Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'At Last' Premiere in Baton Rouge

"At Last," a love story shot in New Orleans before Katrina, will premiere at Siegen Village 10 on January 26 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The event will be used as a fund-raiser for rebuilding efforts. The movie has already premiered in Shreveport and will go into initial distrubution in 40 other theaters.

Tom Anton of New Orleans took his first stab at directing with this film, as he also produced the movie along with first time Executive Producer Jim Davis of Shreveport.

"At Last" is based on Anton's real-life experience with Sandi Russell, his wife and a producer and co-writer of the film as well. To make and distribute the movie, Anton and Davis created RiverDream Productions.

For the movie premiere in New Orleans, RiverDream Productions is selecting a nonprofit that can raise awareness for the premiere and raise funds for that nonprofit to continue assistance due to Katrinas devastation.

According to an article in the Shreveport Times Davis said, "Our thinking was, why don't we open up in a couple of places and see what we do right and see what we do wrong," he said, considering it a 'soft launch.' The movie played in Shreveport and Bossier City for about two weeks, and after the premiere in Baton Rouge in January, they plan to open the film in select cities nationwide.

The Times reported that, "The film's main characters, Mark Singleton and Sara Wood, represent Anton and Russell. Mark and Sara are childhood sweethearts who went separate ways but exchanged love letters for years. Now in their 40s and unhappily married to other partners, Mark rediscovers their letters and re-establishes contact with Sara. They decide to rendezvous in New Orleans to see if they can rekindle an old flame. But their family baggage complicates a second chance at love. "

"Much of the film is set in New Orleans, which Anton considers a character in the film. Anton owns a home in the French Quarter. 'Living in the French Quarter is very unique. You just become a part of the city,' he said. 'I know all of the street vendors, musicians, restaurant owners and gallery owners. It's an unbelievably tight community.'"

With the help of cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, (who did Monster's Ball, also shot in New Orleans, & Finding Neverland) the two men found that they were able to capture the spirity of city.

As I have discussed in a previous post, many films made in New Orleans often portray a one-sided party image. Keeping with this Anton affirmed that, "Other films shot in New Orleans show Bourbon Street or Mardi Gras and (don't) capture the essence of living in the French Quarter. I think we did that."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One Voice for New Orleans!

Its important that we write to Congress and let them know how much we want New Orleans back. I've provided a link, so if you could take a moment and do so, every little bit helps. Check it out, thanks!

One Voice for New Orleans:
http://www.demaction.org/dia/organizations/ovno/content.jsp?content_KEY=1163

Tax Credits: '05 vs '06 Laws

To explain the new Louisiana movie tax laws, I needed to get a clearer picture of what went on in the past, in order to see what the future would hold for this great state. I had posted the synopsis of this new Act 456 in a letter from the Governor's Office earlier on my site. After reading it, you might have found yourself wondering what exactly are these changes? How will they better serve our economy? Will they hurt us? and Is there any impact on our film industry, good or bad?

Its been said that the incentive system will change in 2006 in order to ensure a better future for the film business of Louisiana. But I wanted the whole picture, from the beginning up until now so that I could know and explain it. I sat down with a friend of mine, Lenny, who is President and C.E.O of FBT Investments. He is also one of the original participants in the equity financing for film (EndGame Entertainment), is involved with tax credit sales, as well as production recruitment of movies. I figured this would be a great opportunity to sort things out and get a clear picture of what the film industry will experience in 2006.

Let us begin back in 2003, when the movie Ray was one the first movies to take advantage of the tax credits... how ironic that it was nominated and won so many Academy Awards... anyway, at the time, the film's producer Stuart Benjamin and writer/director/producer Taylor Hackford (who also did "Everybody's All American" in Baton Rouge back in the day) came into town to examine the benefits of the tax credits, which had just passed in the state legislature. After convincing Hackford, Benjamin and the rest of the crew moved Ray from Atlanta to New Orleans because of the favorable tax credits that existed at the time.

In essence they were going to receive 15% credit for the total production cost, which at the time was about $40 million… which works out to be about $6 million in tax credits, which could be used to offset the cost of the movie. But at the time, these credits were considered nontransferable—That means if in fact the producers wanted to sell these credits, the buyer purchasing the credits would have to be an actual investor in the production LLC, owning only the credits that were generated by the production. This made it clumsy and difficult to sell. There was also a 2nd incentive, the employment credits, which incentivized movie producers to use Louisiana residents. At the time, however, there were very few crews available for use and production. Overall, the lack of the ready market to buy this, the poorly designed and awkward transfer of property, and the lack of sellers and buyers for credits almost threatened to cancel the movie Ray.

Over time those credits (the $6million worth) were purchased at discounts as little as .55-.60 cents on a dollar, which means the movie earned a dollar in credits but only got .60 in cash. This was not a good system.

They changed the law, however, to allow the production credits to be transferrable-- meaning anybody can buy it without being a direct investor in the movie. This brought the price given back for the production to about .70c per dollar.

The latest law change in this session allowed the employment credits to be transferable without having to be a direct investor in the movie.

Now that our tax incentive is in its 3rd year, we have a more sophisticated and higher market, as well as a broader seller/broker market, which will raise the price given to the studios to .80/dollar now.

The direct advantages with our state's program with the ’06 law gives 25% to all production made in the state and does not pay credits for any post-production/investment made in the movie out of state.

So it increases the % given back on larger movies (spending $8million or more) from 15-25% but it removed payment on any out-of-state production expense.

The long-term goals, as stated on the new Act show what this is supposed to provide...
"Long-term objectives are to:
(a) Encourage increased employment opportunities within this sector and increased global competition with other states in fully developing economic development options within the film and video industry.
(b) Encourage new education curricula in order to provide a labor force
trained in all aspects of film and digital production.
(c) Encourage development of a Louisiana film, video, television, and digital production and post-production infrastructure with state-of-the-art facilities."

This means to encourage the creation of postproduction in the state, which would create more jobs, and it puts us more on an advantage with Canada, who is one of the biggest competitors to the movie industry and production.

