Study shows La. film production surpasses California

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Is Hollywood worried?  A new report shows Louisiana surpassed California in the production of feature films for 2013. Local leaders have reason to boast about the success, but there are some who say it's come at too high a price.

The Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, got nearly $5 million in tax credits to film in Louisiana. The report by Los Angeles film office FilmLA shows more feature films were shot in the Bayou State last year than anywhere else in the world.

"I don't know what things are like in LA right now. I hear it's a lot of reality TV. We are shooting feature after feature after feature," said Michael Russo.

Russo is a sound engineer at Building Studios, housed in the Celtic Media Center. Five years ago he moved back to Baton Rouge and bought a house so he could pursue his career in the industry. He says he's proof that Louisiana is getting a return on its investment.

"A lot of [people] contribute to the economy that wouldn't have otherwise because they wouldn't have been here. Plus it's providing plenty of people I know personally with jobs they would not otherwise have," said Russo.

The highly-mobile film industry follows the money, and Louisiana is giving them lots of it.

"It's not a surprise that we're taking the lead in this industry, because we're paying the industry to come here," said Director of the Louisiana Budget Project Jan Moller. "We hoped they could survive on their own, but so far they seem to be indicating anytime somebody threatens their subsidies they say, 'Well if you don't give us money to stay here we'll just go someplace else.'"

Moller claims the continued credits amount to "corporate welfare."

A study commissioned by the state shows in 2012 the film industry brought in $1.3 billion in new business sales, $717.9 million in household earnings and 14,011 jobs. But it also shows a net loss of $168.2 million to the state budget in 2012.

"All we're saying is instead of spending so much money, and more money year after year attracting the movie industry, we should be using it for the things we know will grow the economy over the long term like education, like infrastructure, healthcare," said Moller.

The Louisiana Budget Project proposed putting a cap on the credits, and the state's own study recommends the Legislature consider limitations on certain expenditures that don't have an impact on the economy.

But for an industry that can easily pick up and move, any changes to those credits would create instability in Hollywood South.

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