Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'Haynesville' shows potential of local indie scene

Pop quiz, hotshot! Who said the following about making movies in The Shreve? "Look, these people are gamblers and roughnecks. They know all about boom and bust. This is a second-chance town. I just read that there may be a huge reserve of gas right under the city that was not discovered until very recently."

a) Denzel Washington, on the set of "The Great Debaters.
b) Oliver Stone, on the set of "W."
c) Jim Carrey, on the set of "I Love You Phillip Morris."
d) Alexandyr Kent, on the set of "I Can't Believe He's Not Butter: An Unauthorized Biography of Fabio."

As much as d makes perfect sense, it was b, Oliver Stone, on the set of "W.," speaking to David Carr of The New York Times. (If you failed this quiz, don't call me for at least a week.)

What Mr. Stone didn't know in May 2008 was that local producer-director Gregory Kallenberg was preparing to make "Haynesville," a documentary about the area's growing natural gas industry. Today, The Times published my first piece on the project. Local audiences could get to see the project in the fall. (It all hinges on Kallenberg's distribution/festival plans.)

In the above pic, Kallenberg and three members of his production team sit in their editing suite in downtown Shreveport. To me, what's cool about "Haynesville" is it shows that our region -- or more specifically, our filmmakers and artists -- is fully capable of growing and nurturing a self-sustaining independent film industry. Kallenberg believes as much. I tend to agree with him. Why?
  • Almost everything about "Haynesville," from its subjects to its producers to its editor to its cinematographer, is homegrown.
  • The project didn't require a studio or Calif.-based production company to greenlight it.
  • To the tenacious, there are oodles of interesting subjects in NWLA that beg for a closer look.
  • As we've also seen with narrative filmmakers like Jeffrey Goodman ("The Last Lullaby," feature) and Jonathan Rothell ("Silent Treatment," short), local investors will fund filmmakers with local roots.
  • As "Haynesville" demonstrates, some movies can not only be shot in NWLA but they also can largely be finished in Louisiana, too. "Haynesville" will do almost all of its post- within the state's boundaries.
Kallenberg touched on these ideas in my Times' article, which raises even more interesting questions:
  • Does the future of the state's industry hinge on more Oliver Stones, or more Gregory Kallenbergs?
  • Do lawmakers, industry critics, and industry advocates make clear distinctions between Hollywood-driven imports (like "W.") and local indie projects (like "Haynesville"), or between the business of narrative filmmaking and the business of documentary filmmaking?
  • Is the state creating a production environment wherein the making of studio features and the making of indie movies (documentary, narrative features or otherwise) make equal sense?
  • Is our our entertainment industry diverse, deep and artistically rich enough to ultimately become self-sustaining?
  • And put simply, is there enough Louisiana in the Louisiana film industry?
I'd love to field your thoughts on this.

PHOTO (clockwise from the topic): Chris Lyon, editor; Gregory Kallenberg, producer-director; Mark Bullard, producer; Patrick Long, associate producer.


JB Jones said...

I think everyone knows how I feel about this.

While the Hollywood import crowd is exciting, it is the local filmmaker that will put Hollywood South on the map. In fact, you know what? Let's just stop saying Hollywood South all together. It's called SHREVEPORT - and we make movies here!

My best wishes to all the local filmmakers!

Evan said...

I think the answer to everything is both.

It's not practical to imagine an industry of just local artists. Sure in general we may have something different and unique to offer, but Shreveport isn't that big, and that's not how any other entertainment hubs work. We'll always need to cater to the films that actually make money and get distribution as they're the only ones that have money to put into our economy.

That being said there's no reason to ignore the local indie film scene. But you have to remember that it is just that, a local indie film scene. It's just like a local indie music scene or a local artist scene. It's not realistic to expect much more.

You'll have people pop up and be successful and we should support that, but we're not going to have a sustainable film industry from just local filmmakers.

Kelly said...

Great post and article.

I think the growth of Shreveport's arts community in general and its movie industry in particular is really exciting.

In answer to the question, "Is our our entertainment industry diverse, deep and artistically rich enough to ultimately become self-sustaining?", I think the answer is absolutely. Perhaps not in Shreveport alone, but in the state as a whole, definitely.

JB Jones said...

To my dearest Evan,

I also believe it will take a combination of both Hollywood major players and local folks to make this movie thing work here in Shreveport. My comment was only to say that, although we may rely on Hollywood for the big bucks, it will be the local filmmakers who define the culture, build the infastructure, and sustain the artistic pursuits once the locust have gone. Think Seattle in the time of Grunge rock.

I always use Austin as an example - but it's a good one. Hollywood often camps out there, but the town is not known because of Hollywood. They are certainly NOT called Hollywood Texas. It is known for the filmmakers and artists who originate from there.

All I really wanted to say was that I am always behind the local movie movement!

Yours Truly,

Evan said...

Well the keyword is "industry".

