Millions of dollars pour into Louisiana each year thanks to the film industry. But some in the field locally worry that lawmakers want to do away with those lucrative tax incentives for production companies.
The fear is that as the state faces a $1.2 billion budget shortfall, some lawmakers will want to shift money away from the film program, and toward funding Louisiana schools and infrastructure needs instead.
Second Line Stages in New Orleans is ripe with growth. “We've had fabulous movies from all over here and television, we just got into television last year and we love it,” owner Susan Brennan said.
Brennan transformed the space from blighted warehouses into sound stages in 2009. While there wasn't a ton of demand then, things have certainly changed. “It's over a billion dollar industry here in Louisiana and I think $600 million of that is here in New Orleans,” Brennan explained.
Tax credits serve as a big incentive to get production companies into the state. The Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association believes the credits are so critical, it's raising money for an in-depth study to examine just how much the film industry benefits the state. The results will then be turned over to lawmakers during the fiscal legislative session next spring.
“What we need to be able to show them is the concrete data, the information, so that they know that this industry is good and if you cut film, you're actually hurting yourself because you're going to bring in less tax revenue that the film industry generates,” said association President Will French.
French says during every budget session, some legislators broach the idea of getting rid of tax credits to save the state money. It's something the Louisiana Budget Project says should be considered.
“Everybody in Louisiana who is not in the film industry is losing money on this deal because their tax dollars are going to support this industry and they're not getting the same return on investment,” says project Director Jan Moller.
Back at Second Line Stages, Brennan says she can see both sides of the argument, but she points out that thanks to booming business, local carpenters working there all have full time jobs. She says that's something that wouldn't have happened without the tax incentives.