But if theres any question what the studios prefer: the '06 higher % incentives, where production companies to do majority of their business in state and are limited to production in Louisiana VS. the '05 15% on total gross production, regardless of were its done??
According to Lenny, one only has to look as far as Disney

Disney was the 2nd major studio that come to the city when they brought the movie Mr. 3000, starring Bernie Mac, produced by Tim Borne and directed by Charles Stone (they teamed up to produce Drumline too, earlier). Since then Disney has done numerous movies of the week with local production company Gwave (Lampton Enoch), and has closed out 2005 with a bang bringing in the $80million production called The Guardian … AND the $140 million flick Déjà Vu .

Disney aggressively hurried to get production in while the '05 laws were still in order to insure the benefits of the old law… so if this gives any indication of what the production prefers, here's the answer-- bringing in a quarter of a billion before 2005 ended.

Before with the 2005 laws, many movies like Mr. 3000 were actually produced in places like Milwalkee, but they would received tax benefits on 100% of production, despite postproduction taking place in LA.

The state created the 2006 Act as a way to help further develop the industry by generating greater incentives to have a postproduction studios develpments here. This is to insure that instead of just getting some of the production here and then all of the post work going to LA, we'll give benefits for the postproduction so that more of the money actually stays here. As I have stated on my prior post, building the studios for postproduction work is essential for keeping the business. So the 2006 laws actually helps to improve the benefits and the value of the state by helping to incentize industry to invest in post production work like that.

Lenny says that overall these laws are not worse or better, they've just gotta field their way out. After all giving 25 % back is a lot of money.

Now in 2006 there will be more opportunities to create industry, enhance year round production on all aspects of the business-- postproduction, video, and everything else. As our competitiveness and our sophistication matures, we will redefined how we’re going to build a business and how we’re gona incentivize to get this business.

We were sort of giving money away in the beginning, as movies like Ray did most of postproduct in Cali; Mr 3000 did some business here, some of production in Milwakee, & then all post work in LA. All in all, these movies maybe spent .35c of $1.00, but got credit for all of the dollars spent.

We decided to change the way we incentiveize by only giving credits for the money spent here on all aspects, which create jobs and become a more permanent effort which in the long run will enhance our image and make our movie industry much stronger.

The new laws help to make the business healthier in the long term and more competitive in the world stage, while increasing and expanding full Hollywood type settings in the state for greater nmber of movies. In essence, by influcencing them to stay here to receive more money, it will encourage other companies to want to invest in building studios here, which will also foster growth in our economy. This will create a bigger, more full infrastructure in our state, which is needed to sustain us in the long run as a fully developed movie making state.

The 2006 laws do create a direct competition between the state and tax credit brokers…Every year the state plans to increase the ratio of what it will pay the production (so that if movies want to bypass brokers and go directly to state to sell their credits, they can easily with this preset price)....

...Starting in January 2007, the state will pay production companies 72%; so basically after every 2 years, they increase their % given by 2... therefore, in the 10th year the state will buy them at 80%, but 80% is the max. After ten years, all credits are bought back at this rate. There is however no mention of where the government will get these funds to buy the credits...but as well all know, that is government at it's best. In essence, this will create a real bottom for the credit.

So this means that if a Louisiana taxpayer wants to buy these credits to reduce his taxes, he has to hope that his broker can get a better price than what the state will pay. As the state becomes this ultimate buyer, its bypassing these taxpayers and credit brokers who started and supported the film industry for these past years. The state is removing the incentive for the taxpayer to buy, but it insists that teh law was made so that brokers do not discount the credits too greatly. We'll have to just see how this pans out.

The 2006 laws associated with Act 456 are just changes. State officials have stressed that they did not create these laws post-Katrina so that people did not negatively associate them with something that Katrina caused. They were in the works long before the hurricane and were created to help the state in the long run. Hopefully if all goes as planned, the laws will prove to be as prosperous as the original tax incentives. These laws intend to help build up the infrastructure needed for a total movie industry, an industry that works in post-production for several months and spends lots of money. The state is encouraging the industry to build what they need here in order to keep them working in the state post-filming, so that we will continue to be competitive with New York, LA, and Canada in the long run. Looking at the list of movies to come, you can tell that this has not discouraged movie making. Now that we have these rules in place, we need to build upon them and expand on our states's capabilities. Even though we have begun this next phase of building studios here, I think our most important step is getting local people trained on how to do the work. We will have the framework for a great system with the taxes and facilities, but we need people able to perform these jobs to make up the meat of the industry. To me, film industry job training is the next crucial step for Louisiana. The local groups have done a great job to ensure that people get trained in what they need to do, but overall we need to keep expanding on programs like the NIMS center to ensure that local workers can get in on the business.

Rest assured that no matter what the future holds, the "Other LA" is looking bright with the new laws of change in 2006!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

If You Build It, They Will Come

As the old adage goes, Louisiana has made some major strides in its developing of movie studios in an attempt to better equip our budding industry and to attract more productions to come down here and film. The efforts were initially focused on studios being built in New Orleans, but since Katrina they have come to evolve all over the state. I have read several articles in both Nola.com and the Louisiana Film & Video Magazine which talk about the recent studio drama, as some are hesitant of the future, despite the many multi-million dollar projects underway. I decided to condense some of the current information out there into an easy to read article:

Before the hurricane in August, Governor Blanco held a press conference announcing plans to build a $20 million New Orleans Studio Complex, built by Sunset-Gower Studios (formerly Columbia Studios) of Hollywood, CA. The studio would be built on Algiers property owned by Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, and in conjuction with Mardi Gras Productions and Kern Studios. Since the storm, the Algiers area sustained little flood problems and would be apparently fine for the building to continue. But this is now the current case, however. Kern is in the process of suing Environmental Chemical Corp of California and Omni Pinnacle of Slidell for illegally using his property after the storm to dump mountains of debris onto the land. Bob Papazian, CEO of Sunset-Gower Studios maintains that "nothing has been scrapped," about building the studio, but that they want to "see how New Orleans reconstructs itself" in order to make final decisions. The studio would consist of 5 state-of-the-art soundstages, office space, digital postproduction facilities, and an outdoor set that looks just like the French Quarter. They were also planning on implementing a Film Academy to provide training for the specialized jobs needed to make a film. As Rob Nelson of the Times Picayune reports, the studio would take an estimated 15 acres to build and was cited as the "milestone" in the state's "effort to establish the infrastructure needed to bolster Louisiana's growing film industry" before Katrina. The company sustains that it will make every effort to keep the studio in Louisiana, and that as they assess what needs to be done, the construction date will be delayed.

