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Chris Stelly talks future of red-hot Louisiana film industry, opportunities

Written by  // Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:29 //

filmThere are more films and TV shows in Louisiana than in any location in the world. This incredible climb has occurred in slightly over a decade since the advent of the tax incentive program.

 

As part of a multi-segment interview about the Louisiana entertainment industry, Chris Stelly, Executive Director of Entertainment, Louisiana Economic Development, in part I, discussed the rise of the film industry in part one. In part II, Stelly focused upon the digital media sector.

In today’s segment, the discussion turns again to the opportunities within the Louisiana film industry, the reasons for its success and creative ways to incorporate google hangouts.

Google hangout expert Ronnie Bincer, Louisiana-based Google hangout advocate Wayne Nix joined Bayoubuzz publisher and Google hangout and promoter Stephen Sabludowsky in the interview.

Sabludowsky: So let me follow up on the film industry, if I might. As I understand it, we are currently number one in the world in terms of movies that are filmed, TV programs, that are filmed in Louisiana. Am I correct?

Stelly: I think you are correct. Thank you. Yeah, we were recently rated the number one feature film production destination for the calendar year 2013 by our counterpart on California. So that was a great pat on the back for what we do here in the state of Louisiana and the tremendous strides that we've made in that industry. The fruits of that labor are certainly showing off.

Sabludowsky: But it's not just the tax credits that are bringing people here, bringing the Brad Pitts, and I can go on with some of the other actors and actresses and studios. It's not just the incentives, is it?

Stelly: Well, you know, the incentives are an important piece. To not recognize that, that's just the way the film industry has evolved into where they make decisions based on fiscal matters for them. However, philosophically speaking, if you have a great incentive, but you don't have the support structure built up around it, then it's just a number, and you can't maximize that return on that spend. So what's we've been able to do is really focus our efforts on streamlining the programs, making it easy, and at the same time working with companies to develop a great infrastructure. We have sound stages located throughout the entire state. We have a great crew base. We have film friendly communities where people still aren't so worn out by the presence of the film companies that they welcome them in. It's a great experience for anyone coming in to shoot here in Louisiana. We have a temperate climate, things that you don't necessarily think of. It's sunshine year around. So you can come to Louisiana in the dead of winter and have a great experience where it's not too cold or snow or anything like that. We have a unique historical and cultural tie to the arts. So those things really give the creative people a sense of time and space and a tie to history that you don't get anywhere in the US. So it's a combination of all those things. You got support from the Governor through the Legislature on down to the community level with Mayors and City Councilmen to the individual residents. So it's been a very, very good experience overall.

Sabludowsky: Where are the opportunities in that particular sector, film? Are we producing? We're filming; but are we the other, the second half, of the production? Are we strong there? Are there opportunities there?

Stelly: There are opportunities across the spectrum. I think the next step for Louisiana would really be to take what we have accomplished today and make sure that it's long-term and self-sustaining. So that goes from fostering the idea through distribution. I don't know what that plan looks like, but certainly the opportunities for anyone, if you want to work below or above the line, are here in Louisiana. I've got a few friends out on the West Coast who continue to wait tables, and I'm like, "Why are you working in a restaurant here in LA when you could be at home working?" So there's ample opportunities in the post-production space, in the distribution space, and really all over the place.

Sabludowsky: Ronnie, Wayne, you have friends who probably need to get into the film or any one of these entertainment industries?

Nix: Well, of course, we all know somebody who wants to be famous. But what I'm thinking more of at the time is how these Hangouts could actually benefit what you're trying to do with the state. You know, just to constantly have some interaction and keep people informed. I think Ronnie can chime in more on this. I mean, basically, we have marketing like never before. It's at our fingertips. Everybody has a phone. You know, I just think it would be awesome if we could get somebody shooting on the corner all of a sudden going live and just have a questions. You would have that constant marketing, and it would drum up those sorts of wants. Because I know just living in New Orleans; I've lived in New Orleans several times, and I'm sure I'll be back; you know, every now and then, like the last one I stumbled across was The Butler. That was not too long ago. It just happened to be around the corner from my apartment. I had no clue. That sort of thing, just to be able to pop up on site or even to be able to get with the...you know, no longer do you have to spend tons of money on advertisement. You just go on Google. Like I said, I think Ronnie can probably elaborate a lot more on that, because he's talking with a lot of the David Amerland’s and things that are actually leading this cutting-edge field.

Bincer: Okay. Well, some of the ideas are that we can take; Wayne had alluded to it or mentioned to it; this thing right here, which is called cell phone, and this turns into your own TV truck. So you can be walking on the set and doing behind-the-scenes broadcasting of what's going on and potentially grab one of the stars and bring him over and just ask him a quick question. Somebody can actually interact with them live. And that can bring buzz to the space that shows off that there's all this film development going on right in their backyard. So it's a quick, easy way, inexpensive, because these tools are basically free, to just go around and basically be the voice that's talking about this particular industry. Of course, you have to deal with the legal aspect of it. Is it okay to do a broadcast from the set? So that's something that you'd have to wrangle through, but the idea of the space being so much easier to get into. This visibility and these tools that are just flying at us, coming one right after the other to allow us to broadcast that, is pretty incredible.

Nix: And can I interject one more thing? I saw Giorgio Tsoukalos the other day right before they did, you know, he does an ancient alien show. They had a live event where people could ask him questions. So there are people in the major industries out there starting to use these tools. We have them here, so it's just figuring out, like I said, maybe some of those legal things like Ronnie alluded to.

Stelly: I've certainly been in several meetings with studio execs and been at panels and functions like South by Southwest, etc, etc, where the studios in particular have set up social media divisions to do just these sorts of things; to get the word out. You know, now you have what's called second screen, right? So you've got people that are watching a program on television and interacting by Twitter or another social media platform. So those things are certainly always something that people are looking at, and the idea makes good sense because, you know, the one thing that you're trying to attract whether you're producing a film or making a record or creating a video game, is an audience. So the more buzz that you can build...just take, for example, comic book movies. At one time, there was maybe one or two comic book movies every two or three years, right? We weren't inundated and one coming out year after year. But what they did smartly, they went to all the comic book fans and brought them into the process and invited websites like Ain't it Cool Muse and What Harry's Doing over in Austin. They invited him to the set to make sure that they have that interaction. So it makes sense that the next logical, natural evolution of technology would be something like what you guys were proposing.;

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