Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mayors declare May 1-3 'The Last Lullaby Weekend'

Today during a press conference at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro, Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker (left) and Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover (right) presented to director Jeffrey Goodman a plaque declaring May 1-3 "The Last Lullaby Weekend." Goodman's "The Last Lullaby" runs Friday through Sunday at the Louisiana Boardwalk's Regal Cinemas.

I offered Mayor Glover a chance to take my occasional job as a movie critic, since he's done so well in the past. "Will 'The Last Lullaby' be better than 'Factory Girl?'" I asked.

I got only hearty laughter and this remark, "I have no doubt it will be better than 'Factory Girl.'"

Come on, Mayor! Give me something nasty next time.

Two-Week Turnaround Tour visiting RFC tonight

This community filmmaking project will be in The Shreve for two weeks making a short film. We're one of 14 cities. Filmmakers Joshua J. Mills and Jamie Blankenship will work with local talent (actors, writers and filmmakers) to help write, shoot, finish and premiere the project. No experience necessary.

How does it work? According to their website, "Josh and Jamie get in an RV with all their Film equipment. We show up to a city and are greeted by our City Leader. We then have a kick off event, bringing together everyone who wants to help with the film. We work together to write a sweet film, shoot it, edit it, export it. We take a nap. We premiere the film, broadcasting live. We get in RV and drive to the next city. Repeat 14 time."

If you want to participate, head to the Robinson Film Center, 617 Texas St., tonight at 7 p.m.

'The Last Lullaby': Eight of 15 screenings sold out

Updated 10:13 a.m.: The locally filmed "The Last Lullaby" hasn't begun playing at Regal Cinemas Louisiana Boardwalk 14, but it's already sold out eight of 15 screenings. (At this pace, I won't get to see it!) It runs Friday through Sunday.

Today we ran a story on the movie by local director Jeffrey Goodman.

In an email update, Goodman wrote, "But our work is certainly not done -- we have 8 more screenings to sell out to hit our goal and to give ourselves a real shot at expanding into some other markets." He then noted, "1 day and counting, I can't wait to finally bring our film to the Shreveport-Bossier area. I truly appreciate all of your support and hope to see many of you at the movies!"

Get tickets here.

PHOTO: Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in "The Last Lullaby." (Special to The Times)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The grassroots push of 'The Last Lullaby'

"The Last Lullaby" has been super-aggressive in getting its word out to local movie-goers. Aided by Gremillion & Pou, a local marketing firm, Jeffrey Goodman has been hosting meet-ups. Distributing push cards. Putting up lawn signs. Selling T-shirts. You'll learn a bit more about the effort in Thursday's Times.

Last week, Goodman said, "What I’ve tried to avoid is the assumption that everyone will show up."

The movie must sell 2,550 tickets (for 15 total screenings) to earn a sellout. That would be a cume of roughly $18,000. Four of the 15 screenings have sold out in pre-sales. UPDATE: As of 4 p.m. April 29, five of fifteen had sold out. You can follow Goodman on Twitter here.

In the meantime, if you have any photos of the grassroots campaign for "The Last Lullaby" -- parties, signs, tattoos, whatever -- send 'em my way. I will post a photo gallery if I get enough.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Riddle me this, movie fans ... get two free tickets to "The Last Lullaby"

“The Last Lullaby” is based on this short story by this author. Name the title and scribe and win two tickets to the 7 p.m. Friday (May 1) screening at the Regal Cinemas La. Boardwalk 14, Bossier City.

Fine print: Must pick up the tickets at The Times, 222 Lake St., Shreveport, on Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. "TLL" cast/crew not eligible. La. residents only.

Give-away is running on Blogger and Facebook. Hurry!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tickets for 'The Last Lullaby' selling briskly

If you're planning on going to "The Last Lullaby" this weekend, you should probably purchase early because the best screening times are selling out.

And just FYI, my story on the Shreveport-made movie publishes Thursday. My review republishes Friday.

