Louisiana just ‘scratching the surface’ of potential in movie industry

By: Chelsea Brasted
August 11, 2014

Louisiana has only "scratched the surface" of what's possible in the film and movie industry, according to Patrick Mulhearn, the director of studio operations at the Celtic Media Centre.

Mulhearn spoke to reporters during a meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club and offered a number of "Top Five" lists pertaining to the state's place in the current film industry. Much of his points directly referenced Louisiana's motion picture tax credits, the incentive program put in place -- in its current form -- in 2002. The program gives TV and movie producers spending at least $300,000 a 30 percent tax credit on all in-state production expenditures, plus an additional 5 percent credit on salaries paid to Louisiana residents.

The program has come under fire in the past. Some believe the tax incentives are overly generous, while others are protective of what they see as a necessary tool to bring to the state economic growth in a desirable industry.

"I am bullish about Baton Rouge," he said. "People from all over the world are coming to Baton Rouge because of the film industry, and what they have to say about it really, really makes you feel optimistic about the future here."

Here's a quick look at Mulhearn's main points, including the five ways the incentives have changed the state's industry and the five reasons to keep a strong film industry in Louisiana.

Five ways the motion picture tax credits changed Louisiana's film industry

5) "It took us from a less than $10 million a year industry in 2001-2002 to a billion dollars worth of sales in less than a decade. That's a billion dollars worth of sales in Louisiana."
4) "It created a workforce. The IATSE, the biggest film union, in 2001, they had 136 members in Louisiana and most were out of work at the time. Now they have over 1,300 (members). Total industry in Louisiana right now of film jobs is about 14,000. ... How does that compare with other industries? They said Louisiana seafood is around 16,000."
3) "Volume. That's what's really changed. In 1994, i think we had 5 or 6 films that would have qualified for tax credits. Today, that number is between 100 and 150 projects per year."
2) "The quantity of films we have here has led to quality. We all know Louisiana is being recognized at the Academy Awards. ... What's going on here? It's that old adage that practice makes perfect. our crews have gotten really, really good. These are serious professionals that live and work here."
1) "It led to film infrastructure." Mulhearn noted the number of movie studios around the state like Moonbot Studios, Millenium Studios and Stageworks in Shreveport, the Nims Center in Harahan, Second Line Stages and the NASA Michoud facility around New Orleans and Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge. He also highlighted the importance of having Hollywood Trucks.
[patrick mulhearn celtic media centre] Celtic Media Centre director of studio operations Patrick Mulhearn addresses the press corps during a meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club on Aug. 11, 2014. (Photo by Chelsea Brasted, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) 

Top 5 reasons to keep a strong film industry in Louisiana

5) "We're diversifying Louisiana's economy. This has been an oil and gas and petrochemical state for as long as anybody can remember. ... Worldwide demand for American content is only going up, and Louisiana is ahead of the curve for a change. So here's an idea: Why not make the MPTC applicable to oil and gas liability?"
4) "We're reversing brain drain. There's no doubt about it. ... The film industry is helping to retain our creative (people). ... I've had Californians move here and tell me it's like the reverse gold rush. It's the land of opportunity. Home ownership, they're doing that for the first time. Things are dying in states like California and we're lucky to have that. The American dream is alive and well in the film industry in Louisiana."
3) "Film jobs are great paying jobs, and it adds to our tax base. The average film job pays $51,000 per year. The average union job in the film industry in Louisiana pays over $63,000 per year, and that's with pensions and health care."
2) "Increased resident exposure. It is so hard to put a price tag on that. ... Florida says at least 11 percent of visitors came as a result of a TV show or film. ... Visitors to West Monroe (are because) of exposure. You can measure how much the state gave out in tax credits for the production of 'Duck Dynasty,' but no one has really measured the (return on investment) on the force that is 'Duck Dynasty' and Duck Commander and what it's been for the Robertsons.
1) "The shale of talented people and ideas in this state is just under the surface. The writers, the directors, the stars who are here now -- we just need to work on developing and refining our talent and ideas. We already need a Hollywood South Museum. There's no doubt we're generating history every day, but we've really just scratched the surface as far as realizing our true potential."


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