Category Archives: Industry News

Hollywood South Rolls On

Story by Arlena Acree, Director of Film, Media, and Entertainment,
City of Shreveport Film Office

 

Film and TV production activity has picked up tremendously in the Shreveport-Bossier area for 2012.

Thus far, we have hosted 13 film/TV projects and are gearing up for more possible projects. Reality TV is becoming more common in our area due to several new shows that are doing very well. Billy the Exterminator is currently shooting their fifth season. We also have two feature films shooting now: Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler, Dylan McDermott, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett and Keong Sim, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Rami Malek, Charles Baker and Frank Mosley. It’s very exciting to have some production of this caliber and a lot of wonderful cast.

Moonbot’s William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg celebrate their Oscar win. Photo courtesy of AMPSA

Shreveport’s Moonbot Studios won an Academy Award recently for its first animated release, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Shreveport artist William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, his co-founder of Moonbot Studios, were present in Hollywood for the big win. Moonbot reached the apex of the entertainment industry by winning the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. The acclaimed 14-minute film features the protagonist surviving a storm and landing in a world where books come alive as characters with curative powers, imparting healing through discovery. Joyce, Oldenburg, managing partner Lampton Enochs and the Moonbot staff employed a variety of techniques in a hybrid animation style inspired by The Wizard of Oz, Buster Keaton and the Hurricane Katrina experience. A huge ticker tape in downtown Shreveport was given to honor the Moonbot team.

Our infrastructure continues to grow with some great successes. Millennium Studios will soon expand their 7-acre studio to 20 acres to include more soundstages, a prop house and a backlot. Our diverse locations have doubled for Washington, DC; New York; Miami; Kodiak, Alaska; Amsterdam; Guantanamo Bay; Maine; Kansas City; Senegal, Africa; Sodom; the Bering Sea; the North Pole; New Hampshire; Oklahoma; Memphis; Arizona; New Jersey; Pennsylvania; Iowa; Los Angeles; Texas; and Portland, Oregon… just to name a few.

Cast and crew from out of town enjoy our quality of life, the ease of film production, and our efficient highway system with minimal traffic. Louisiana is always in the top United States and international rankings, and the industry will continue to grow, as we have some of the best tax incentives in the U.S. The year of 2012 will be a fabulous year and our 2013 is already shaping up. Let’s keep them rolling in…

‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Millennium’s latest feature film shoots in Shreveport

Of the numerous production projects shooting in Shreveport-Bossier so far this year, Millennium/Nu Image’s Olympus Has Fallen is undeniably the largest. And not just in regards to budget or buzz—but also in terms of the scope of the production.

Crew prepped for 10 weeks prior to shooting, building several indoor and outdoor sets to stand in for the White House and Washington, DC. The White House façade was constructed in Bossier City at Arthur Ray Teague Parkway near the CenturyLink Center, while the Oval Office was replicated at StageWorks. Sets have also been built on both of Millennium Studios’ soundstages.

Diego Martinez

“It’s a challenge to double Washington, DC, because it’s so unique,” said Diego Martinez, president of Millennium Studios in Shreveport. “There is just so much build and so much construction, and it all has to be perfect.”

In fact, there was so much construction work that nearly half of the film’s 170-plus crew base was on the construction team, according to Martinez.

Olympus, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, is a thriller that has been described as “Die Hard in the White House.” Butler stars as a former secret service agent working to prevent a terrorist attack in DC, while Eckhart plays the president whom Butler must save after he is kidnapped by said terrorists. Ashley Judd, Robert Forster, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo are also featured in this star-studded cast.

The project originally came out of Millennium Films’ main office in L.A., where executives thought it would be a good fit for the Shreveport studio.

“They thought Shreveport was a good place to shoot it, so we scouted, and we were able to find what we needed here,” said Martinez. “For everything we couldn’t find or physically build, we’ll create with visual effects. One of our companies is Worldwide FX, housed here on property, so we’ll do all the visual effects in-house.”

The 53,000-square-foot Millennium Studios, owned by parent company Nu Image, has been open just over a year in Shreveport, and Olympus is already their fifth project—and their biggest film to date.

“This is our largest project, period,” said Martinez. “Expendables and Expendables 2 and Conan were our largest, and this may be a little bigger in terms of the scope of the project and the budget. This is definitely on that same level, and probably a little bit more.”

Martinez, who is from New Orleans, said Millennium enjoys working in Shreveport, and credits the local government and film office with helping to grow the local industry.

“There are great people working here, but it’s the outlying support that’s phenomenal—from the city to the people,” he said. “It’s just a good place to work, I think, and we definitely feel like we’re a partnership with the city and film office here.”

