Film industry launches information campaign, wants film credit cap tweaked

Louisiana film industry launches 'Fight for Film" campaign

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The movie-making industry in Louisiana said its worth to job creation in the state is proven and it has launched a video campaign to make sure state lawmakers and the public know it. The "Fight for Film" campaign was unveiled Wednesday during a press conference in New Orleans.

"At the end of the day, the film industry is all about jobs. It's all about jobs in Louisiana, and we are responsible as an industry for over 13,000 direct and indirect jobs," said Robert Vosbein, president of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association.

"The average film when it comes to town is crewed up anywhere from 80 to 85 percent with local, Louisiana working class," said Cory Parker of IATSE Local 478.

They said the most recent study by the Louisiana Economic Development Department showed that people working in the film industry in the state earned, on average, $61,000 a year. And they believe the way the $180 million cap on film tax credits approved by the Legislature is problematic in the way it is being implemented. Vosbein said its back-ended, and should be the other way around.

"When they changed the law and said we're only going to allow $180 million of credits, they didn't say when we reach $180 million we're going to stop. Instead they said we'll certify hundreds of millions of dollars of credits, but we won't let you use but $180 million of them," stated Vosbein.

Industry leaders want the Legislature to tweak the tax credit program to eliminate what they call uncertainty for movie-makers.

Some local businesses have a stake in the industry doing well.

"We hustle to get the material out to them, and when the movies are rolling, we've got trucks rolling all day, and it's important business for us," said Gabriel Markel of Markel Lumber.

"When we're having problems paying for TOPS scholarships, when we can't fund public schools adequately, higher education, all the other needs of this state, we shouldn't stop spending money on film credits, but we should maybe roll that back to $100 million," said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project.

While he thinks the state should be committed to less in the way of tax credits for the film industry, he agrees with industry leaders on another point.

"We agree with the industry that it needs to be a front-end cap, and issuance cap, not the back-end cap that was passed three years ago that has caused so many problems in the industry," Moller said.

The industry fears some lawmakers may want to lower the tax credit cap below the current $180 million because of the state's ongoing fiscal mess. Moller thinks that is plausible.

"They do not see a lot of benefit from the film program, so I do believe that when the Legislature starts debating the budget, there will be an attempt to cut this back," Moller continued.

A representative of the tourism industry said having movies shot in New Orleans gives the city exposure around the world.

"When we're on the screen like that, it puts New Orleans top of mind for everyone who's considering Louisiana - and not just New Orleans. They consider places all over the state," said Kristian Sonnier, of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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