Hollywood and local celebrities team up to keep tax incentives
By Matthew Sigur
Published May 15, 2013
Celebrities and state politicians walked the red carpet Tuesday night for Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association's (LFEA) Laissez Louisiana Film Rouler event at the Celtic Media Centre.
While the affair brought a Hollywood vibe to Baton Rouge, its purpose was simple — to show support for Louisiana's film industry tax incentives.
Currently, a bill approved by the House would reduce the tax credits for non-resident workers hired from 30% to 20%, while the credit for resident workers would stay at 35%.
The event was dubbed as Scott Niemeyer's baby. Niemeyer is the CFO of Gold Circle Films, the production company behind Pitch Perfect and the upcoming Search Party, both of which were filmed in Baton Rouge.
Niemeyer says the event was put on to celebrate the film and entertainment business in Louisiana and show appreciation for the incentive program. Neimeyer grew up in New Orleans, and lived in the state for around 30 years. Though he moved out to Los Angeles, he followed the incentives program and says he is thrilled to make films in his home state.
However, Niemeyer and other film tax credit supporters realize anything could happen when the bill goes to the Senate in the next few weeks.
"Legislature has a big job cut out for them to balance the budget," he says. "We recognize that's not an easy task. We also want to mention the significance of our industry—the 15,000-plus jobs, the billions of dollars of in-state spending. Despite the fiscal cost of the program, the economic impact of the industry on the state is much more significant."
Will French, the co-founder and president of Film Production Capital, echoed Niemeyer's sentiments when talking about how the incentives legislation might be received.
"Anything could happen," French says. "I feel like we're in a good spot now. We're all on the same page for once, and it feels really good. The question is what's going to happen between now and the end of the session. We've got to be vigilant. We've got to be there everyday. We got to make sure if anyone suggests any changes that they know what the consequences are."
Mayor Kip Holden was also present Tuesday night, and he says he's taking a more optimistic point of view.
"When everybody takes a critical look at what this industry has done for people all over the state, it's a no-brainer," Holden says. "You have to keep this industry here. It's been a godsend for a lot of people who would have not had the chance to be in a movie or further their career."
The event also garnered a few celebrities, including Search Party actors T.J. Miller and Adam Pally, and Louisiana-born actress Faith Ford.
You might remember Ford from such popular television shows as Murphy Brown and Hope and Faith. Ford was born in Alexandria and says the state should do its best to keep the industry here as long as possible.
"Louisiana supports the arts like no other state," Ford says. "We have the music, the art, the talent, the food, Mardi Gras…We have the spirit here and the soul. We need to embrace it and keep it here forever. It should never go away. We've got a lot to offer in our state, and it's only the beginning."
Though Miller was decked out in a fake beard and poking fun throughout the night, he did break his mold to offer view of what Baton Rouge has to offer for films.
"Baton Rouge is one of those places where you can't find a place with nicer people and more locations to film," Miller says. "We'd like to keep coming back here."