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Culture Watch: Hooray for Hollywood (South)

Hollywood meets New Orleans in a burgeoning film industry here.

I was thinking the other day that if New Orleans really is Hollywood South, then shouldn’t we have one of those big signs like they have on the hillside above Los Angeles? But if we did, where would we put it? It could go on the Crescent City Connection, I guess. The Superdome isn’t available any more. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

While we ponder that for a while, perhaps we should also put a little thought into how to keep Hollywood in the South.

OMG, that should be the name. If we hyphenate it, like those little towns in England – you know, Moreton-in-the-Marsh or Stow-on-the Wold — it might look a little better. Or we could put it up on one of those green highway signs hanging along I-10 from Baton Rouge to here, maybe around Gonzales.

Can’t you see it? Hollywood-in-the-South, 26 miles ahead.

Anyway, the reality is right now that the movie industry is doing gangbusters here. Our city and state are leading the pack nationwide with tax incentives. Scores of wonderful, talented young people have flocked here to share their creative talents and break into a business that is still accessible to those who don’t mind hard work, are willing to learn a new trade and are entrepreneurial in spirit. Of course, as with any creative industry, movie makers are in it for the profits as well as for the art.

New Orleans native and NOCCA graduate Batou Chandler has been involved in the movie business for about two decades. She began at age 17 by learning the business while still a student at New York University. Now one of the leading location managers in the New Orleans area, she has watched the industry grow and fade in other states when folk started upping location fees and other expenses that were seriously out of line with the marketplace.

“Some people got a little greedy,” she says. “And the result was many communities have found themselves out of business. It’s something we have to watch in New Orleans, because these days lots of other states and communities are creating their own additional tax incentives. So a lot of states will be catching up with us.”

Keeping New Orleans competitive doesn’t mean that our people have to work for less. Not at all, says Batou. She finds that salaries in the Crescent City for workers with the needed skills are in line with those across the country. Entry level job salaries may vary, and for those willing to break in any way they can, it might mean accepting an unpaid internship. But one thing’s for sure: The jobs are here.

So, if you like the sound of Hollywood-in-the-South and you think you might be just perfect for the movie industry, here are a few organizations to contact for information:

The New Orleans Office of Film and Video: and go the listing for Locals;

NOVAC, the New OrleansVideoAccessCenter: for information about training in a variety of skills;

State of Louisiana Film Commission: for news and information about statewide movie activity.

See you in the movies!

Sharon Litwin, president of NolaVie, writes Culture Watch weekly.



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