden, Louisiana this January, just an hour from the New Orleans Airport, and less than 45 minutes from Baton Rouge.
"John certainly believes in what we're doing here, and we're excited to welcome him here to Louisiana," says Stelly. "It's just one of those signs that people have confidence in what we're doing."
Schneider's studio currently offers a 5,000 square foot soundstage with 20 foot ceilings, and a variety of interesting locations for filming including a river location, a lake location, a swamp location, and a "Southeast Asia" style bamboo forest.
The property also boasts two homes (circa 1910 and 1950) suitable for location filming, and has outbuildings that include an enclosed cafeteria/production office and a covered eating area. The property also has a 250,000 gallon swimming pool. Plans are in place to add post production sound (from pre-mix to final), and editing capabilities by May of this year, along with an on-site chef and living quarters for key crew which would assist with project flow and consistency allowing staff to live on premises in a focused and convenient working environment with minimal distraction.
And, as for Louisiana's near film future...
"Stay tuned on March 2nd, as the Oscars roll around and wind down award season," says Stelly. "I think Louisiana will be well represented. I'm making a bold prediction that Matthew McConaughey will win his Oscar for Best Actor and I think Jared Leto will win Best Supporting Actor for their performances in Dallas Buyer's Club."
"And, I anticipate 12 Years a Slave will do equally as well, as will The Butler. So I think we're seeing a lot of critical accolades come our way, and Louisiana is well represented in award season."