As safety measures begin to loosen across the state, many Louisiana cities are seeing a resurgent increase in film production, according to an article from The Advocate that details just how local film crews are getting back to work.
The article featured a spotlight on local film director Richie Adams as he was framing the streets of downtown Baton Rouge to look like New York City for his upcoming feature The Road Dance, which is set to be shown in festivals later this year. The film is an adaptation of the John MacKay novel of the same name, and it chronicles a young woman’s overcoming of adversity in a pre-World War I landscape.
Just as The Road Dance was using shots of the brick buildings of France Street for an afternoon, many film production crews began April by finding their footing once again as camera operators, boom microphone holders, lighting technicians, and others are picking up the phones to return to Louisiana’s film productions that were halted as a result of 2020’s stay at home ordinances. If Louisiana production crews weren’t returning to paused projects, then they were accepting contracts for new productions as a result of the Film market’s increased demand to produce and release content for various streaming platforms and reopening theatres.
Todd Lewis is a producer for Crimson Pictures, a New Orleans-based production company that has been a part of many film and television productions filmed in the south like Looking for Alaska (2019), Fantastic Four (2015), and 21 Jump Street (2012). When interviewed, he remarked that as of recently most film crews across the state are booked throughout the fall saying, “we kind of stayed down most of the summer like everyone else, then we got geared up again in September. It’s been a boom ever since. It’s a great thing that we’re having a hard time finding local crew. It means that everybody is working.”
Business is definitely beginning to pick up again, as there were at least a half-dozen film productions actively filming in the state of Louisiana in March and another six slated to begin filming sometime before the end of May. These twelve or so film productions spaced out over a three-month period are approximately the same number of projects that found themselves in various stages of completion when the stay-at-home order was declared on Friday, March 13, 2020.
According to Director Richie Adams, local film production crews are still about “a year out from” being back to some semblance of normal or at least pre-March 2020 levels of efficiency, productivity, and financial competency. As per Adams’ perspective, when it comes to actively filming in the wake of the pandemic, the question becomes: “can your production handle the extra burden of COVID safety and protocols because it’s a financial burden to the production?”
In 2020, there were 44 filed applications by film and digital media companies that estimated that they would spend $542 million in the state, which is nearly 31% lower than the 75 applications estimating an expenditure of $783 million in 2019.
Chris Stelly, the executive director for Entertainment and Digital Media at Louisiana Economic Development (LED) said of the gradual resurgence of the state’s film industry, “what we’re noticing is traditional supply and demand economics. The supply has been exhausted, while demand continues to remain at an all-time high. You’ve got all these streaming options that just need content.”
As local pandemic measures continue to cautiously scale back, and many are returning to work in Louisiana’s film production industry, some signs give a glimmer of hope to “return to normal.” As of April 2021, seven companies are estimated to spend $61.7 million across the state this year on various productions, and while it may not match the pre-pandemic costs, it’s definitely a refreshing step in the right direction.
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