Creative people can be creative anywhere with nothing. Whether or not there's an industry won't really change that, but a strong industry will entice more creative people to go where the resources and money are...which isn't really a good thing if it gets as over-saturated as say L.A. But ultimately the idea should be to get more creative people to move here...and to make it a strong enough place for the good local talent to stay. We often hear of people moving back to Shreveport for exposure and the new industry, but I think a lot more are still moving away as even I may have to in a few years.

But as far as having enough business to support local rental houses and post production facilities and grip and electric companies, that kind of "industry" stuff relies largely on the big movies. And as a side effect if we can get things like animation or game studios or design firms to come here then we will be bringing more creative people in and building a larger creative infrastructure.

Kinda like you were saying, we local filmmakers, we support the culture, but not so much the economy, which is what the people with money and power care about. And in order for our local culture to expand, we need more people brought in through the economy.

I think Shreveport is a long ways from Seattle or Austin. There are a lot of reasons other than film or music that made those cities big and successful and renowned before their art culture thrived.

For example, before Austin is a film hub, it's the state capital and it's a college town for UT. Those two things created a certain environment where film was then allowed to take off.

So I guess I'm just saying Shreveport needs more creative people (and businesses) if it wants to be a creative city. And you need something else to bring them in before it's reputation alone will. Something like the state college for largest state in the continental US. I'd say that was probably a large factor for Austin.

Centenary and LSUS don't quite have that pull. They also don't have substantial film programs to bring in film students like UT does. When you have a college as large as UT with a film program as relatively robust as UT's then an indie film subculture is bound to brew. Right now we only really have the RFC in Shreveport, which is brand spanking new. Our schools don't really bring in indie filmmakers and our industry doesn't either. More than focusing on training the people who are here, I think local colleges need to work on having strong enough programs to attract people from other places. Because at the end of the day you can't just train the whole population of Shreveport to be movie people. To have a strong enough industry, we have to bring people in.

Shreveport has to be more than it's native crop of talent. While it's great to support each other and find each other and work with each other, we need to be attracting a lot more people to set up shop here. We're just not enough to bring in the things we want.

Anonymous said...

Get a grip, guys... its over for the Shreve! No direct flight to LA, no infrastructure that competes with the Real film studios, no professional film schools, and most important, an attitude of total denial about what needs to be changed in Shreveport to sustain a film industry. Its more about attitude than money.
I think everyone sees the writing on the wall by now, but most people in the area are illiterate, so they just can't understand the industry is gone from shreveport.
I'm just being brutally honest, not negative, and truly hope you all succeed in proving me wrong.
It'll never happen unless we start listening instead of boasting about being Hollywood South!
Tucker Max was right about Shreveport...

Kathryn Usher said...

Great points in the post and comments. I agree they should work together but, damn, I love me some indie flicks, documentaries included.

I'll take a gritty John Waters flick over shiny Hollywood any day. I hate fake shiny white capped teeth. Give me ecru choppers any day!

P.S. Why is it the negative folks don't have enough balls or ovaries to use their own names when they slam SB Land?

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between telling the honest truth and being negative. You can't improve things if you won't admit there is a problem. I love shreveport and the people, but I can't stand the attitude of those who are killing the film industry for all of us. Did you see Cedric Glover's latest NATIONAL comment that is making our great city once again look like ignorant rednecks? Now do you really think productions will continue to come here after hearing this? How many nation-wide condemnations can a city take, and come back?

JB Jones said...

I LOVE YOU Kathryn Usher! John Waters is exactly who I was thinking about!

At one time, I asked myself - with all these "talented" little filmmakers running around here spouting all the stuff they've read from books and rolling their eyes at every movie that comes along, why can't they all band together to create something unique and fun - like John Waters did with his little band of weirdos?

And then I thought - wait a minute, I can do it myself. So I did. I don't need Hollywood. I don't need industry. I just need a camera and a bunch of people crazy enough to do stuff in front of it.

That's movie-making folks.

Chris Lyon said...

I'm with Evan. It takes both. Fortunately, this leaves the door wide open for indie films to take advantage of the slump in Hollywood work to better lower budget films bottom line. Talented people are in need of work and indie films might be able to pick up some of the slack if they really get going. Now is a great time to shoot a multi-million dollar film on a half million dollar budget for for $350,000.

Let's not forget that work in Austin (apparently the model city for Shreveport to some) ebbs and flows with indie work. We can do no better than assume that we are susceptible to that as well. Right now Austin is seeing people head for the coast to find work because there is none to be had.

I can't wait for a filmmaker like Evan, JB, or myself to get the change (and the funds) to really put a good effort forward to make a film using local resources that looks like a million bucks and is commercially viable on some level.

Anonymous said...

S'port has never had a film culture, much less an Indie film scene. It took a hurricane for this town to get the exposure it got. It wasn't ready for it then, nor is it now. When one thinks of S'port-Bossier, De Moines-Rock Island comes to mind. Agricultural, not multicultural. Just ask anyone local connected with film what is was like pre-Katrina. There weren't a dozen films shot over a decade here, and now all of the fuss?? This town still isn't ready. Want an Indie film scene? Try Austin, Dallas. The Indie scene has thrived in both Texas towns, even without credits.