Baton Rouge rolling out red carpet for TV series


People in the Baton Rouge area may run across Oscar winner Denzel Washington during breaks this year in the filming of a remake of an iconic western, “The Magnificent Seven.” But the bigger business news may be that the capital city region also is the setting for four new television series. That’s because production of one movie usually pumps a lot of money into an area for one year or less. A television series that becomes a hit, however, may mean more money and stability for the same area a decade or longer.
“That’s the best thing about scripted television,” said Patrick Mulhearn, executive director of Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge. “It can always come back. Scripted television is the Holy Grail of film production.”
Records of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development show what Mulhearn means.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures estimated in May the company will spend more than $20 million on production costs in Louisiana for “The Magnificent Seven.” Woodbridge Productions, however, estimated in March that first-season expenditures for its new television series, “Underground,” will total more than $35.7 million. Next Production LLC estimated in May that it will spend more than $18.9 million around the capital city for the first season of its series, “Scream (aka Hush),” similar to the “Scream” slasher dramedies that once drew millions of teenagers to theaters. Sundance Channel Originals reported in March it will spend more than $4.8 million in the Baton Rouge area on its new series, “Hap and Leonard,” about problems faced by two friends in rural eastern Texas of the 1980s.

The fourth new television series in the area is “Parallax,” a sci-fi involving threats to Earth, for which Wheaton One said in April it plans to spend $331,852. That’s more than $59.9 million in combined television series expenditures planned for the Baton Rouge area this year — and a chance that similar money will be spent annually for years to come. “It would be really good for everyone if they become hits,” Mulhearn said recently. “We could see year-round production in this area.” Long-running television series open up acting, filming and production jobs for local residents, Mulhearn explained. That encourages film crews to buy local homes and put down roots. So, movie producers soon realize, Mulhearn said, “If they [talented production crews] are already here, you don’t have to pay for all that travel.”

Mulhearn said that’s good for Celtic Studios, which has hosted hits such as Summit’s “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” parts one and two, Universal’s “Battleship” and Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles.” More recently, Celtic hosted the Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox production of “The Fantastic Four,” scheduled for release in August. Mulhearn said he always is working to attract more movie productions to Celtic. He added, though, “No one would be more thrilled about Baton Rouge becoming a television town than I.”