Once upon a time, Shreveport was buzzing with celebrities and movie stars. The future was bright and Shreveport was on the map. Due to the unfortunate circumstances following Hurricane Katrina in the southern region of the state, and an influx in drilling work in this region, Shreveport saw new residents from around the United States looking for new opportunities. Locals were sticking around learning the ropes of the film industry and local businesses were expanding to meet the new needs. Then, the bottom fell out of both industries.
First a major change in the profitability of drilling occurred, which ultimately led to the State suspending the buyback program on the tax rebates. This ultimately caused out of state financed production to head to Atlanta or elsewhere. So, where does that leave us now? Well, as far as film is concerned, it left us with something great—a local workforce that knows how to make movies.
Louisiana was once ranked third in the nation in film productions as far as volume is concerned, behind Los Angeles and New York. At the time of that ranking Shreveport was constantly busy with work, which gave locals the time to learn valuable positions on crew and also allowed time for the development of local infrastructure necessary for productions. Also, over the past five years, the Louisiana Film Prize, a short film festival with a fifty-thousand dollar grand prize, gave us an actual canvas to test our skills and compete against other filmmakers. All of these factors, plus the fact that Shreveport provides free filming locations for Caddo Parish owned facilities, made this a premiere place to film.
Louisiana’s original 2008 film and production tax incentive program was the primary reason film productions flocked to the state. Louisiana was offering a generous tax credit on the amount a production would spend and then buy the credit back for eighty-five cents on the dollar. For example, if a production spent ten million dollars, and they received a 28% tax credit, then they would receive a $2.8 million tax credit. The state would then buy back the tax credit for $2.46 million to the producers. Los Angeles and New York based film producers flocked to the region to benefit from these incentives. In 2015, the state suspended the buyback program, which meant that producers weren’t receiving cash for filming here anymore. By this time states like New Mexico and Georgia had established a viable tax credit program so it was easy for productions to make the move.
Where does that leave the film industry in Shreveport today? The state invested heavily into the film industry but it didn’t receive the dividends it had hoped to receive. It was successful in building a highly trained crew base and establishing an infrastructure for the State, but something was still lacking. States like Georgia are having tremendous success with their tax credit program and it was modeled after ours. What’s the difference? The studios.
In Atlanta, local studios were established to take advantage of the tax incentives. These studios developed their own content, and then distributed their products out to market. Once profits were made from sales of their films and or TV shows, that money was then paid back to the state. For Georgia, it’s a much more beneficial arrangement because they are seeing a greater return on their investment. The State of Louisiana, not wanting to lose a key part of its identity, worked diligently to not only bring filming back to this region but to create an environment where the industry can evolve organically without the reliance of tax credits. They set up tax credits for local studios that qualify as a QEC (qualified entertainment company,) which incentivizes out of state productions to use local studios, plus provides tax breaks for full time W-2 wage employees. It also expands the credits for local resident in-state productions outside of the New Orleans area. The new state regulations also offer greater incentives to out of state productions, including raising the buyback amount to 90 cents, which will put Louisiana back on top as far as incentives are concerned. This will hopefully bring films back to the region at a level similar to what was seen in the past.
Shreveport also offers something else for filmmakers that makes us unique. Local filmmakers ban together each year and make hundreds of short films in this region. Whether it’s helping out of town filmmakers or each other, we all work with the spirit of helpfulness for our community. This opportunity to make so many films plus work crew on so many large productions creates an environment perfect for local studios to emerge. We have city officials like the Shreveport Film Commission’s Arlena Acree working diligently to promote film for this region, along with the city’s overall accommodating attitude when it comes to helping productions in any way possible. I believe Shreveport will see a new emergence of the film industry which incorporates locals and outside large scale productions.
We chose Shreveport as our home to start this region’s first production and distribution studio. With the generous buyback program and tax breaks on hiring full time employees along with the amount of highly trained crew and infrastructure available, Shreveport is the perfect home for our studio, Gorilla Tree Film Co. We will be premiering our first feature film “Devil’s Acid,” a dark comedy horror film this October in Shreveport.