According to an article in the LA Film & Video Magazine, many other smaller cities have followed the film wave and have developed production studios in order to generate business. For example on Highway 51 in Laplace, Louisiana (which is 25 minutes from New Orleans and fared well in the storm), another professional soundstage is being constructed. A 47,000 square foot civic center will be turned into a full-service soundstage capable of handling big professional projects. The St. John Parish Economic Development Office is working with execs from Sony studios to utilize this space, along with an adjacent 26 acres of open land "for back lot" and another 4,000 feet of "office space." Wayne Read, who is this Louisiana Sound Stage president, said that he has been promoting this new civic center to many production companies and such around the state in an effort to revitalize the industry as well as the state's economy.

Emerald Bayou Studios is likewise set to construct a 40,000 sq foot soundstage in Pointe Coupee Parish, and has a reported 5 films in the works to shoot in the area. Owners Linda Thurman and Marquetta Cheeks are a part of the Louisiana Area Economic Development Allies (LaCAEDA), a group who went to Santa Monica recently in hopes to stir up movie business for the south. The two owners state that they hope to have a "full service Hollywood studio in the next two years."

In connection with this, another studio, the Louisiana Film Center would be built on a backlot in East Feliciana Parish. Situated on 11-acres, this area would be built to mirror a typical small town in America, along with other popular film locales. That way if companies can't find the location they want here in the state but want to use the tax incentive, our new high tech studios would help them fake it.

Additionally, Digital Domain, the special effects group that brought us Titanic and Apollo 13, is supposed to be coming in to help these two bayou region studios and would then produce an $80 million movie, Instant Karma, in these areas. This movie is half-animated and half live action, so a project like this would be one of the 1st to showcase the great use for the East Feliciana Parish soundstage.

Another article in the LA Film & Video mag talked about the LITE center in Lafayette, Louisiana. This thing is full of technology. According to the report, "LITE will help keep Louisiana not only in the entertainment and visual technology race, but ahead of the pack."

When this center opens its doors in 2006, companies will be able to access "supercomputer class servers, interactive 3D theaters intense visualization systems, massive data storage and high-speed networking." This 70,000 sq foot center cost $29 million to build, but is considered invaluable, as the wealth of technology that it will bring was only available to a select few in the past. The center will additionally feature "One of the world's most advanced visualization venues:" it offers a 3D immersive visualization cube with a 6-sided display using cutting edge technology; a 3D immersive auditorium; and a teleconference room. Animators, scientists, etc can fully delve into their work by using these interactive 3D models.

How this benefits the industry is that, for a reasonable fee, they can come in and use one of their Silicon Graphic solutions or use their supercomputers for complex animation. This center will allow film/video/animation people to "perform complex compositing, touch-up and manipulation of HD video because [they]'ll have the ability to rent time on one of the world's largest supercomputers."

As the film industry is continually expanding all over the state, its important that we provide the necessary means to keep the business here. That is just what we are doing as we build these studios for movie sets, soundstages, and other things necessary for production work. This is how the industry grows. If we continue spreading the work around the state, providing resources for studio work, and setting up job training for locals, we will soon build a sound infrastructure that will carry the business for decades to come. All parts of the state have done a great job in finding viable areas for studio construction, and even if these are found in the most remote areas, they will soon see that no matter what: if you build it, they will come.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Special Message from the Gov's Office

As the year is on its way to the end, the film industry has new tax credit reforms to consider starting in 2006. These changes are positive and reinforce that the state plans to keep movies in the Hollywood of the South. I have posted this message from the Gov's Office of Film & TV Development, after I read it on the lafilm.org website. It outlines the basic changes that the new Act will make.
Special Message from the Governor's Office of Film & Television Development -- 12.12.2005

"As most of you are aware, the Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program will be changing on January 1, 2006. The Governors Office of Film & Television Development is posting this blog to dispel any of the rumours that are out there about Louisianas incentive program.
First, the program is NOT being repealed, eliminated or done away with due to the effects of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita. During the 2005 Regular Legislative Session, way before either of the storms hit, Act No. 456 was passed and signed into law by the Governor. What this act did was enhance the program to include the following:

1) 25% tax credit on your in-state spend.
2) 10% additional tax credit on your Louisiana payroll.
3) 15% tax credit on any infrastructure built in Louisiana.

Also, it is important to note that on January 1, 2006, the Sales & Use Tax Exemption will sunset. It will no longer be part of Louisianas incentive package.

If any one is seeking to qualify for the old law as it exists prior to January 1, 2006, then this is what we are advising officially on the certification letter:

Assuming pre-production and/or principal photography and associated expenditures occur on or before December 31, 2005, this certification will not be impacted by any legislative changes made to the above referenced statutes on or after the date of this certification letter.

Basically, prior to 12/31/05, a production must make the investment in a Louisiana bank, set up their local LLC, set up a local office, and beginthe hiring process.

Another significant change to the process is that we will require that the production provide an independent audit of the production expenditures as per the new law:

Prior to any certification of the state-certified production, the motion picture production company shall submit to the Governors Office of Film & Television Development a cost report of production expenditures audited and certified by an independent certified public accountant as determined by rule.

Finally, another change to note will be the implementation of an application fee as permitted by the new law. The fee will be calculated as 0.2% times the estimated total incentive tax credit (minimum $200 / maximum $5,000). With this fee, you will receive your initial certification letter and 2 (if needed)
certification of expenditures for your project. We will have no more than 15 business days to process your application and certifications.

