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Golden Goose Gumbo: How Some Louisiana Politicians Want to Mess with Hollywood South Tax Credits And Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg

New Orleans and Louisiana is now known as Hollywood South. The reason this has happened is simple: several years ago some smart people in Baton Rouge decided to offer tax credits to film companies to come here and make movies. And television and movie companies have flocked here ever since.

Golden Goose Gumbo: How Some Louisiana Politicians Want to Mess with Hollywood South Tax Credits And Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg

Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, filmed in New Orleans 2012

Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, filmed in New Orleans 2012

But there are some in our state government who think Louisiana is being too generous with these tax credits and want to scale it back. This is a bad idea. To explain let’s start with an analogy, shall we.

Golden Goose Gumbo: A recipe for starvation

Take one goose efficiently laying golden eggs and let people who don’t know much about geese discuss where the gold comes from.

Let them decide that as the goose lays the eggs the secret must be inside the goose and they must get the secret.

Kill the goose and chop it up fine, cook it down and give as many as possible a bowl to sample.

Engage in lots of talk about how nothing special was found inside the goose and with the goose gone there are no more golden eggs coming your way.

Too convoluted?

Well that is what some in the state of Louisiana want to do with the film industry. Louisiana is booming right now, filmmakers love to shoot here, actors and crew are re-locating here we truly are becoming what we have called ourselves for years, Hollywood South, the other LA.

But some politicians seem to think the state is being cheated, no other way to say it. Hmmmm… a multi million dollar business in Louisiana has a whiff of corruption about it, who heard of such a thing!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that cheating on the tax credits is acceptable or should be accepted but with one state film commissioner already sent to the stripy hole for this very crime it is not exactly unexpected and it should certainly be dealt with.

That said some lawmakers are looking at the whole idea of tax credits for the movie industry, a system by which if a company spends more than $300,000 in the state they get about 1/3 of the tax the state collects on the goods and services they bought for the production back to the company.

This does not affect the tax the state collects from suppliers based in the state, nor workers based within the state nor any of the goods and services by those workers while in the state. So why in heaven would you want to cut this subsidy which WILL make film companies think twice before shooting here if it goes through?

Well, one reason is that some might think that the movie industry is now so established here that it has come to stay. Forget it. The fact that we now have studios and sound stages and great crew WILL NOT keep movie companies here if they think they can get a better deal elsewhere.

We are now eating someone else’s lunch because the state made it very attractive to come here and if politicians now try to claw this back it is more than likely that there will be a loud sucking sound as all those jobs and all that CASH disappears across the Georgia border.

Some people think it can’t happen. They are wrong. Just a couple of months before Christmas there was lots of buzz about the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie being shot here, remember?

I had friends in the business locally assuring me that it was a done deal and pooh poohing my words of caution that my friends in other parts of the country were not so sure. Well now we are sure Pirates 5 is going to Australia.

Why?

Because the production company was given a $25,000,000 subsidy to go there. Think about that for a moment – the people trying to attract this movie away from us thought it worthwhile giving the company twenty five million dollars to shoot in their neck of the woods. What does that say about how much they expect to make out of the movie shoot?

Is it really ‘costing the state money’ to give companies back 1/3 of the money they pay in taxes? Well, I was working in London in the 1980s when the British government thought it was. At the time quite apart from all the British movies (the James Bond series etc.) many of the blockbuster series were based out of London with studio work done in England.

All the original Superman movies, Star Wars, Indiana Jones were being shot in some of the biggest studios and utilizing the biggest costume houses in the world. And when the tax subsidies went it was like a light switch being turned off. Things got so bad that the famous Pinewood Studios was dark for a month, nothing shooting there for the first time in its history.

So be under no illusion, it CAN happen here.

Louisiana is an incredible place to film, we have been blessed with a state with more faces than Lon Chaney, but the people who make the decisions about where a film will be shot are not here, they are in Hollywood and they care about the bottom line – money – and who will give them the best deal.

If it is not us they will go with whoever that is.

When we have some of those people here, executives sitting in offices who can look at a script and say “Yes, we are making this” then we will have a permanent film industry.

But remember today these people are in Hollywood and they are not making their movies at home, they are sending them to Louisiana. This will continue as long as they get the best deal here and they don’t give a fig for anyone’s state budget deficit.

So please don’t anyone fool themselves into thinking Hollywood is going to pay more to come here just because they like working here. They can work in Georgia and come here on the weekends if that gets them a better deal.

And if the politicians in Baton Rouge mess with our tax credits then Hollywood South will be truly gone with the wind.

Tim Pickles is an English writer, producer, director and sometime actor based in New Orleans since 1988. He has also worked as a historical re-creation director on many productions, and has written several works including New Orleans 1815, Malta 1565, and several chapters in the recently published The Battle of New Orleans Reconsidered. He is president of the Louisiana Living History Foundation and produced the recent re-enactment of the New Orleans campaign for the bicentennial on the new Battlefield Park, which was constructed specifically for this purpose and is now available for annual re-enactments and as a film set.

Posted in New Orleans Art, New Orleans Business, New Orleans Life.

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