Production increase in Louisiana

For generations New Orleans' appeal to artists, musicians and writers did little to dispel the city’s image as a poor, albeit fun-loving, bohemian tourism haven. As was made all too evident by Katrina, the city was plagued by enormous class and racial divisions, corruption and some of the lowest average wages in the country.

Yet recently, the Big Easy and the state of Louisiana have managed to turn the region’s creative energy into something of an economic driver. Aided by generous production incentives, the state has enjoyed among the biggest increases in new film production anywhere in the nation. At a time when production nationally has been down, the number of TV and film productions shot in Louisiana tripled from 33 per year in 2002-2007 to an average of 92 annually in 2008-2010, according to a study by BaxStarr Consulting. Movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford are being made in the state this year.

Of course many states and cities have thrown money at the film industry, hoping to establish themselves as cultural centers. Texas, Georgia, British Columbia, Toronto and Michigan all wagered millions in tax dollars to lure producers away from Hollywood and the industry’s secondary hub of New York. There were 279 movies shot in New York State in 2009 and 2010. For all its gains, Louisiana still trails far behind the Empire State with 95 film productions in that period.

Yet New Orleans and Louisiana possess unique assets which make its challenge far more serious than that of other places. A Detroit, Atlanta or Dallas might be a convenient and cost-efficient place to make a film or television show, but they lack the essential cultural richness that can lure creative people to stay. The Big Easy is attracting that type, plus post-production startups, and animation and videogame outfits, giving a broader foundation to the nascent local entertainment industry.

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