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Hollywood South losing movies to Canada, Georgia after tax credit changes

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

Much has changed in Louisiana's film industry in less than a year. 

"We currently have about 37 percent of our membership working. This time last year pretty much everyone was working. We even had a surplus of good-paying jobs," business agent for IATSE Local 478 Cory Parker said. 

Parker is a spokesperson for a film and TV workers union in the area. Since the state put a $180 million cap on movie tax credits, he says jobs dwindled, and Hollywood South moved east and much farther north. 

"Canada is a big place to go to right now because of the value of the dollar," Parker said. "Georgia, people are going there because they don't have a cap."

In June while staring down a budget crisis, Louisiana lawmakers put a cap on the amount of tax credits the film industry can receive per year. It was the first time the state ever had a cap in place. 

In 2013 and 2014, the state gave away more than $230 million each year.

"It had grown to a point where it had reached $250 million and the exponential growth the tax credit was having it get to $300-$350 million prospectively pretty easily," New Orleans State Sen. J.P. Morrell said.  

Morrell worked to cap the industry's film tax credit program as it grew far more popular than lawmakers anticipated. 

But he disagrees with how the state forced movie makers to redeem the credits. 

Instead of only giving out $180 million in credits, the state still agreed to give out as many tax credits as possible creating a mad dash to turn in credits before the $180 million mark was reached. 

"If you're one of those guys who gets in last, you have to wait until next year," Morrell said. "That uncertainty in redeeming your credit really makes it unfriendly to use the credit at all." 

"We've had very little work since August," FilmWorks owner George Steiner said. 

The struggling industry hit New Orleans based Filmworks especially hard. 

Even though the studio worked on the recent critically-acclaimed film, The Big Short, featuring Brad Pitt and Christian Bale, Steiner is closing his business on March 31. 

He blames uncertainty and confusion on the film industry's downfall in Louisiana. 

"It's one of those things that we had very little work for a long time, and it makes sense not to sit around and do nothing," Steiner said. 

According to a Louisiana Economic Development study, the movie industry employed close to 13,000 state workers and spent $727 million in 2014.     

There is a push to change the movie tax credit program, but lawmakers cannot do so unless another special session is called or until next year's session, according to Morrell.  

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