WHAT: local premiere of “The Last Lullaby.”
SCREENING TIMES: 11:30 a.m., 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
WHERE: Regal Cinemas Louisiana Boardwalk 14 in Bossier City.
COST: $5.75-$8.50. To purchase tickets in advance or check on availability, log on to
NOTE: the screenings for 7 p.m. Friday, 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Saturday are sold out.

PHOTO: Director Jeffrey Goodman on the set of "The Last Lullaby" in Shreveport, Feb. 13, 2007. (Greg Pearson/The Times)

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's up at LSUS's Animation and Visual Effects Program?

Here are two opps to learn more about LSUS's new program:

11 a.m. Monday, April 27
LSUS Technology Center, room 209
The Animation and Visual Effects Program presents Joe Bluhm, an animator, character designer and illustrator from New York. He's worked wth MTV, FOX, Virgin Media and Playhouse Disney. He's currently doing storyboard work for William Joyce's short animated film, "The Flying Books of Morris Lessmore." Bluhm will teach at LSUS this summer. More about him here.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29
LSUS University Center Theater
Raffaele Scaduto-Mendola presents a screening of "Barnyard," for which he was character set-up supervisor. Scaduto-Mendola is teaching at LSUS and also working on the Joyce short.

For more info on either program, call 318.795.2480 or email

Locally filmed 'Legends & Lyrics' episodes air April 25, May 2 and May 16 on LPB

The public TV show "Legends & Lyrics" features (left to right) Michael Martin Murphey, Pam Tillis and Ron Sexsmith in an episode that will be broadcast April 25, 2009, on LPB. The episode was shot at Shreveport's Scottish Rite Cathedral. For a story on producer Will Mitchell, and future Shreveport-made episodes, click here.

What’s shooting in La.?

Here's the latest update from the state. 17 projects are shooting or are in pre-, but nothing is official for The Shreve.

Welcome to (225) 342-FILM, the official hotline of Louisiana Entertainment. Here's what's happening for the fourth week of April 2009:

Pre-Production (11)

The independent feature film Inventing Adam is in pre-production in Baton Rouge with shooting scheduled from May 7 through May 24. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Nu Image/Millennium feature film The Expendables starring Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham and a host of others is in pre-production in Jefferson Parish and the New Orleans area with shooting scheduled from May 11 through late July. Resumes for crew and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Fallen Angels Productions feature film Cotton is in pre-production in New Orleans with shooting scheduled in St. Bernard Parish from May 18 through June 14. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail

The Most Wanted Films feature film Bed and Breakfast starring Michael Madsen is in preproduction in Baton Rouge with shooting scheduled to begin May 20. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The independent docu-fiction feature film Jar People is in pre-production in New Orleans with shooting scheduled from May 31 through July 2. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Midgard Entertainment and Red Pictures feature film Punishment is in pre-production in Hammond with shooting scheduled from June. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by email at

The Most Wanted Films feature film Video Girl starring Meagan Good will resume shooting in Baton Rouge on June 7. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Bullet Films feature film Stormbringer is in pre-production in Lafayette with shooting scheduled for June. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

Soft prep for the Bullet Films feature film Jaws of the Mississippi has begun in Lafayette with shooting scheduled for July and August. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The HBO television series True Blood starring Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer will shoot portions of the series in the Baton Rouge area in July. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The independent feature film Roadkill is in soft-prep in South Louisiana with shooting scheduled to begin July 6. Resumes are being accepted by e-mail at


Now Filming (6)

The Warner Bros. feature film Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and Megan Fox is shooting in St. Francisville and the New Orleans area through June 19. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at For extras casting, e-mail

The Hyde Park feature film Leonie starring Emily Mortimer is shooting in Metairie with through May 7. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Hyde Park feature film Dead of Night starring Brandon Routh is shooting in the New Orleans area through May 19. Inquiries are being accepted by fax at (504) 267‐9051.

