Graduating UNO film department students who are entering the job market are in luck. Already one of the top hubs for film and television production in the United States and the world, Louisiana has amped up efforts to attract digital media content creators to the state via tax incentives. In a world full of streaming services and quick content avenues like TikTok, the state is looking to add to the ecosystem of jobs already created by the infrastructure of the motion picture industry. According to the state’s economic development board, London-based digital media company Testronic has announced that it will take one of the first bites on Louisiana Economic Development’s projected tax rewards, opening a 150 person game testing facility in 2022. These sorts of full time positions are a nice solution for individuals with production backgrounds who are more invested in 9-5 work.
Louisiana residents can also expect opportunities via Full Armor Films, a motion picture production company operating in New Orleans and New York, which is upping its Louisiana presence under the state’s Entertainment Job Creation Program. On top of adding production jobs to the employment roster, the company plans to create several full-time jobs that will permit individuals with entertainment industry backgrounds to pursue salaried employment. For many, these positions are more sustainable than freelance opportunities that can be competitive, without benefits, and have a specific end date.
Notably, re-elected Governor John Bel Edwards has been a major supporter of the industry as a part of the state’s portfolio. But production personnel from all over the world have been coming to New Orleans since the early 1990s, tax incentives or not. Assistant Director and native New Yorker Jon Shaw, who has worked on countless productions such as CBS’s “Madam Secretary” and Sony’s “Men in Black 3,” doesn’t believe students in the New Orleans area necessarily need to relocate to find worthwhile film work. Discussing his experience as a production assistant on Neil Jordan’s iconic 1994 film “Interview With A Vampire,” Shaw states:
“[We] would finish [shooting] at dawn go to Checkpoint Charlie’s and have burgers, chicken, steak..whatever! And the 9-5 crowd was coming in to get their bloody Mary’s [and] their breakfast. Overall people are nicer and more receptive [in New Orleans] to filming compared to the jaded New Yorkers. [I] liked the vibes there.” But Shaw does maintain people who make it in NYC “can make it anywhere in the world.”
Entertainment journalist Byron Karlovics, who has covered the regional film and television market for many years states: “The regional film & TV market ebbs and flows in tandem with lucrative tax incentives offered by states that aim to lure filmmakers away from the historical hubs of Los Angeles and New York City. In 2002 Louisiana debuted a 40% tax credit, which soon attracted a mix of art house (‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club’) and studio tent-pole movies (‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Fantastic Four’) to the state. By 2013 Louisiana was the #1 film production location in the world, according to Film L.A. At the time the state also boasted of creating around 13,000 entertainment related jobs. However, in 2015the state curtailed its film tax incentive to be more modest and in doing so put an end to the local production boom. Following which, Georgia became the leading regional film production hub. In 2015, Georgia funded film tax credits exceeding $500 million dollars. Most recently, Louisiana has extended a capped 40 percent film production tax incentive, which has gone some way to stimulating local productions once again, with current projects such as ‘Reminiscence’ starring Hugh Jackman and ‘Deep Water’ with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas in production.”
He adds, “In short, by 2014 Louisiana was such a boom town that Central Casting opened an office in New Orleans. Then next year, the changes to the film tax credit resulted in 90 percent of film & TV production disappearing from the state. In 2019, we are seeing some production activity once again. Though it’s nowhere on the scale of what it used to be.”
Film professor Katie Garagiola has a cautiously optimistic approach. “As much as we’d all like to believe that Hollywood productions film in our state for the beautiful landscapes or friendly people, they come here because it saves them money. That’s it! Look at Michigan. In three years they filmed ‘Oz the Great and Power,’ ‘Into the Storm,’ and ‘Batman vs Superman’. Snyder killed the incentive and now the $80M movie studio complex in Pontiac Michigan is a ghost town. Hollywood is about the bottom line. If the incentives go away, so do the productions.”
To take advantage of these incentives, students interested in full-time work that is adjacent to the industry are encouraged to visit job sites such as staffmeup.com, entertainmentcareers.net, and indeed.com to look for opportunities.
Oak Valley Plantation, Vacherie, LA – site of Lestat’s house (played by Tom Cruise) in the 1994 film “Interview with a Vampire” – courtesy of Juan Veraldos via Flickr Creative Commons