Shreveport-Bossier gets ready for its close-up in new film contest
Story by Dawn Landrum Guest Columnist
Louisiana has been a frontrunner in movie productions for the last seven years. Most of the productions within the last few years have generated from the Southern region. However, 2012 marked the beginning of change for North Louisiana filmmakers with the creation of the Louisiana Film Prize.
The Louisiana Film Prize (LAFP) is a short (5- to 15-minute) narrative film contest that requires participants to shoot their film in the Shreveport-Bossier area. The Film Prize’s goal is two-fold: to promote the Shreveport-Bossier creative community and to promote the region itself as a great place to film, all while pumping money into the local economy.
We caught up with Film Prize director Chris Lyon, the City of Shreveport’s director of Film, Media, and Entertainment Arlena Acree, and several of the participating filmmakers and actors to find out more.
First up is Chris Lyon.
What inspired the Louisiana Film Prize?
CL: The Louisiana Film Prize was inspired by our desire to see the film community continue to grow and flourish throughout the state and in Northwest Louisiana. When you have an intersection of the infrastructure that’s been afforded the area in recent years and the desire of the community to build an artistic base for film, we were presented with an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. And it has really paid off in so many ways already. We believe bringing filmmakers from across the country to see what there is to offer here, and getting them to believe in production in the area, is the next step in the story for filmmaking in Louisiana.
The winning filmmaker wins $50,000—a great prize! Where does the money come from?
CL: Isn’t it? We think it’s a perfect draw for outsiders looking to take a chance on Louisiana for film, as well as a catalyst for locals who have been wanting to do a film, but needed that extra push to get going. Additionally, it encourages people to invest monetarily and creatively in the burgeoning film community, which could ultimately lead to real economic impact through artistic achievement, which is what we want to see happen. And the reality is that people have had a lot of great experiences here because of those concepts. The prize money really has ended up being the tentpole needed to boost the LAFP to a national level of awareness, and something else that leads to attention for the Louisiana filmmaking community.
The money for the prize comes from many sources. Individuals and committed community organizations mostly, but we’ve received support in many ways from the state and local governments as well. The list of people supporting this effort is quite long and can be seen on our Web site (www.lafilmprize.com).
Are there first, second and third place winners or only one?
CL: In the end, there can be only one. In October, one filmmaker will walk away with a check for $50,000. We are looking at recognition in other categories, but the cash prize is for one contestant in a winner-takes-all approach. The competition will be tough, but we want people to really work for it. We want them to not just make a great film, but be able to promote their work and themselves, like you would in the real film market. We see this as a microcosm of the film distribution ecosystem and people seem to be reacting really positively to that.
How many are entered in the contest?
CL: We have quite a few entries from across the country from places like Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, and, of course, local filmmakers as well. We think there really is a diverse set of perspectives from all sorts of backgrounds coming to the table and that’s exactly what we love to see.
Why did you decide to have LAFP in the Shreveport area, as opposed to other parts of the state?
CL: We believe Louisiana has a lot to offer for filmmaking. There has been plenty of activity in the South for sure between Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette. Film production has slowed in the North, which means a lot of available resources, and, in the end, the organizers of the Film Prize are located in Shreveport.
We have certainly started discussions about the potential for the Prize to relocate next year, but no decisions have been made yet. The feedback for this first year tells us people have found Shreveport-Bossier extremely accessible and flexible with our film commission’s commitment to fostering local film. With free permits, free city locations, free water access, a thorough locations database, and location owners welcoming filmmakers with open arms, we think Shreveport-Bossier is a great place to start this first year.
Is the festival open to the public?
CL: The LAFP Festival Weekend is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Ticket prices are still under discussion, but they won’t be expensive by any means. There will likely be different levels of tickets with access to special events and things like that, but ultimately, we really want it to be accessible and fun as much as possible. And Festival Weekend will also be more than film screenings. We will be featuring lots of music, vendors, and other activities to do in between. We will be working with the top 20 filmmakers to organize promotional events and to come up with creative ways to sell their film to the audiences. Since the audience vote is 50 percent of the total, with the other half being the judges, attendance to the festival is really important for the Film Prize to work.
How are the top 20 being selected?
CL: The top 20 films are picked by a group of film enthusiasts and critics from the area. These are people who write about film in local publications, run film clubs, things like that. This team is different from the panel of judges that will vote on Festival Weekend with the audiences. It’s a diverse group that has eyes for story, technical achievement, and artistic value because films are more than just pretty images and we want to make sure the 20 finalists are great stories above all.
The interesting part of picking the 20 for the Louisiana Film Prize is seeing potential. Since the films being submitted are only in rough cut form, the evaluation team has to be able to see beyond a potentially incomplete piece, see where it could go, and how a filmmaker can complete that experience for the Festival Weekend. Some might see it as a risky way to do things, but we see it as a way to focus on story, performance, and give people the chance to really finish their film in the months leading to the Festival Weekend.
When will the top 20 be announced?
CL: The top 20 finalists will be announced in a press event on August 9.
We also spoke with Arlena Acree to find out how the Film Office was involved in the creation of the Film Prize, and what the Prize means to the region.
What part did you and the Film Commission have in the development of the Louisiana Film Prize?
AA: We had several meetings with (Film Prize executive director) Gregory Kallenberg and his team early on. We helped and assisted him to raise some of the sponsorship monies. This is a Film Fest that is totally unique and is the largest cash prize in the U.S. It is luring a lot of indie filmmakers to our area. We love the concept.
What are the benefits to having the Film Prize?
AA: Louisiana Film Prize has so many benefits, as it is luring filmmakers from all over the U.S. to our area to shoot their projects, as this is a part of the rules. They get exposure to our area and see how easy it is to shoot in the community. They are also spending money. The ones that are coming from out of town are staying in our hotels for several days and eating in our restaurants and hiring local crew and talent.
Has North Louisiana film production increased since LAFP began?
AA: I really think that Louisiana Film Prize has created a really cool energy in our region and it has definitely created a buzz for us. It actually is helping to grow our crew base, as it is giving some local crew and talent a chance to get some valuable experience. The projects we have assisted have been very professional and doing everything right. It has also been a really good exercise for them to learn how to get film insurance and going through the permitting process.
What does the Film Commission offer to those who take part in LAFP?
AA: Our office has assisted in finding locations and insurance, permitting them, scheduling police officers and firemen when needed.
What can industry buffs expect in the future for Louisiana Film Prize?
AA: I think that Louisiana Film Prize is just the beginning, as it already had a huge impact on our community. I really see this as being an annual event and it will continue to grow and help further develop our indie film industry.
For the full story, please see the digital edition of the magazine and proceed to pages 22 through 24. The Louisiana Film Prize Weekend is October 5–7. Stay tuned to www.lafilmprize.com for more information, and be sure to visit the site on August 9 for the announcement of the 20 finalists.