The Disney Channel children's television series The Imagination Movers is shooting in Harahan through September 17. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Films in Motion feature film Wrong Side of Town starring Rob Van Dam and Batiste is shooting in Baton Rouge through mid-May. Resumes and inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

The Most Wanted Films feature films Standoff and Kiss the Bride are being shot together in Baton Rouge through May 5. Inquiries are being accepted by e-mail at

And for more information about the film and television industry in Louisiana please visit us online at

Times-Pic: LIFT film exec sentenced to 5 years

According to The Times-Picayune, "New Orleans lawyer and film producer Malcolm Petal was sentenced to five years in federal prison on Thursday for conspiring to bribe a former state official in exchange for tax credits." Click here to read the full story at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Entertainment industry bills before the Legislature? This chart is being passed around

Study up on what the state Legislature will begin considering April 27.








TAX CREDITS:Extends the deadline for issuance of motion picture investor tax credits for state-certified infrastructure projects




TAX CREDITS:Provides relative to the maximum amount of the tax credit for state-certified productions and repeals the phase-down of such tax credits




TAX CREDITS:Provides relative to the recapture of motion picture investor tax credits under certain circumstances




TAX CREDITS:Extends the deadline for issuance of motion picture investor tax credits for state-certified infrastructure projects




TAX CREDITS:Removes the January 1, 2010, sunset date for issuance of the sound recording investor tax credit




TAX CREDITS:Authorizes a motion picture investor tax credit for state-certified infrastructure projects




TAX CREDITS:Provides relative to the motion picture investor tax credit for certain state-certified infrastructure projects




TAX CREDITS:Provides relative to the amount of the motion picture investor tax credit for state-certified productions




TAX CREDITS:Provides relative to the time certain tax credits are earned




TAX CREDITS:Deletes the deadline for issuance of motion picture investor tax credits for state-certified infrastructure projects




TAX/TAXATION:Provides for sound recording investor tax credits and to continue the tax credits after January 1, 2010. (gov sig)




TAX/INCOME/PERSONAL:Provides that movie investor tax credits, digital interactive media credits, and musical and theatrical production credits are "earned" when they are certified. (gov sig)




TAX/TAXATION:Increases the transferable motion picture investor tax credit for movie productions certified on and after July 1, 2009 to 30%. (7/1/09)




TAX/TAXATION:Provides relative to the digital interactive media tax credit. (7/1/09)




MUSEUMS:Establishes the Schepis Museum in the Department of State. (8/15/09)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Director hosting social event for 'The Last Lullaby'

To promote the May 1 release of "The Last Lullaby," local director Jeffrey Goodman is hosting a meet-and-greet from 7-9 p.m. tonight (April 22) at Wine Country Bistro. I'll be there, but don't let that dissuade you from going. Heck, I'll even let you buy me dinner and pay off my student loans if you're nice. See you there!

Photo credit: Jeffrey Goodman speaks at Indigo Bistro on April 9, 2009. (Douglas Collier/The Times)

Incentives going federal?

Catch yesterdays's story in Hollywood Reporter regarding a panel about federal incentives? Pretty interesting. The following excerpt should pique local attention:

"Congressman Steve Scalise from Louisiana ... suggested the federal government could do 'something on the jobs side' incentives-wise to avoid job migration to such countries as Canada, Ireland and New Zealand instead of giving out additional production tax credits per se."

Monday, April 20, 2009

How can incentives benefit microbudget filmmakers?

Filmmaker J.B. Jones left a comment over the weekend and raised an interesting question about incentives.

He was responding to the news that the city council is considering a local tax rebate for filmmakers: "This is all well and good, but it doesn't benifit [sic] the local filmmakers who work on very minimal to NO budget. Why do all the incentives have to be about money?"

On the state level, incentives currently are only available to projects with a $300,000 budget or more. That excludes microbudget filmmakers like J.B. Jones. (Why not a lower threshold? One word, I've been told: porn. It's commonsense that no state wants to be in the business of incentivizing adult entertainment.)

Shreveport does offer some fee-free filming incentives that can benefit small-budget filmmakers, if they choose to use them. Permit applications (for on-location shoots) are free. Water is free for wetting down streets. And as I understand it, filmmakers can also use public buildings for free (as long as they obtain a permit through Shreveport film liaison, Arlena Acree). Here's a little more info.

