Louisiana Entertainment Enters Era of Growth, Stability
Louisiana is one of the world’s top destinations for motion picture and television production. State-of-the-art facilities, a skilled workforce and a contemporary film tax credit program have built a thriving environment in a state known for rich culture and creative talent.
With hundreds of productions under its belt, Louisiana continues to attract television shows, such as NCIS: New Orleans and Queen Sugar; motion pictures, such as Dallas Buyer’s Club and Green Book; and countless commercials, live performances and music videos. Since 2002, the state has attracted nearly $7.5 billion in direct production spending and $1.7 billion in payroll for Louisiana residents.
The state developed an innovative tax credit program in 2002 and revised it in 2015. Additional improvements by the Legislature in 2017 have strengthened the sector significantly, says Chris Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, a division of Louisiana Economic Development.
Photo by Stephanie Berger.
“After competing in this space since 2002, we have a lot of insight into how to attract new investment and build a healthy entertainment infrastructure in the state,” Stelly says. “The new program provides certainty for investors, better supports workforce development and opens up the entire state for productions of many kinds.”
The revised Motion Picture Production Program, among the most competitive in the nation, offers a tax credit on qualified spending. For fiscal stability, the state issues a maximum of $150 million in credits per year. The Entertainment Job Creation Program, a new offering, seeks to create more permanent employment in Louisiana’s entertainment industries. To do that, the program offers employers a payroll-based tax credit when they create permanent new jobs.
The 2017 program enhancements generated a 200 percent increase in independent film production
Other changes support the growth of television productions. Louisiana now offers an initial five-year certification to build investor confidence. That feature has helped establish Louisiana as a prime location for TV shows, such as Claws, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Queen Sugar, NCIS: New Orleans and more.
“Attracting scripted, episodic content is a big win for Louisiana, since television shows require longer production periods of between eight and 10 months,” Stelly says.
The 2017 program enhancements generated a 200 percent increase in independent film production. From July 2017 to August 2018, 44 independent productions filmed in Louisiana, resulting in an estimated $208 million in direct spending.
Louisiana continued its annual Entertainment Summit in 2019 to cement the state’s strong commitment to the industry. Stakeholders gathered for a day of networking and learning about Louisiana’s enhanced programs and the opportunities they can create.
"Our goal is to grow our native industry, retain our young and talented workforce, and become an incubator for the entertainment companies of the future.”
“Governor (John Bel) Edwards and I are absolutely optimistic about the trajectory of Louisiana and our entertainment industry,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said at the summit. “As we continue to build upon this momentum, our goal is for Louisiana to become the gold standard for creating entertainment jobs and expanding the creation of intellectual property. Our goal is to grow our native industry, retain our young and talented workforce, and become an incubator for the entertainment companies of the future.”
In February 2019, Green Book won best picture among three Academy Awards, becoming the latest motion picture to leverage its work with Louisiana film industry professionals into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ highest award. Filmed in and around New Orleans with Louisiana crew and cast members, Green Book also took home Academy Awards for best supporting actor and best original screenplay.
That same month, six Louisiana performers won a total of seven Grammys at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards presentation, in genres ranging from Christian music to heavy metal, jazz and blues.
“We value and support this industry because it helps drive Louisiana’s economy,” Pierson says.