Governor Jindal's new tax plan proposal has Hollywood South concerned, with some in the industry fearful that changes in the state's Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit program could bring the booming business to an end.
The tax credits, begun in 1992, have made Louisiana a favorite for film companies over the past decade, and one of the hottest locations for TV and movie making outside of Los Angeles and New York.
Under the state program, companies can obtain a tax credit for up to 35 percent of the money they spend while broadcasting or filming in Louisiana.
But, a recent 5-year study by the state Legislative Auditor's office says the state's many tax rebates and tax credits across several industries, including movies and TV shows, have cost Louisiana some $6 billion.
The Executive Director of the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development, Chris Stelly, says that report is not quite accurate.
"The report spoke to all exemptions and tax credits that the state administers, across the board." says Stelly. "So, the film industry does not cost the state $6 billion dollars. I think that number was right around $500 million or $550 million over the course of five years."
And, Stelly says the report did not focus on economic impact, which he says is just as important.
"Every tax dollar that we issue in the form of a tax credit generates about six dollars to the economy," Stelly says. "So you're looking at, over that course of five years, well over a billion dollars in economic impact to the state."
In fact, Stelly says the economic impact could well be a billion dollars a year, on average.
State Auditor Darryl Purpera says tax credits during the 5-year period accounted for the loss of $5.4-billion from state coffers. He says tax rebates account for more than $730-million in revenue losses. And, he says a healthy portion of the losses are from the state's film and TV tax incentives.
However, he admits the audit didn't look at their merits or the economic stimulus the film industry may have generated.
A proposed plan by the Jindal administration would impose a cap on the amount that can be written off for actors' salaries at $1 million per person and not allow certain film production costs to be covered by the program. There is currently no cap on actors' salaries.
That cap, it's feared, could make Louisiana less attractive to do larger productions which might move to competing states, like Georgia.
The Celtic Media Center in Baton Rouge and Second Line Stages in New Orleans were built to service large-budget productions.
It's estimated that around 14,000 people work in the film industry in Louisiana.
A Change.org campaign to protect the state's film industry tax credit program has gained support from more than 1,500 industry workers and supporters, including movie extras, set electricians and technicians.
The tax credit change could very likely jeopardize plans for a $50 million film production campus in Algiers.
Louisiana Economic Development secretary Stephen Moret has said the Jindal administration is committed to the film industry and the proposal would have "a negligible impact" on many of the productions.
The legislature will consider the governor's tax proposal in its upcoming session. If approved, it would take effect on January 1.
"I certainly don't see anyone pushing to eliminate the Motion Picture Incentive Program altogether," says Stelly. "There's some ideas out there, and there are some reform measures taking place. We'll just see where it goes."
There are several projects in varying stages of production in New Orleans right now.
The feature film 'Heat' starring Jason Statham and Sofia Vergara begins shooting in New Orleans today, April 1st, and will be in town for 8 weeks.
Other projects currently in pre-production and/or filming in and around New Orleans include:
Fox feature film "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" starring Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke, until July 14.
Fox feature film "Devil's Due" starring Zach Gilford and Allison Miller, through May 1.
Mandalay Pictures' feature film "When the Game Stands Tall" for 7 weeks.
AEI's feature film "The Kennedy Detail" for 6 weeks.
An HBO Entertainment's television series currently going by "Untitled Detective Project," starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, is shooting until June.
ABC Studios television pilot "Reckless" has just concluded filming in New Orleans.
Independent feature film "Jingle Doggie" is slated to begin shooting in May.