That said, if you are a microbudget filmmaker (typically $50,000 or much less), what other kinds of incentives would help you make your projects? And have you ever taken advantage of the incentives as they exist now? Let us know. It's a good time to have conversations like these.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Catch these if you’re in Lafayette next week

Just got this press release. Good stuff:

Festival International de Louisiane, the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism and the University of Louisiana present Soirées du Cinema. Soirées du Cinema is a films series which will happen every day of Festival International de Louisiane at the Acadiana Center for Film and Media. This year, Soirées du Cinema will kick off on Tuesday, April 21 with a special showing of La Môme – better known in the United States as La Vie en Rose. This film will be shown at Cité des Arts starting at 6:15pm. After the film, there will be a special live musical tribute performance: Tribute to Edith Piaf by MI Scoggin. The live musical tribute performance will begin at 8:30pm. OR after Bach Lunch on Festival Friday, stop by Acadiana Center for Film and Media and watch L'Iceburg (a film from Belgium) at 2pm. Soirées du Cinéma is produced by the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism, UL-Lafayette, for Festival International de Louisiane.

Remember: All Festival International performances and special events are FREE to the public. You can see the full listing of films on the Festival website:


La Môme* (France, 2007, PG-13, 140 mins.)– Better known in the United States as La Vie en Rose – 6:15pm – Cité des Arts – Free

Live Musical Performance: Tribute to Edith Piaf by MI Scoggin (Louisiana/ French Chanson) – 8:30pm – Cité des Arts – Free


"L'Origine de la Tendresse" et Autre Contes* (France, 2004-2007, NR, 95 mins.) – 5:30pm

La Trappe* (Canada, 2008, NR, 20 mins.) – 7:05pm

Film Shorts by the Cinematic Arts Workshop at the University of Louisiana: BeauSoleil House and Raised on Rice and Gravy (US, 2006-2009, NR) – 7:25pm

Short film by the winner of the Acadiana Film Festival (US, 2009, NR) – 8:00pm – Acadiana Center for Film and Media – Free


Mooladé* (Senegal, 2004, NR, 134 mins) For mature audiences – 5:30pm – Acadiana Center for Film and Media – Free


L'Iceberg* (Belgium, 2005, NR, 84 mins) – 2:00pm

Anything I Catch: The Handfishing Story (Louisiana, 1990, NR, 30 mins) 4:30pm – Acadiana Center for Film and Media – Free


Persepolis* (France, 2007, PG-13, 95 mins) – 1:30pm

Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon* (Nigeria, 2004, NR, 53 mins.) – 3:30pm

L'extrême frontière poétique de Gérard Leblanc (Canada, 2006, NR, 77 mins.) – 5:00pm (featuring Louisiana singer-poet Zachary Richard) Acadiana Center for Film and Media – Free


Je Chanterai pour toi (Mali, 2002, NR, 76 mins.) – 11:30am

Zydeco (Louisiana, 1986, NR, 57 mins.) – 1:00pm

J'ai Été au Bal (Louisiana, 1989, NR, 84 mins.) – 2:00pm Acadiana Center for Film and Media – Free

* Films presented as part of The Tournées Festival.

Soirées du Cinéma is produced by the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism, UL-Lafayette, for Festival International de Louisiane. The Tournées Festival was made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

City councilman proposing local incentive

Did you catch today's excerpt from Adam Kealoha Causey's city council story?

"Councilman Calvin Lester has proposed local incentives for the film industry.

"Among them: Up to $150,000 from city coffers for first-time movie, TV commercial or music video productions that spend up to $300,000 in Shreveport on lodging, equipment or space rental and other supplies.

"Essentially, the city would return sales tax revenue the companies spent, Lester said."

Causey will continue to follow the story this week. Keep your eye on it.

It's an interesting development, in light of the 3 percent tax rebate offered in Jefferson Parish, which is capped $100,000 for most projects.

It's also intriguing, when you consider this story about the development of the Louisiana Film Studios in Elmwood.

The incentives discussion, and intrastate competitiveness, is heating up.