Rest assured that Louisiana is still the best choice for your production and the Governors Office of Film & Television is ready to assist you in making that decision. Please contact us anytime."

Amazing Job Opportunities from a Devastating Tragedy

Its one of those weird circumstances, " said Malcolm Petal, in a recent Times picayune article. Petal is the CEO of the TV and movie production L.I.F.T. Productions, and when interviewed about the changes he's made since Katrina, he stated, "But that's the way it works: Crisis and opportunity go hand in hand." Petal said that he had planned on opening a Shreveport office way before Katrina, but as many doubted the reality of having a movie industry in northern Louisiana, he had a hard time convincing crews and studios to go there. When reading over scripts he would have to consider if it was even possible to do them in places like Monroe or Shreveport, as you have to bring projects in and build your industry around them. Even though the New Orleans office has returned, the company is still operating out of Shreveport, which he said was the "centerpiece" of the firm's business. "At this point our major hub is Shreveport, but as we re-establish production in New Orleans, we'll make them two hubs. New Orleans is the major economic infrastructure in the state as far as we're concerned."

Shreveport, along with Springfield, Baton Rouge, and other small cities around the state have had to pick up the pieces where New Orleans left off. As New Orleans was the center of movies for the state pre-Katrina, the aftermath has provided many opportunities for cities around the state, as well as the citizens.

For many people post-Katrina, getting a job was a difficult situation-- they were living all around the country, unable to return to their homes and their jobs. But since the clean up and the repositioning of films around the state, many locals have found their place in the movie world, and its helped to put their life back together. One such man, Rafford Caston, 61, said in a recent interview with The Enquirer, that his new job of driving a truck for the film production "Road House 2: Last Call," has been a fortunate experience. Caston was out of work since Katrina flooded his New Orleans home with 6 feet of water, and has found a job working on this set in Springfield, Louisiana.
"Its a really good job, with good pay... This is the only thing keeping me sane."

Keeping the film industry in Louisiana is vital for our economy and our job market, as last year film and TV productions brought 3,000 jobs to the state and spent $375 million in Louisiana. This is up from $20 million in 2001, before the tax credit, and is going to play a huge role in our rebuilding... The flexibility of the production companies to move around the state proves that we can handle this business and welcome it where ever it can be done.The Enquirer reports that,
"According to the state, roughly 1/3 of each production's budget goes back into the local economy, including salaries of crew members. In the case of "Roadhouse 2", about 85% of the crew is from Louisiana."

To get a better idea of what's going on with locals working in the industry, I spoke with Lauren Wade, a production secretary for Fox, who is working up there in Shreveport . She filled me in about her job; how casting for movies works; as well as what's going on in Shreveport. After graduating from Mississippi State, Lauren moved back to her home in Kenner, where she began to look for a job and found it in the movie business. She started working for GWave Productions, but she said that because they aren't currently doing any projects, she's begun to work on others.

She explained that when you work for a film you are sort of a "freelancer," as you work for the company that is producing the movie. Therefore, as she's working on the set of the TV show Thief, which will air on Fx, she claims Fox as her current employer. She said companies such as Malcolm Petal's L.I.F.T. have done movies for Lifetime, CBS, etc., and because they continue to book projects, someone working for them would likely stay employed by them. If a production company doesn't have a current project, assistants and secretaries can work on other projects.

Lauren describes her job as an assistant to the production coordinator and assistant production coordinator (the "apoc"). She does things such as distributing the scripts, ordering the materials for each department (the equipment, etc), making sure all of their contact information of their crew and vendor lists is updated, and other things like answering phones, daily office tasks and keeping the office morale up. Despite the fully packed days and stress of juggling many tasks, Lauren says the experience has been amazing.
"I love my job... Even though the hours are long and that is something that won't go away, its great because the people are just so interesting."

The fact that shes not in office attire has an appeal all on its own, yet the constant pace has helped adjust her work ethic.
"I wear polo shirts and flip flops to work...its very laid back in that sense but I am also very busy, theres always something to do. It has made me very organized and contentious of how I do things."

She said that even though she loves what she does now, there is always an opportunity to move into a different area of work. Lauren said that she hopes to move into costumes by march and start a job in that field.

The movie industry really does afford great opportunities, if you take advantage of them. Lauren never dreamed of doing things like this, but today she finds herself assisting to multi-million dollar productions and hopefully putting together outfits for the stars one day.

Later she filled me in on some general information regarding casting. As many of these films cast the major roles in places like New York or Los Angeles, many smaller roles are needed for the films, and this is where many locals will see an opportunity to act. Lauren said that the casting usually depends on the show itself. They will usually post ads in the newspaper or on TV/radio spots, but there generally isn't a permanent casting office because different casting groups are used on each show, depending on who's available. If you're interested in getting speaking roles, she said its most likely that you will need an agent. This person can get you the inside track of what projects are having casting calls, as well as which type of person they are casting for. She said to always check the Louisiana Film Commission's website, as they post general contact info when it becomes available (I also posted information about this on my post about "Being an Extra" as I listed other casting companies to check out...). She said that her company is about to wrap on "Thief" on Thursday, but the number she has to call for casting is 318-780-1028 if anyone's interested.

She told me about some current projects going on in Shreveport that have been keeping the city really busy: Chlorine, which stars Ray Liotta (directing too), David Arquette , and Demi Moore; The Guardian, a Disney flick starring Kevin Costner & Ashton Kutcher (hmm must be convenient for the newlyweds); Factory Girl, starring Sienna Miller; and Sandra Bullock's Premonition.

One movie stands out as a testament to the power of the tax credit, along with the attributes we have physically in the state-- the movie Deja Vu. It stars Denzel Washington, and had begun production in New Orleans but was moved to Canada after the storm. The movie found itself at the center of controversy, as many critics thought that New Orleans couldn't recover its film industry because big budget films like these were already moving out of the state. But after a couple week of filming, the director, Tony Scott, decided to halt production and begin again when they could come back to New Orleans. Scott cited a need for a certain dock and ferry found in New Orleans as one of his top reasons for returning. Other filmmakers that came back felt that they needed to come back not only for the tax credits, but because they felt a certain responsibility to help the city. Andrew Davis, director of "The Guardian", stated:

"We felt an emotional commitment to the people we were working with in Louisiana who lost homes."

