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Five years on, film crews help New Orleans recover

  • New Orleans has been the focus for many film and TV productions since Katrina. What are your thoughts as to why the city is so popular for filming?

Jennifer Day. Pic: Zack DeLaune

The Louisiana entertainment tax incentive programs are THE reason New Orleans is hosting on average of 20 major film projects a year (major being projects with LA spends of $300,000 or more.)

300 years worth of architectural fodder and diverse landscapes to work with- Spanish, French, Carribean, traditional American, Southern American, big city, rural…

Skilled workforce and plentiful support resources- for the past 8 years we’ve been cultivating a work-ready supply of skilled film professionals. We are 5 crews deep at this point and films save big money because they don’t have to travel much of their crew. We have trucks, cameras, expendables all on hand in the city and surrounding area for rent and purchase. We make it easy and efficient to do business.

Do you feel that film productions use the city differently following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina?

No, not really. A few projects sought out damaged neighbourhoods to film in after the storm but those are hard to come by these days. It’s not that they use the city differently- I think more so right after the storm that there was an altruistic component to their work here. They felt good about spending their money here, it meant something- but ultimately their choice to film in New Orleans is a business decision. It’s a cheap, professional and wildly enjoyable place to work. They had to deliver a product on time and on budget- and New Orleans facilitate that happening in a predictable manner.

Why do stars such as Brad Pitt and Sean Penn have a special relationship with the area? What does it have to offer them in terms of film making?

New Orleans is artist heaven. Visually and culturally diverse its multi-faceted nature is a never-ending source of inspiration. It is an adventure for the senses- the colors of the foliage, of the architecture, the music, the smells of creole cooking and night blooming jasmine. Its a magnet for those who create- Tennessee Williams, Louis Armstrong, Anne Rice…

And New Orleans is such a welcoming place. You love New Orleans? So do we. And that commonality means you are accepted and you are a New Orleanian. The city if full of characters free to express themselves in so many forms and fashions! Its a very creative and free spirited place. People are different here- easy going and open.

We hear a lot from famous visitors that they love the anonymity they have here in the city. For the most part, people don’t bother them. Hey- in New Orleans- we’re all legends in our own mind! In New Orleans people are valued, relationships do not fall by the wayside int he midst of the daily grind. They are respectful and good manners mean something

How has the economy and tourism benefited from it being a popular film location?

We do on average $100 million dollars a year in film business and not to mention the intangible benefits of the earned media. We would never be able to purchase the positive PR we garner from hosting these projects. People want to experience the music featured in Treme. They want to walk the streets of the French Quarter featured in Benjamin Buttons.

What are the plans for the future in terms of film for New Orleans?

To continue to provide quality service to projects of all sizes but with a special emphasis on independent, homegrown productions. The city and State of Louisiana are both pursuing initiatives to support indigenous filmmaking.

Do you have any fun anecdotes or stories from your time as Head of Film and TV?

Well, its a strange job when you come away with skills for your resume like:

  • Home explosion experience
  • Wild animal permitting (brown bear in public park)
  • Historic Streetcar racing and crashing

And I remember once I got a call from a producer wanting to recreate the Running of the Bulls in the…historic French Quarter. I was thinking- “the French Quarter doesn’t look like Pamplona…” Well, I Googled it and… it looks EXACTLY like Pamplona! We’ve pulled off some very intense stunt work but that would have been a challenge!

Bad Lieutenant, which was filmed in New Orleans, is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 27th September

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