The sound of air reverberating through brass echoes in the damp, still air under a morning sun; chairs pulled out and the smell of buttery croissants dance with the laughter-filled chatter of New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood. This is Louisiana. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge inundated the state, a static tide of Cajun energy is on the rise. Left with largely inadequate federal recovery funding and thousands of residents awaiting proper restitution, Louisiana is both a grand opportunity and a place in need of a hand up.
This rich cultural melting pot of French, African and American cultures is redefining itself with experimental civil reengineering and the opportunity of a blank slate. With open arms the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development has welcomed the creative minds of the day, pushing tax credits and other stimuli to attract film and television productions to its gulf shores.
The film and television industry has answered the call by returning to Louisiana to film world class productions in state-of-the-art facilities while creating a positive environmental, social and economic impact on a state in the throes of recovery.
According to Chris Stelly, Executive Director of the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development, growth in the number of film and television productions filming in Louisiana has been ‘“vital to the revitalization of Louisiana.” “In October of 2005, when nobody was hiring, the film and TV productions stuck with us,” Stelly told us. “They hired Louisianans, invested in our communities and acted as a catalyst for the rebirth of our state as a hip, creative and attractive location for motion picture productions.”
With up to a 30% transferable tax credit on qualified in-state expenditures including resident and non-resident labor and an additional 10% payroll credit for in-state labor, the state’s incentives are working to bring in the largest names in film and television. In 2005, Louisiana attracted ten large productions to film within the state; today, the state is recruiting over 100 projects annually.
Additionally, as sets are integrating more social and environmental initiatives into the production process, studios are developing a greater understanding of how they can amplify their positive impact on the community. From food to set donations and celebrity appearances, “these small measures are making a big difference,” Stelly said.
Looking at the available incentives as well as the state’s diverse backdrops, Louisiana brings a significant value proposition to studios while giving productions an incredible opportunity to extend a helping hand to post-Katrina revitalization efforts.
Production Environmental and Social Initiatives Support Louisiana’s Rebirth
This quick highlight reel showcases just a few of the environmental and social initiatives taken on by recently released and upcoming films to assist in the rebirth of a post-Katrina Louisiana.
Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World
Through the filming of this world record-setting feature film, the production drew inspiration from the NBCUniversal Sustainable Production program to integrate environmentally conscious
production practices into daily set routines. The production office strongly encouraged the set crew to save paper by receiving information digitally and requesting hard copies of lists and schedules only on an as-needed basis.
By defaulting to digital distribution, the film reduced paper use by 50% compared to similar-sized productions. Additionally, printing reductions assisted with the security surrounding the highly confidential production environment, while simultaneously cutting printing costs and conserving natural resources.
For more information on reducing paper use on set check out – Nine Ways to Reduce Production Paper Use
While filming in New Orleans, the production office forged a new partnership with Second Harvest of New Orleans, a non-profit on a mission to end hunger in South Louisiana. Through daily communication between the production office and the donations coordinator at Second Harvest, hundreds of meals worth of food were successfully recovered and donated to local hunger relief organizations. Assistance from the catering crew was vital to make the food donations possible. At the end of a meal, catering packed up excess prepared food onto disposable trays and handed it off to the receiving agency.
At wrap, the greens department received approval to coordinate and organize the donation of several palm trees and other plants used as set dressing to the Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans. The donation assisted with the beautification of a local non-profit and kept the plants and trees from entering a landfill.
Paramount Pictures’ Daddy’s Home
Throughout the filming of Daddy’s Home, the production operated with a low paper directive, encouraging digital distribution of dailies, double-sided printing and recycling throughout departments. Additionally, Klean Kanteens were ordered for all crew members, reducing waste from plastic water bottles and paper cups.
A no–idling policy was strictly enforced throughout the production with empty trailers triggering generators to shut off.
Sony Pictures Screen Gems’ When the Bough Breaks
In addition to standard green production efforts, during pre-production, the Screen Gems studio office in Culver City worked closely with the production office in New Orleans to make sure there would be as little on-set waste as possible. In preparation, the art and construction departments pre-arranged recycling methods for various materials and set assets after use. Reusable water bottles were purchased for the cast and crew to avoid disposable plastic bottle use.
Throughout the production, 354 lbs. of prepared but unserved food were donated to a homeless shelter, creating 272 meals and reducing landfill-associated CO2 emissions by 269 lbs. Upon wrap, the production donated a tree to be planted for each day of filming to the New Orleans City Park. Additionally, over 70 items including four live oak trees, 20 camellias, six ligustrums, 40 azaleas and a refrigerator were donated to local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Furthermore, in an effort to normalize sustainable behavior, conscious placement of reusable coffee cups, dishes and grocery bags were used on-screen.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Louisiana was the site of the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Today, there exists a new light on the state of Louisiana. With creative and attractive economic development incentives in place and studios positioning themselves to make positive social and environmental impacts on the communities where they film, Louisiana’s production industry is acting as a catalyst for the state’s overall recovery.
As the state’s cities and communities continue to pull themselves from the wreckage, the role film and television productions can play in Louisiana’s revitalization efforts is limited only by the industry’s willingness to think openly and honestly about its responsibility to leaving the communities where it films better than when it arrives. Setting environmental and social initiatives on the front end and measuring campaign success using dedicated tools like a carbon calculator or food donation tracker will ensure the continued improvement of industry efforts in Louisiana and beyond.