Lauren also told me that, as many people want to return to New Orleans and do their part, many fear that there will be no work during the hurricane seasons. Smaller companies won't be able to be insured and the larger ones don't wanna risk it. Shreveport she says has been getting better about being "movie friendly" with getting necessary vendors and such, but as she says, "its no New Orleans." She said that one of the main drawbacks is that our-out-of town guests don't have as much to do for entertainment. Lauren said nevertheless, the city has been great and everyone is working steadily, so its all good. She said its the people working on these sets that make it especially fun and make work more like summer camp...

"I love my job because of all the different people I meet...with each show you meet an entirely different clan of people. It's kinda like camp or something. In the beginning you are really polite and by the end of the movie you are best friends with all these people that you would have never met."

Truly our state has had its share of hard times, but what lies ahead can only be great. I am very confident that the industry will continue to come back in and help doing what it does best-- making movies. Residents of Louisiana should look to movie projects as a source of employment, economy, and a morale boost. Our government has plans to expand the industry all across the state, and holds that this industry will keep growing in the future. By next hurricane season, hopefully, we'll see major advancements all over the state so that we are capable of handling the trinity of movies, TV, and video game productions outside of the Big Easy. Sure New Orleans is the center, as it will forever be, but we cannot maintain this industry without an infrastructure of help. Three cheers for cities like Shreveport and everybody else for lending your helping hand to southern Louisiana. You saved the state's film industry and its great to see how far you've come.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Louisiana Produces

If you are interested in working or learning more details about the film business of Louisiana, a woman named Lynn Yeldell has founded a MeetUp Group "Louisiana Produces"on the internet as a way to disseminate this information. You have to login and subscribe to be a part of it, but once you're in, its a great source of information. They hold meetings every week to discuss what is going on, so those who are interested in job opportunities in the various areas should definitely get involved. I have posted the information here off of the Louisiana Produces website:

Louisiana Produces is dedicated to creating a hub of communications dedicated to the Louisiana film industry. By utilizing the meetup structure, we have grown to the largest film industry meetup in the world. Your involvement in this group is vital to growing and strengthening our state as the largest
production hub outside of LA and NY.

Click below to join our group http://filmind.meetup.com/3/
We meet every Tuesday night and the meetings are broken down along the following segments:

LP Monthly Meetup - held the first Tuesday of every month, these meetings are dedicated to disseminating information on the industry as a whole. What productions are in town, who is hiring, what government is doing to protect our industry and incentives? The first part of the meeting will be distribution of this information so bring your notepads and any info you may have. The second part is pure networking...grab your resumes, headshots and join us!

LP Cast Meetup - held the second Tuesday of each month. This sub group is moderated by actors and talent scouts who have the inside scoop on who is hiring and how to improve your craft.

LP Crew Meetup - held the third Tuesday of each month.
The crew sub group will drill down on needs specific to crew, how to interface with unions and how to find the jobs on upcoming productions.

LP Filmmakers Meetup - held the fourth Tuesday of each month. Moderated by professional filmmakers, this group will help filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers hone their craft and help nurture more indigenous projects.

We highly encourage you to attend the General meetings and participate in a sub group. Remember to check out the message boards in between meetings as they not only contain vital industry information, but are also an excellent way to get important questions answered quickly by our best and brightest!

Thanks for your interest in Louisiana Produces!
Lynn Yeldell, Founder

504.565.5438

lynn@louisianaproduces.org

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Producing in LA

To produce a movie is quite a task. A producer is defined as someone who initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls matters such as raising funding, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking process from inception to completion of a project.

I'm beginning to compile a list of production companies in the state. This is evidence of how Louisiana is evolving into a real motion picture city. Each of these provide examples of how local people have become involved...and that it can be done. Its interesting to note that while many of the companies are found in New Orleans, there are so many located around the state. We have companies set up all over, from Kenner to Shreveport, to finance a movie, TV show, commercial or anything else needed. If you would like to get more information about the companies, I have provided the contact info as best as I can. This should also encourage locals to contact these groups and see what can happen, in terms of employment etc. Also, if you think you have a screenplay that has potential, call and talk to these people to find out what you should do. The Take 2 Review has a great article about how to sell your screenplay, so if this applies to you, check it out. Because without good scripts, producers have a hard time reaping the benefits of their work. As I get more I will add them.

Without further ado, here they are...

Crescent City Pictures
210 State Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
504-894-1302
504-894-9403
webmail@crescentcitypictures.com
www.crescentcitypictures.com
Albert J. Salzer
albert@crescentcitypictures.com

GWAVE Productions LLC
800 Distributors Row, Suite 202
Harahan, LA 70123-3246
504-733-0008

Satchmo Productions
Lonny Kaufman
660 Government St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
225-383-0900
www.satchmoproductions.com

Independent Studios
1301 Kentucky Street
New Orleans, LA 70117-4614
504-944-1111
504-944-1173
800-749-9441
Edward Holub
holubfilm@gmail.com
www.independentstudio.com

Louisiana Institute of Film Technology (LIFT)
Corporate Office
365 Canal Street, Suite 3170
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-565-LIFT (5438)
504-565-5411 fax
www.lift-la.com/home.html

Louisiana Institute of Film Technology (LIFT)
Production Annex

668 Distributors Row, Suite D
Jefferson, LA 70123
504-733-LIFT (5438)
504-733-7476 fax
info@liftla.com
www.lift-la.com/home.html

New Orleans Access Television (NOA-TV)
1025 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway, Suite B
New Orleans, LA 70125
504-483-3300
www.noatv.com

New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC)
4040 Tulane Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
504-339-4350
www.novacvideo.org
Tim Ryan
Executive Director
tim.ryan@novacvideo.org

Peter A. Mayer Advertising
324 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-581-7191
info@peteramayer.com
www.peteramayer.com

Robert Berning Productions
710 Papworth Avenue
Metairie, LA 70005
800-328-1610
504-834-8811
504-834-8864 fax
jstorey@berning.com
www.berning.com

RUM Productions
Jim Rumsfeld
706 Phosphor Avenue, Suite D
Metairie, LA 70005
504-832-5976
504-832-9268 fax
jim@rumproductions.com
www.rumproductions.com

Audubon Films, Inc.
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.897.1258

Bill Davis
Shreveport, LA
318.219.9108
www.acadianfilm.com

BlahBlahBlah Entertainment, Inc.
Gretna, LA
323.810.3807
Email: BlahBlahBlah Entertainment, Inc.

