John Bel Edwards meets with Hollywood studios to tout Louisiana film opportunities

After a visit to Los Angeles, where Gov. John Bel Edwards met with eight major film production companies, the governor said he feels confident more filmmakers will flock to Louisiana using its film tax credit.

“The message I received loud and clear was that they really like Louisiana. They like doing business here,” Edwards said Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3) in the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

The governor landed shortly after 3:30 p.m. after spending two days meeting with studios including Netflix, Warner Bros., NBC, Universal, HBO, Hulu, CBS and Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, urging them to utilize Louisiana’s Motion Picture Production tax credit in future productions.

While 13 productions – seven feature films and six television series – are currently being filmed in Louisiana, the governor said he expects to see more in the coming weeks and months. The governor said he is hopeful that more filmmakers will take advantage of the credit program which was implemented by the state in 2002 with the goal of attracting productions and fueling the local economy.

The program sets a $180 million limit on the amount that taxpayers will spend each year on tax credits issued to film and TV productions. Only $150 million of those credits can be issued per year.

It’s been more than 15 years since the tax credit’s implementation and there’s still debate over its effectiveness to inject momentum into the state’s economy. But after revisions were made to the tax credit last summer, the governor said studios have renewed their confidence in the program.

According to an economic impact study from April 2017, entertainment spending during 2015 and 2016 brought in nearly $1.8 billion in household earnings for Louisiana residents and an average of 14,171 jobs were supported. However, the same report notes that the tax credits for film production were worth about $219.4 million in 2016, or about $15,460 per job — potential revenue that could have otherwise gone into state coffers.

A new economic impact report study will be released early next spring, the governor said, adding that while the program is stable, it is not the most lucrative of businesses.

In the past, the program has attracted big budget productions, including major award-winners like “Django Unchained” and “12 Years a Slave.” Edwards said the program is less likely to see many big blockbusters in the future, due to a cap on actors’ salaries, but still believes that the state will continue to attract more productions and use local talent.

A version of the tax credits was incorporated into St. Bernard’s Parish code last year. Known as Film St. Bernard, the program lets film companies that spend at least $150,000 on local St. Bernard businesses and residents take a 3.5 percent tax rebate. St. Charles Parish also offers a similar film credit.

The governor said that he was “pushing the whole state” to be used in future films, to encourage more of a homegrown industry and encourage productions to film outside the New Orleans area.