In fact, Millennium has been so happy in Shreveport that they’re planning on investing more money into expanding their studio.

“On the facility we have now, we spent $12 million, and we’re in the planning stages to expand,” said Martinez. “We hope to start that soon. We have a prop set dressing warehouse we need to have on site, we need more offices, and we’re exploring a bigger stage. We also want to house outside vendors, so we need more space for that.”

With Millennium bringing more and more productions to the Shreveport-Bossier area, including at least one more this summer, the expansion may be needed sooner rather than later. But for now, Millennium is satisfied with the progress the studio—and the local industry—has made.

“Shreveport doesn’t have the lure that New Orleans has, but we’ve had great success here and that’s why we chose to be here,” said Martinez. “We all agree that this is a city on the move. It’s been wonderful that we’re a part of that. We are just extremely happy to be here.”

Olympus Has Fallen began shooting the second week of July, and plans to wrap in mid-September. The film is set for release in 2014.

AFCI’s Locations Show Finds a New Home to Showcase Louisiana

Story by W. H. Bourne • Photos by Odin Lindblom

The Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) hosted their annual Locations Expo June 15 and 16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The go-to show for locations scouts and producers features film commissioners from around the world who exhibit at the trade show, providing a wonderful one-on-one opportunity to explain film incentives in their region. This was a change in venue for the show, which partnered this year with Variety’s BRIC Summit, as well as the Los Angeles Film Festival.

This year, Louisiana was represented by four different booths. The Krewe of New Orleans booth was a collaboration of the film commissions from New Orleans and Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes. Jefferson Parish Film Commissioner Jennifer Van Vrancken talked about the three percent rebate that is available in her parish.

Jennifer Van Vrancken

“When you land at the airport, you have to pass through Jefferson Parish,” said Van Vrancken. “Even if you’re shooting in New Orleans or St. Bernard, if you put your production offices in Jefferson Parish, you can save money.”

Kristen Maurel of the Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau was on hand representing the Baton Rouge Film Commission.

Kristen Maurel

“We’re encouraging everyone to be green,” said Maurel, as she handed out water bottles with the Film Commission’s logo. “We just created an iPhone app that lets you find vendors and services on your phone. Everyone works together in Baton Rouge. The whole city is a giant production team that’s very film-friendly. From tentpoles to indies, we can handle anything in Baton Rouge.”

David Colligan was on hand representing the Lafayette Entertainment Initiative (LEI) booth. “Come to Lafayette,” was Colligan’s pitch.

Shreveport Mayor Cedric B. Glover was on hand to greet visitors at the Shreveport-Bossier booth.

The Shreveport booth

“We just passed a law that allows me to change any city ordinance for the film industry,” said Glover. “Shreveport wants to make sure that productions don’t get tangled in bureaucratic red tape.”

“We’ve been really busy,” said Arlena Acree, Shreveport’s Director of Film, Media, and Entertainment. “Currently we have shooting Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, starring Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Antoine Fuqua’s latest film Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler (300), is prepping to shoot.”

Added Acree, “Locations Expo has been very successful so far this year. We’ve had a lot more traffic this year and the quality has been excellent.”

Once again the Locations Show featured speakers and seminars, ranging in topic from tax credits to producing the indie film Bellflower. At the finance and film incentive sessions, there was a lot of talk about the upcoming election year and what that might mean for film rebates and tax credits in the various regions across the United States. While no one seemed to mention that Louisiana’s incentives were now state law, North Carolina Film Commissioner Aaron Syrett summed it up best: “Louisiana has been able to sustain their film incentives the longest.”

“In the end, it’s all about working together to bring films to Louisiana,” said Van Vrancken.

Louisiana Film Prize

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.

The Louisiana Actors & Film Industry Expo

Annual conference is a community- and industry-building event for filmmakers and actors alike

Story by Shanda Quintal Guest Columnist

Last year, over 150 projects filmed in state, generating $1.5 billion in local spend, according to the Louisiana Economic Development Office of Entertainment. But in 1992, 11 projects were filmed in Louisiana. And in 2002, there were only 10. By 2004, the year after the tax incentives were enacted, there were 23 film and TV projects shot in state, according to the Louisiana Film Museum, which catalogues projects shot in Louisiana.

In 2005, Katrina hit and the levees broke, and the films, which had just started to come, surprisingly continued to come anyway—they just moved a little bit north to Shreveport. New Orleans had been a prime location to shoot for a variety of reasons, and because of the tax incentives, production companies were still drawn to Louisiana, but safe, dry Shreveport was now the location of choice. So in 2005, there was a very respectable 31 film and TV projects filmed in Louisiana. And the numbers have continued to climb at an astonishing rate, especially since production has returned to New Orleans, and continues to flourish in places like Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.