Casanova Productions
New Orleans, LA
504.587.9009
Email: Casanova Productions
www.casanovaproductions.com/home.html
Over 25 years experience, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam and film camera packages, AVID 9000 Edit Suite, Graphics Stations and web compressions.

Catch 22 Films
Lafayette, Louisiana
337.504.5983

Essential Images
Metairie, LA
504.219.0400

Ghost Rider Pictures
New Orleans, LA
504.466.6256
Link: www.ghostriderpictures.com

Jeti Films
Marrero, Louisiana
504.341.9075
www.jetfilms.com

Morrison Productions
New Orleans, LA
504.522.1111
morrisonprod.com

OZ - The Production Company
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
225.338.9529

Scaffidi and Chetta Entertainment
Metairie, Louisiana
504.456.2879
www.scaffidiandchatta.com

White Light Productions
Shreveport, LA
318.861.5807

Eager Eagle Productions, L.C.
Houma, Louisiana
985.868.7372

Cindy Bower, Inc.
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.283.0751

DMJ Productions
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.288.8109

Film Line LA
Kenner, Louisiana
504.441.7827

Haupt Productions
Terrytown, Louisiana
504.391.1356
www.jeffreyhaupt.com

Historical Military Productions
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.861.3754

New Orleans Production Services
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.899.7827

Pinnacle Teleproductions
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.669.4276

Pro Vision & Design Video Productions
New Orleans, Louisiana
985.778.8832

Sweet Home Creative Productions, Inc.
Metairie, Louisiana
504.455.4015

Tete Rouge Productions
New Orleans, LA
504.524.3320

V. Veracity Inc.
New Orleans, Louisiana
504.897.3024

Young Communications Group
Gonzales, Louisiana
225.644.8605
http://www.ycomm.com/

Being an Extra

There are many people who might wonder, what does it take to be an extra in a movie? I've heard all kinds of questions, like are there certain qualities, do you have to know how to act, how much do you get paid, etc. I have been on several films as an extra, so I thought I'd take the time to fill you in on what I've learned. There was a great article written on this in Take 2 Review magazine, a site dedicated to reporting what is going on in LA film. If you are as interested in the business as I am, this site is a great source of information and I recommend checking it out.

Where do you begin?

The article suggests that you first draw up a resume to let the production company know your previous work...but here in Louisiana, many extras have no "previous work." Besides, as an extra you don't speak-- you're basically expected to do what they tell you... so I will give you my real-life pointers from what I've done

To get the information about upcoming movies that need extras, I would go to louisianacasting.com, www.thehurdcastingnetwork.com, or lafilm.org (the first two are currently under construction). These should let you know where to go to sign up-- usually places like the mall to gather the most people possible. You could also fill out a Motion Picture Extra Profile Sheet, because any casting agency in the future could use the information.
Bring a photo of yourself so that they can attach it to your sheet, so they will know to call you when they are looking for a certain type (I will do an article on what kinds of people they look for later). This simply means if they are doing a school scene and need kids, they won't call you on those days if you are a 60 year old white-haired man...get it?

After you sign up, you will wait to get a call which will usually be a couple of weeks after you signed up. They will tell you the days that they need you, but you don't have to agree to do all of them, just whichever you can commit to for a full day. That's right, they film for 12 hours, usually in a shifting schedule where one day they'll film from 8am-8pm, then the next day 9am-9pm etc etc... you get the picture. Get prepared for an early morning, because sometimes the call time can be at 5 or 6 in the morning. But if you commit to coming, you better be there. I've been there when a number of people didn't come and it totally messes with the shot. Movies are a precise business, and they know the exact numbers of people they need in the background, so it's very important that you get there. If there is an emergency and you cannot make it, try to find a replacement and then call the agency and notify them of the change. This is not desired, but life can sometimes work out like that.

What do I wear?

They will tell you to bring usually 3 outfits or so. They will specify the genre of clothing they want: things like an office look, a city look, or school attire. When they specify, they don't mean your brightest fur coat or your tightest leather bar outfit... well, unless they say so for the scene. They just want you to dress simple and appropriate for the scene. Never wear black, white or red. Oh, and don't wear stripes either. These mess with the cameras and when you go for your fitting with the wardrobe lady, she will immediately say no. That is why they ask for a couple of outfits, because you will "go to wardrobe" and the costume designer will ask you to try on or show her what you brought. She will be the one who picks out what you have to wear. This usually takes place at the beginning of the day, if you haven't scheduled a fitting on a day prior (they'll tell you when to come for this if you have a fitting on a day before the day your working). If you don't bring anything that works, they'll put you in an outfit. And you have to return it. They'll usually ask for your license or something to hold while you have the outfit on. They like layers. If you can throw a jacket or sweater on over what you have, barring any instructions not to (because of the movie's season or something), they like your outfit to have a dimension. If you ever notice the people on TV usually have layers to their outfits, just looks better I guess. Also, if the movie is set in another time period or something, they will give you the outfit to wear. This is why putting your accurate measurements on your profile sheet is handy, because they will use this to appropriate who wears what. With your shoes, most ask that you wear a closed-toe shoe. Wires, equipment and other things around the set pose dangers for the tons of people bustling around and having a closed-toe shoe is just safest.

What do I do on the day of?

