Louisiana was the first state in the nation to offer tax incentives to the Film Industry. Productions, mainly in New Orleans, increased. Then, in 2005, came Katrina. It was a tragic event for those on the Gulf Coast, but brought a wave of movie production to Shreveport. As the productions evacuated up 1-49, the local governments and supporters had to work quickly to accommodate the influx.
We're now known as “Hollywood South,” and Shreveport is ranked in the top five in the country for making movies. Since Katrina, we've produced one hundred and twenty three film and TV projects with budgets, totaling over one billion dollars. And, though production locally is down, with many productions going to New Orleans, Arlena Acree, Director of Film, Media, and Entertainment for the City of Shreveport, did tell us that a major production is coming to town, with details soon.
While government incentives played their part, philanthropists were busy at work with their own contribution, the Robinson Film Center. Inspired by local visionaries, Sylvia Goodman was tasked with raising the money to get the film center going, and restore this historic building, now anchoring a growing downtown arts district. The five year project drew on the generosity of many local philanthropists, especially, Bill Robinson. Goodman tells us why she and Robinson felt so strongly about a film center, “Both of us had said that for both of us growing up, movies were our windows on the world. That's how we learned about other cultures, other places.” And Goodman told KTBS that the Robinson has become what they had hoped, “It is the magnet for these people. They are all blown away when they come here. This is where they hang out.”
And, each month, industry professionals meet there to discuss upcoming jobs. While many of these jobs are filled by professionals from elsewhere, Louisiana State University-Shreveport, and Bossier Parish Community College, now train locals for these jobs, with award winning results. We met with local film students who were the winners of the first annual Louisiana Film Prize. Filmmaker Noah Scruggs says “Lsu-s opened my mind to what is possible with the film industry here in town and what I can do once I graduate. I think the schools here have really embraced the film part of town and they are helping a new community of filmmakers to make a career here.” His friend and fellow filmmaker, Thomas Woodruff, will graduate from BPCC with a telecommunications degree. “The telecom is great. It covers every angle. It rivals universities and its one of the best in the country. Being a kid, watching films, knowing that's what I want to do. And then I figured that is going to be really hard to do, I'm going to have to leave. And it's a little out of my reach for now. Now it seems like its in our backyard.”
Goodman shares their optimism for the future, saying “I think things like the Louisiana Film Prize helped generate more films and more jobs for people. I'm hoping Millennium (studios) and Moonbot (studios) will be here forever. But we've got to maintain the film credits.”
Oscar award winner, Brandon Oldenburg, who moved here 3 years ago, tells us that the incentives may have gotten him here, but it's our people that keep him here. “Its new to me to recognize people. You realize they've all been rooting for you. And they've been guardian angels and you didn't even know it,” he told us.
Those we spoke with were concerned that Governor Jindal’s talk of eliminating income tax would also eliminate tax incentives, and harm a burgeoning creative industry in Northwest Louisiana.