Baton Rouge industry pro dies

John McDougall, co-owner of LA Pro Space in Baton Rouge, passed away Friday morning. See the Baton Rouge Business Report for more details.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rating changed: 'Year One' now PG-13

Have no fear, blockbuster hopefuls. The MPAA has changed its "Year One" rating to PG-13 from R after director Harold Ramis and producer Judd Apatow made some cuts. Check out this Hollywood Reporter story.

"Year One," filmed primarily in Sibley on this set, opens June 19.

An important clarification from Stephen Moret

LED Secretary Stephen Moret shared a clarification with me today. My summary of the ERA study in this story was unintentionally unclear, for which I apologize. I'm sharing Moret's note with you. I always appreciate feedback.

From Stephen Moret, LED Secretary:


Your article in today's Shreveport Times includes the following paragraph (emphasis added):

"The Louisiana Economic Development Department released a study earlier this year that claimed the benefits of the industry outweigh the state's costs. The study estimated the incentive program would cost the state $115 million but stimulate $763 million in economic activity. Other national studies have suggested that tax incentive programs cost a state much more than they are worth."

The report clearly showed that the "economic activity" generated by the tax credits is far greater than the cost of the tax credits, but the report also made it clear that the State provides much more value in tax credits than the film industry generates in tax revenues. Table 14 on page 35 (see attached report) summarizes the fiscal impact of the film production tax credits for the last few years for which data is available; clearly the State provides far more in tax credits than it receives in associated tax revenues. In 2007, for example, film productions generated approximately $15MM in state tax revenue while costing the State $115MM in tax credits, which means the State ultimately will realize a net loss in tax revenues of roughly $100MM for film activity in 2007 (once all earned credits are actually claimed).

I share this information just to clarify the facts for future reference. We strongly support the continued growth and development of the entertainment industry, including the film production industry, in Louisiana. That is why we are supporting legislation that would continue the current value of the film-production tax credits for at least two more years, despite the net cost of the program to the State. This obviously is a very important industry to the Shreveport/Bossier area, as well as to the whole state.

Stephen Moret

LED Secretary

Tickets on sale for 'The Last Lullaby'

"The Last Lullaby," shot by local director Jeffrey Goodman, runs May 1-3 at the Regal Cinemas Louisiana Boardwalk 14 in Bossier City.

Tickets are on sale at and at the theater's box office.

Show times
Friday, May 1: 11:30, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30
Saturday, May 2: 11:30, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30
Sunday, May 3: 11:30, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00, 9:30

I'm headed there 7 p.m. Friday. Should be a good crowd.

Industry shares anxiety at mayor's forum

Did you attend the film incentive forum hosted by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover on Thursday? Judging by this picture of a packed Skybox at Independence Stadium, you did. It was interesting hear a variety of perspectives on how to make the local industry more competitive. In the room, the consensus was that the production incentive needs to be pushed from 25 percent to 30 percent (to match Georgia's). The idea suggests it would level the playing field and return some business back to The Shreve. You buy it? Let me know.

Perhaps the most symbolic moment came when David Akin, who runs Louisiana EPK, stood up and asked how many of the attendees -- presumably many were crew and talent -- were from Louisiana. More than half in their rooms raised their hands. He then asked how many would be forced to move away if movie productions don't start returning to The Shreve. About a quarter in the room raised their hands.

"A lot of taxpayers," Akin observed.

In today's paper, I also wrote a piece about the Film Industry Training courses, most of which end today. Picture below.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Kumar goes to Washington?

Kal Penn, whose character smoked dope with a Dubya impersonator in "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," has been hired by the Obama administration to be a liaison between the White House and arts groups. No kidding. ... Read here.

I wonder if his new bosses saw the above clip from "HK2?" I'm guessing it wasn't one of Penn's work samples.

Now, I've interviewed Penn a couple times and let's just say that his roles -- with the exception of perhaps "House" -- don't represent him well. At all. He's super-smart. He was reading The New York Times when I met him. (Right side up and everything.) And he studied international security at Stanford while acting, according to HK2 bio. In other words, the dude's not Kumar.