Someone will call and give you directions on where to show up and at what time. They will have you park in a reserved area, and then they get all of the extras together and have them fill out a CAPS voucher. This is your general information, the information about the film, and the hours you work so that they can turn them in for your paycheck. You usually make about $75 for a day on the set-- not bad considering what you get to experience. If you go overtime, which is common, you get paid time and a half. I've been on sets where I've received checks for $125 even. For lower budgets, the price might be different, or you might not get paid at all. They will let you know this.

The director's assistant and production assistant (called a "DA" & a "PA," its part of the movie lingo) will be your guides from here. They will let you know the gist of what you will do that day, which scenes you'll be involved in, and a little background about the movie. You should follow whatever the PA says, because everything is orchestrated and they need all the cooperation possible. Slacking off, taking naps, wandering around the set is not allowed... you should see this as an opportunity to learn and not a time for doing what you feel like.

When it's time to shoot, the PA's will place you strategically around the set and tell you what to do. The director will call for "quiet on the set" and then will announce "rolling," and finally "ACTION!" These are the cues for you to be quiet and pay attention to go. You will do is things like walking by and pretending to talk to a friend (NEVER actually TALK); reading a book on a bench; eating in a cafeteria; or throwing a frisbee. The scene will dictate this. If you are outside, the weather can be a factor but do not let it change how you act. Sometimes they film in the summer and its supposed to be winter in the movie, so walking around fanning yourself wouldn't make sense. Try not to make any rash movements to distract the scene. If you do something to try to get yourself noticed, chances are they will just totally cut you out of the scene. Its better to play it safe, and just blend in. The director will yell "Cut!" to announce that they are done filming, but that's not all. Each scene will probably be redone like 10 times. Get prepared to do the same thing many times over. You will have to repeat what you are doing until they have gotten what they want out of the scene, and will yell "checking the gate." This is when you know that the scene is done and you can take a break until they are ready for you in the next scene. Movies are precise and every inch of what goes on is scrutinized by many people. Know that even though you may not feel like walking by in a silent conversation for the 17th time, you have to do your job because everyone on the set is working to get the scene just perfect. A good attitude for this is key.

Etiquette.

There are several things about movie etiquette that I am going to share with you. This will save you from a certain level of embarrassment, because if you are caught doing one of these... its a huge faux pas that will not go unnoticed or without an embarrassing and public lesson learned (trust me, from experience...):

*Never bring a camera--> if you think you can just snap away at the set or the famous faces you have it all wrong. Not only is it aggravating to all the people working there, its unprofessional. Picture taking is not allowed on the set. Period.
*Leave the stars alone--> asking for autographs, telling them about your shrine at home, or asking them to take a look at your headshots are so inappropriate and ridiculous. This is their job and they have to keep up with a lot while on the set, so please avoid them as much as you can. Some stars even have policies on their contracts to be completely avoided by all on set in order to make sure of this. Don't go up to them-- don't stare, don't confront and please don't grovel either. They just want to get their work done, so leave them alone.
*Do not talk on the set--> No cell phones at all! No one appreciates a loud phone call anyway, but especially on a movie set. You might be Mr. Important outside of this movie, but at that moment you are an extra and you cannot "take this call" when you feel. When you are in the waiting room, feel free to chat or read a magazine to pass the time. But when the director calls for quiet on the set, you better listen. They will call you out on it because their sensitive microphones will pick up on every little thing you say... I was on a set once when a girl was talking about the night before to her friend as she "walked by." After they called cut, a PA approached her and said that everyone wearing earphones (which is a considerable amount of people) could hear everything she said. Not only did she ruin the take, but everyone knew about her late night adventure. Talk about embarrassing.
*Be available--> There is a lot of down time when you are an extra. They put you in this holding room to wait until the scene is ready, as setting up for a scene takes a long time. Bring reading material or something, but stay in the holding room. If you wander out, you might miss the opportunity to go onto the set. Talk to the other extras, talk to the PAs, you will obtain a wealth of knowledge. Every movie has an extra or two who basically make a living off of being an extra-- these people have stories for days. Its also a good way to learn about the movie process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask around. You would be surprised how much actually goes into making a movie. And trust me, you'll never watch movies the same. So, its a good idea to stay with the group and be ready to go.

Food Etiquette.

After about halfway through the day (sometimes earlier/sometimes later) they will serve lunch. The food is usually really good. They will have a line set up for the extras to go through, buffet style usually. There are a couple of things I have learned, because the food situation can quickly turn into a nightmare if you are not prepared...

*Eat with the extras--> There are specific tables for each group of people on the set, and extras are kinda at the bottom end of the totem pole. Do not wander off onto the other side of the tables that seem more open, those are usually reserved for the big guys on the set. Do not sit with these people. It is a HUGE faux pas. If you feel that you are at the wrong table, you should ask someone who the table is for, and if they say director/producer/something in that range, jet the scene. You should just find a spot where the extras are and squeeze in. Blending in, again, is key.
*Eat the extras' food--> Sometimes there are separate buffets for the stars and the big wigs, and that food could be a nicer selection. Do not, by any means, try to get into that line with them. You will be put back into your place. Just eat what they give you and if you don't like it, pack something in advance.
*Eat Last--> If there is one big line for everyone to eat from, wait and let the cast and crew eat before you. For example, if a camera guy sees an extra eating before him, it usually pisses them off. Try to wait and let them get in before you because they need to be the first out. Besides, they have been doing all the hard work all day and deserve to go ahead. If a PA instructs you to go first, then do so. But never without specific instruction.

I know this all sounds soo severe, but its really not. Just some general pointers to keep you from the center of embarrassment. I've done some of the above, and would never want anyone to share the feeling. Movie people aren't mean, they just have a lot of pressure and stress, and knowing what to do helps ease this. If you find yourself in one of these situations, just excuse yourself and go on with your day. They'll never hold it against you, they have too much on their plate... no pun intended.

Types of Extras.