Casting directors Meagan Lewis, Hank Langlois, Lisa Marie Dupree, and talent agent Jorge Elizondo at the 2011 event.

A large part of the attraction to Louisiana is our creative filmmaking community. And by community, I mean a strong, supportive group of folks who share a common interest, but who also have created a strong support system for each other. We carpool to auditions, we take collections for those of us who have stumbled upon hard times, we pay our respects when those among us have passed on, and we celebrate our marriages and the births of our babies.Because of the ease of social networking sites, but mainly because we really want to know how we are all doing, we keep up with one another. We work on one another’s projects and we attend each other’s screenings or plays. We are a community in a true sense.

I started the Louisiana Actors & Film Industry Expo (formerly the Louisiana Actors Expo) as a way to connect with other actors in New Orleans, my hometown. After my divorce, I moved back home with my two- and five-year-old little boys in 2007. Within a year, I knew that if I didn’t have a conversation that was not about preschool, Nemo or Power Rangers relatively soon, I was going to crack. I desperately needed to find my tribe, but I had no idea how to connect with them.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was filming when I moved here in 2007, but I didn’t really believe that there was a real Louisiana film industry. I was out of the loop, really, from mommy duties. I figured everyone, including most of the PAs, had come from L.A. I hit the Internet just to satisfy my curiosity, and lo and behold, I discovered a group of actors that met once a month.

In passing conversation, I mentioned to an old friend of mine, Sallie Ann Glassman (a voodoo priestess, who is a vegetarian and practices non-cruelty, in case you were wondering), that I wanted to find a space to have actors meet weekly to discuss and learn about the film industry. But I also needed it to be big enough for us to work out our acting muscles, and I needed this space to be completely free. The sweetheart that she is, she offered her temple to me. She said, “Just draw the curtains.” Well, hey, this is New Orleans. I don’t practice voodoo, in fact, I’d never been in her temple, so I didn’t know what I would be drawing the curtains in front of, but I needed a free space and she was offering one.

It took me a couple of months to get it together and make it to one of the monthly actors meetings, and when I did, I showed up with terribly simple flyers that I had made at home with Word. I called our Sunday meetings “The Actors Co-Op” because I wanted us all to have some input in what we were doing. The next Sunday, I had a few actors show up. A couple more showed up the next Sunday. In less than six weeks, Otter, the owner of the Backyard Ballroom Theatre, offered her theater for us to meet. Within two months, agents and acting coaches were calling to ask me if they could come speak with the actors.

One of the agents, Liz Atherton of TAG Talent, suggested I host a day of Q&As and invite the entire Louisiana film industry to participate. It sounds so simple when I type it, but I didn’t know any of them well—in fact, some of them I didn’t even know at all—so the challenge before me was gargantuan. But with Liz’s help, we made it happen. Casting directors, agents, studio executives, entertainment attorneys and WGA writers all came together to raise the bar for actors in particular, but actually for the Louisiana film industry as a whole. That was the birth of the Louisiana Actors & Film Industry Expo, which is now going into its fourth year.

Every year, it grows. The first year, there were about 150 attendees and participants. Last year, there were about 500, and this year, we have close to 1,000 aspiring and experienced film industry professionals participating. And they come from all over, not just from various parts of Louisiana. They come from Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Tampa, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Washington DC, and of course from throughout the Gulf South region. In fact, actors have moved to Louisiana and found work as an actor based upon the information they learned at the Expo.

This year has brought big changes. Our title sponsors are Actors Access/Breakdown Services, the premier online casting system that facilitates the casting for 98 percent of the films produced in the U.S., and Back Stage, the premier actors trade publication. New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) is one of our local sponsors. We’ve also expanded to include all of the various aspects of the film industry, from writers to directors, and from editors to producers. And now it’s a two-day event. It’s the one time a year where everyone can get together and not only learn about and develop their craft, but also commune with their tribe, and it’s been incredible having a place where we can all speak our language and be understood.

We’re also a “we” now. After the 2011 Expo last September, I invited Lolita Burrell (who was honored as one of New Orleans CityBusiness Magazine’s Women of the Year) to join forces with me in producing the largest film industry conference in the Gulf South, the Louisiana Actors & Film Industry Expo. My boys have moved on from preschool, Nemo and Power Rangers. Now it’s RipStiks, BeyBlades and Man vs. Wild, and I need the Expo now as much as I needed the Sunday meetings with actors more than three years ago.

And from talking to the people who attend the event, most have the same feelings I do. They learn how to move forward in their careers so they can become who they want to be, but—and somehow I think this is more important—they feel empowered, uplifted and connected to members of their tribe.