On a Shreveport set in February 2007, Penn told me: "I will say to that dude who hasn’t met me, he’s going to be sorely disappointed. I’m a pretty boring guy. If you hang out all day [on set], you’ll see me drinking water, sitting there reading the newspaper, and then doing my job when I have to do it. That’s it. There’s this weird assumption that I’m some sort of dancing monkey just because I play the role of Kumar, which is sort of flattering because it means you’ve done a believable job in playing the character. But fans are regularly disappointed."

But really, now, what do I think of Penn working for the White House? Um, well ... hmm. I'll quote Dubya as played by James Adomian in "HK2": "You just blew my f***ing mind."

'Year One' slapped with an R rating

Apparently, the biblical humor in "Year One" gets pretty dicey. The major Sony release (June 19) just earned an R rating from the MPAA. Yikes. That's less than great news for The Shreve, because it's going to limit its audience base. As a major release, local industry advocates want to make sure this flick reaches as many people as possible. Why? Chalk it up to the "Benjamin Button" effect. Big movie = more interest in northwest Louisiana as a location.

Reports the Hollywood Reporter, "The film's producer Judd Apatow and its director, co-writer and producer Harold Ramis appeared before the board to argue for a more lenient rating for the comedy that stars Jack Black and Michael Cera as a couple of barely-out-of-the-cave men who travel through the ancient world."

Check out the article here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Trailer: 'Wonderful World' starring Matthew Broderick

Shot in The Shreve. Thoughts?

Meet the makers of 'Zombie Girl' tonight

"Zombie Girl" continues its run at the Robinson Film Center this week. Tonight, you can meet directors Erik Mauck and Justin Johnson at Q&As following the 5:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. screenings. The documentary follows a 12-year-old Austinite on her two-year quest to make "Pathogen," a feature-length zombie flick. "Zombie Girl" won a 2009 Spirit of Slamdance award. (Unfortunately, RFC's Abby Singer's Bistro will not be serving fresh brain martinis. Strickly a BYOBrain affair.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bring your questions to Thursday’s forum with Mayor Glover

Plan to attend
Mayor's office forum re: Louisiana's film industry incentives.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday (April 9).
WHERE: Independence Stadium Skybox, Shreveport.
WITH: you, Mayor Cedric Glover, and local and state lawmakers.

Have you been reading the news about Studio Operations (Nu Image/Millennium Films) opening the Worldwide FX visual effects studio in Shreveport? You should pay close attention because this developing story – like the recent announcement of DigiLou Studios – is a very big deal for the local industry. Bringing postproduction and digital animation to this market represents a chance for The Shreve and the state to capture high-paying jobs in the film industry, and seed a new sector that could ultimately drive a big part of the local biz.

If you're local crew member, however, you're more concerned about earning a paycheck now. I get that. It's no secret that The Shreve's production calendar has been startlingly quiet for the first quarter of '09, and not a week goes by that I don't receive an email expressing deep concern about the industry's local future. I hear you, and I'm reporting whatever I can get on the record.

Thursday, however, represents an opportunity to get heard by leaders and lawmakers. If you want to see more movies made in The Shreve and in Louisiana, then go to the mayor's forum Thursday and join an ongoing public dialogue.

For what it is worth, here's what I'm thinking about. This outline might help you frame some of your questions:

What's going to happen with tax credit legislation when the session begins on April 27? Should the state strengthen the incentives or not?

  • Louisiana's production incentive (25 percent) is not as aggressive as Georgia's (30 percent). Will Louisiana legislators re-up the ante in the upcoming legislative session? Will they follow Gov. Bobby Jindal's view and keep it at 25 percent for two more years? It's too early to tell, and the issue is not as cut-and-dry as it seems. In the short term, Georgia's production calendar is outpacing Louisiana's. But will this prove true in the long term?

  • What specific tax credit is the most important to focus on during this legislative session? Locally, some say the emphasis must be put on the production tax credit, because it drives the most business. (It follows, too, that the Louisiana labor tax credit, which effectively boosts the production tax credit from 25 percent to 35 percent for in-state labor, is an important sweetener. Keep in mind, though, that Georgia has a sweetener of its own: it offers a sales tax rebate.)

