For 12 years now, MovieMaker magazine has been compiling its famous annual lists of “Top 10 U.S. Cities” for independent filmmakers. Of the Top 10 Cities in 2012, we’re proud to share that nine are in states whose state film office uses Reel-Scout™. Congratulations to everyone on their hard work and dedication in bringing more filming productions to their states.
Leading this year’s list is New Orleans, Louisiana (who was at No. 3 in 2011).
Since the fall of 2000, the criteria for making the much-coveted list has remained the same. All of the top 10 cities “go the extra mile in welcoming lower-budget productions” and indie filmmakers. Striving to do so, they provide:
- Opportunity to screen new films;
- Continuing education for filmmakers;
- A creative community with strong networking events with other film professionals;
- Ample local studio space; and
- Competitive tax incentives for filmmaking.
In the coming weeks, we will visit a few of 2012 top 10 locations on the MovieMaker list. To kick-off the series today, we’re featuring New Orleans, reigning this year at No. 1.
New Orleans is one of the world’s most enchanting cities. Historic, mysterious, and even tragic, New Orleans is a mosaic of exotic cultures, mouthwatering food, and mesmorizing jazz music. Today, New Orleans is still in the midst of rebuilding itself since the deadly hurricane season of 2005.
REBUILDING NEW ORLEANS POST-KATRINA
Many celebrities since Hurricane Katrina have made it their mission to help revive New Orleans. Most notable among the list is Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation. Organized in 2007, Make It Right’s mission to build “safe, sustainable and affordable homes for working families” has been the catalyst in restoring New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward where more than 4000 homes were destroyed during Katrina.
Through his foundation and with the help of 21 architectural firms, Pitt promises to build - one home at a time - 150 affordable, green, storm resistant, single-family homes for families who were living in the Lower 9th Ward when the storm hit.
Pitt says he fell in love with New Orleans when he first visited the city in the 1990’s. “It was a bit of a blur because New Orleans will do that to you,” Pitt shared with Ellen DeGeneres when he guest starred in her show last March. “I fell in love with the place. The people. The music. It’s in the air.”
Pitt has personally donated millions to his foundation and believes that Make It Right will continue to be a model for other housing projects around the world. “We’ve cracked something here,” he says. “These houses are light and airy. They redefine affordable housing. Why couldn’t this model be used up North? This is a proving ground for a bigger idea that could work globally. This project is not mine anymore. It’s so beyond me.”
Make It Right has already built 75 homes in the Lower 9th Ward. They’ve managed to bring the cost down a little further with each new home built.
“The initial homes are prototyped and there’s a lot of design that goes into that, and figuring out and engineering,” shares Pitt in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “Now we’re getting the price down, down, down, down, to a competitive price for any conventional type of building. And that’s the big news. That’s the thing we got to get out.”
These days, it takes about three months to build each house. A humble and gracious gentleman, Pitt gently reminds us that he’s getting far too much credit for the project. “This took a lot of very smart people coming in and attacking the situation,” says Pitt. “It took the families determined to come back and their resilience and they’re defining what this thing was going to be. I get far too much credit for bringing some really smart people together.”
HOLLYWOOD’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH NEW ORLEANS CONTINUES
With rebuilding projects like Make It Right at its helm, the Big Easy is getting stronger each day. The atmospheric city is slowly regaining its unique multi-cultural and historical beauty before Katrina ravaged its landscapes and people seven years ago. Even with the post-Katrina challenges, New Orleans is still as much a magnet for Hollywood now as it was in years past.
With a substantial local crew base and many filming equipment rentals available right in the city, it’s easy to see why New Orleans has always been one of Hollywood’s favorite film locations.
LOCAL STUDIOS AND POST-PRODUCTION FACILITIES
The Big Easy is also home to two other important filming assets—a satellite office of FotoKem, the world’s largest independently-owned post-production company, and Maison Post, a brand new film studio.
“One look is all it took for me to want to edit the film here,” says director Simon West who worked at Maison Post on The Mechanic. “Editing is a lengthy and painstaking process, critical to the creation of a film. It is where all the parts—picture, dialogue, sound and music—are pieced together. You need to be in a good spot to make it great.”
Located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, Maison Post operates out of an elegant 150-year-old mansion. It has guest rooms with state-of-the-art post-production tools where moviemakers can camp out as long as they need to. Its services range from film editing, visual effects, animation, to sound design, and everything else in between.
Founded in 1963, Burbank, California-based FotoKem is an independently-owned, full-service post production facility. It offers a large array of services, from 3D digital filmmaking, film and video finishing, audio mixing to visual effects, restoration, and production rentals.
FotoKem has worked on many major productions including Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,Rampart, Footloose, Contagion, and - most recently - Jeff Who Lives At Home (which was also filmed in New Orleans).
“Shooting in New Orleans was one of the biggest honors of my life,” says Jason Segel, one of the main stars of Jeff Who Lives At Home. “It is one of the few magical cities that exist.” To hear more about what Jason Segel thinks of New Orleans, check out his charming YouTube interview video.
Last year, FotoKem expanded its operations to New Orleans. It opens a new office near the French Quarter. Why New Orleans? The answer is simple. In addition to Louisiana’s generous state-wide film incentives, New Orleans is also where many existing FotoKem customers are shooting their film and television projects.
New Orleans and Louisiana offer one of the best film tax incentive programs in the country. A few of the perks gained from filming in New Orleans are:
- 30% tax credit on qualified direct production Louisiana expenditures;
- Additional 5% tax credit for payroll expenditures to Louisiana residents;
- No annual cap; and
- Tax credits may be used to offset income tax liability in Louisiana (corporate or personal), sold back to the State for 85% face value, or brokered on the open market.