Sometimes if you luck out, you might be asked to have a special job as an extra. These jobs usually come from knowing someone, having prior experience with a certain company, or just being the right guy at the right moment. There are several kinds but I'll talk about a few:

Featured extra-- these are people who are specifically chosen to be seen on camera. If they are panning a movie crowd, for example, they will zero in on your face as you laugh or something of that nature. By sending in your headshot before, you can be chosen or simply on the day of they might ask you. If your face is on the camera, sometimes they will send you to "hair and makeup" to get touched up. Very fun.

Stand In-- This is a very precise job. Before the actor or actress comes on the set, people like the camera people, set people and/or director have to get the scene just perfect. So that they don't have to waste the actor's time, they will have an extra or "stand in" come and stand in the place where the actor will be. You might have to stand in a spot or go through the actual motions, so that the camera/lighting/props people can get the measurements to complete the scene. Its important if you are chosen for this to do exactly what they say. Every inch of movement is recorded, and they need you to cooperate fully.

Body Double-- This is exactly what it says. If you have the same look or measurements of the actor, they will ask you to be their body double. These are used for scenes when you can't really see the actor, but they are supposed to be there. This is another way that they don't have to waste the actor's time on something unnecessary...it can be taken care of. You might have to ride in a car, on a bus, be filmed from the back, etc. They will let you know what you must do, and you should make every effort to do it to your best. These, along with stand-ins, are usually paid more... around $125 a day or something. If you are picked to be a body double, you will go to hair and make up so that you look the most like the character; you will also go to wardrobe to get their exact outfit. Also very cool.

In the end...

You will receive your check in the mail a couple of weeks after you shoot. This will reflect the days and hours you worked. If you have given all of your information to the casting company, they can use it to contact you for future job opportunities. Make sure if you want to continue to do this, that you let the company know.

I know this all must sound overwhelming, but being an extra is a lot of fun. Sure there are a lot of rules and its a very long day, but the reward of being a part of something like this is worth it. You get to see how the film is made, all the work that has to be done-- the countless scenes to make one 2 minute part of a movie that you will know by heart. But you will appreciate movies so much more after this. Never again will you sit in a movie and just watch as a fan, you will know just how much work they did for your enjoyment. It really makes you appreciate the film industry. I know after my first day on a set, I went home and watched everything from a different eye. I would find myself looking at very complicated scenes with several camera angles, going, "Oh my God that must have taken all day!" People might think that the movie business isn't "really work" and that they have it so easy. One day on a set will change that idea forever. And those who've never been just won't get it. But you will.

I encourage everybody in Louisiana to go be an extra for at least one day. It's a great experience and you'll enjoy yourself-- trust me. Movies are always looking for people, so keep your eyes open. I don't encourage people to go in with the outlook of "being discovered" because that's not really what its all about, but there is always that possibility. You never know, maybe one day you could be starring in a film of your own... a film hopefully made in "the other LA!"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Our Image

After researching into the volumes of movies made in Louisiana, I began to notice a certain amount of themes common among these movies. In light of what the world has seen through Katrina, it got me thinking: what does the world think Louisiana is really like?

If you know of the typical Southern stereotypes, Louisiana movies fulfill many of these...and more. Stock characters hone in on a slow-drawl, careless attitude, while just stepping out of a shed, from underneath a car hood, or out onto a porch with a shotgun. Here they think we are all conservative 'coonasses', who like to do nothing more than sip on a tall one while looking at our backyard swamp. If you think I am being biased, why don't you check out one of the many movies I have listed. Chances are, you can pick any one at random and you'll find a couple southern stereotypes thrown in there.

And then there's our reputation that comes with New Orleans. God only knows people wonder how anything gets done here. We appear to be partying at all times, all 3 million of us, drinking down on Bourbon Street without a care in the world... or a job for that matter. If you look at movies like The Pelican Brief or Double Jeopardy, for example, you will notice the scenes where they run through the French Quarter midday and theres stumbling people all around pushing the characters on their way. They put them in the movie, because that establishes for the viewer where they are. We are associated with that atmosphere. Not that its a bad thing, but its just the only thing they see. They don't show the CBD, Lakeview, Metairie, etc etc all around the state that do not behave like that. In the more recent movies where other parts of Louisiana serve as the background, people are shocked to learn that the movie was shot here. Why, you may ask? It doesnt "look" like how Louisiana is supposed to: you know, lewd, drunk and clad with Mardi Gras beads.

But are we really like that?

Yes, there are many truths to how we are portrayed. Many people do come to the state to visit the French Quarter specifically to see what its like. And yes, the French Quarter can be fun- really fun. But, there is another side to Louisiana that completes it. Its the people in northern Louisiana, the Lake Charles, the Alexandrias, the small towns like Bunkie, that make up the sum and substance of the state. These towns are subsequently dragged into the mix of what "Louisiana is," because if you travel anywhere around the world and you say where you are from, the first thing they ask you is, "So, you party on Bourbon every night??" Well, yes, you do. Of course you do. Its gotta be like they see on TV, right.

Since Katrina, the image of Louisiana has become a major issue. Because we are seen like this party town that could give a care for real work, is our economy going to be hurt? Will major companies who could invest large amounts of money to build factories and such want to build in a place like this? I couldnt see a Toyota plant popping up down here anytime soon. So maybe it could hurt us (save geographic problems). And then there's our image of corrupt politics. Katrina hasnt really helped our image with that either. You heard countless stories of politicians taking their share of this, receiving FEMA money from that... government contracts for rebuilding have to be closely monitored so that the 'good ole boy network' wouldn't scoop them up and hire brother, sister, aunt, etc of the family business.

As we are in the rebuilding process, Louisiana again cannot find its right image. We want to appear back on track, eager for business to come streaming back in to help out our economy. But on the flip side, we are still broken down, without necessities, and begging for help. Looking at it from a bird's eye view, Louisiana has sent a very mixed message in the rebuilding process that would have anyone confused. We want them here but we're not getting any rebuilding done according to many reports-- so why would they come back? We need to promote what has been done in order to get business back. We need everyone to chip in and help. If we want people like the movie business to come back, we need to show what has been done... and be proud of it. I am still proud to call New Orleans home. And I can't wait to come back.

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