  • What should be done with the expired infrastructure tax credit? It was worth 40 until the end of 2008, but many of its critics point out that it was never intended to be worth so much (rather, just 15). The sense I have from local conversations is that there will be a push to reestablish it at 15 percent, with its value capped on per project basis. Who knows what will transpire in the end.
    The most interesting argument I've heard is this: "The production credit drives movie production, so it's the most important one to tweak. Strengthen it, and infrastructure will follow when necessary." On the flipside, some argue that infrastructure development (building studios, etc.), is key to the industry's longevity suggesting, "If you don't build it, they will no longer come."
    For The Shreve, which has three soundstage production facilities and will have four before the end of 2009, this is a big issue.
    The questions you should be asking here are: Do we have enough infrastructure to sustain the current industry and foster growth, or do we need more? And what should a renewed infrastructure credit look like?

  • Are local lawmakers in northwest Louisiana looking to add local incentives, like the 3 percent tax rebate in Jefferson Parish (capped at $100,000 per project), and would it be cost effective?

  • Do Louisiana's incentives add up to true economic gain for the state? You need to read every inch of this report to answer this. You also need to think about the driving idea of the original legislation: the incentives were designed to build an indigenous, or more self-sustaining, industry.
    We're a couple years into a modified program which specifically focuses on in-state investment, and the gains in Shreveport have been big. Have the gains, though, been big enough to justify the program's cost? Does the program simply need more time to bear more fruit?
    Understand that the program is costly. In 2007, for instance, the ERA study estimated that the incentive program cost the state about $115M in tax credits. It estimates the state would recoup $15M in state taxes.) That same report also claimed the industry spent more than $429 million in Louisiana in 2007, resulting in an economic impact of $763 million in 2007.
    Is it worth it? If you read the report as truth, then yes. In my mind, however, the best way to prove any big benefit is to cut it into bite-sized pieces. If you want to make your case the program pays off, then quantify your gain personally and talk about with the lawmakers. If you are below-the-line crew, how much money do you make from the film industry? What were your state taxes? And how much money do you re-spend in La.'s economy (through food, rent, etc.)?
  • Again, is it too soon to think about sunsetting the film industry credits, as currently scheduled? Given the competitiveness of Ga. and Mich., can La. expect to hold its ground with the incentive program as it stands? On the contrary, should Louisiana refuse to get into an arms race with other states and simply hold its ground? Considering the national incentives race between states, at what point is Louisiana giving away the proverbial store? Read this story about Wisconsin industry study, which suggests incentives don't create real jobs. And read this story, from the Boston Herald, about study that suggests film incentives won't pay off in the long run. Don't discount the challenge of justifying an incentive program during a recession economy. State legislators are going to be feeling big pressure to make big cuts during their upcoming session.

Locally, how can northwest Louisiana regain a competitive edge and its momentum? There is a lot to think about on this front:

  • I spoke about this with Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover at last Friday's press conference for Worldwide FX. Glover's up-to-speed on where the industry stands and its competitiveness with other states. To him, Worldwide FX "represents another successful step in building up that infrastructure" that sustains the industry, and, as we're often reminded, spends money locally.
    Glover's aware that production facilities like Mansfield Studios (run through Louisiana Production Consultants), Stage West, and StageWorks of Louisiana – along with Nu Image/Millennium – drive activity in the local production industry. On city-leased land, Nu Image/Millennium is adding their $8 million studio by the end of the year. About the studio, Glover said, "We are without question undaunted in our efforts" with the new studio. "It will come to a full and complete development."
    These are all signs that The Shreve has a good start.

  • In nearly the same breath, Glover talked about The Shreve's need to "cultivate a niche" in small- and midsized independent film and TV production. This is a really important point. Small- to midsize projects have driven our market's growth to this date, and many believe it will continue to be these types of projects – count "Leaves of Grass," "Skateland," "Wonderful World," "Harold & Kumar 2" and "Streets of Blood" in this class – which drive the local industry. Major studio projects like Sony's "The Year One" are welcomed by local industry – and courted – but they're really just gravy. That's to say, "If the biggies come, fantastic. If they don't, then we have our bread and butter niche to keep us going."

  • I also spoke with Studio Operations prez Diego Martinez (that's the local arm of Nu Image/Millennium) about this, and its move to add Worldwide FX. Why set up a visual effects shop? It keeps its movies close to home and inside Louisiana, for one, and secondly, it also allows Studio Ops to service its own projects. "We ultimately want to have full post-production in Shreveport," Martinez said. If that's not a statement of commitment to the local industry, I don't know what is.
    If Studio Operations can grow and ultimately finish its films Louisiana-shot films in Louisiana, it more fully becomes that "indigenous" industry everybody has been eying from the get-go.

  • Does this company, and the rest, have the support they need to regain momentum?

  • Do we have enough trained crew? Are they remaining in the area or leaving for jobs elsewhere?

  • If you're crew, do you have transferable skills that can be moved from one industry sector to another? Can you acquire them through Worldwide FX, or the Animation and Visual Effects Program at LSUS? Digital animation and special effects are positioned to grow in this market, and it's a good idea to explore these opportunities.

  • Is the local industry diverse enough to weather economic downtowns like the current recession? Think about all of these questions if you want to have a stake in the conversation.

Now the efforts of Mayor Glover, Diego Martinez and industry leaders are important, but yours are equally so. If you have concerns about the industry's competitiveness – and are deeply concerned by not getting work for weeks or months – then you need to attend the Mayor's forum on Thursday at the Independence Stadium Skybox. It's a chance for you to connect with local lawmakers as they continue to analyze the incentive program and map out the best course of action. "Part of what I intend to do is give them a chance to tell me" what needs to be done, Glover told me last week. I'd answer his call.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Director has a compelling view of self-distribution

Shreveport's Jeffrey Goodman is doing a whole lot of press about "The Last Lullaby," which opens May 1 in Bossier City. The director has been blogging for Moviemaker about self-distribution for a couple months, and today's entry is intriguing. He writes:

"I know I’m having to get out there and speak a great deal about the movie. But, I go on indieWIRE and see that Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), Lance Hammer (Ballast), Azazel Jacobs (Momma’s Man), David Gordon Green (Snow Angels) and now Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo) are all doing the same thing. And all of them are much more established than I am. So that at least tells me, in this current landscape, you can’t be an anti-social moviemaker.

"You can no longer just make your movie and know that people will be there to see it. Like a politician running for office, you have to be out there, among the people, talking about your work."

Click here for the full entry.

PHOTO: Actress Sasha Alexander and director Jeffrey Goodman field questions about "The Last Lullaby" at the 2008 AFI Dallas Film Fest. (Alexandyr Kent/The Times)

What's on view at the Louisiana Film Fest? Zombies, fish tanks, a big lug, oil doc and pharaohs

The Louisiana Film Festival: Student Division begins tonight at the Robinson Film Center. Oodles of programming offered through Sunday, including the festival closer "Zombie Girl," which follows 12-year-old Emily Hagins (pictured) on her journey to make a feature-length flick about the undead. Find the schedule here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Breaking news: Local film company opening visual effects studio

Nu Image/Millennium Films’ local subsidiary, Studio Operations, is opening a visual effects studio in Shreveport called Worldwide FX.

“It represents our Louisiana footprint,” said Scott Coulter, visual effects producer for Nu Image/Millennium. “It will be the studio that ultimately does all the visual effects for projects shot in Louisiana.”

Nu Image/Millennium has shot nine films in Shreveport since late 2006 — from “My Mom’s New Boyfriend” to the recently wrapped “Cooldog.”

Worldwide FX has been in operation for 10 years in Sofia, Bulgaria, where Nu Image/Millennium runs a major studio facility.

The local effects studio is beginning by hiring a staff of 10 to 15.

“It will definitely expand from there,” Coulter said.

Nu Image/Millennium also plans to build a new $8 million studio facility in Shreveport’s Ledbetter Heights neighborhood by the end of 2009.

Details about Worldwide FX will be announced during a press conference 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Clarion Hotel. Studio representatives and Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover are scheduled to speak.

The above is a huge piece of news, folks. Couple this development with the recent announcement of DigiLou Studios and you have the emergence of a small but new and local digital/post-production workforce. Big deal.