Six productions underway in Hollywood South after slow 2016

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Production crews are again rolling through the gates at Celtic Media with work underway on a new indie film called Starbright. It's one of six TV and movie productions currently underway in Louisiana, and it's a welcome site for the studio, which saw little film activity in 2016.

"Business in Baton Rouge was down 93 percent in 2016 from what it was in 2015. So that gives you an indicator of just how bad things were," said Celtic's executive director, Patrick Mulhearn.

Industry insiders blame last year's slowdown in business on changes to Louisiana's film tax credit. More specifically, state officials say misinformation about the tax credit changes made filmmakers wary. A quick search of state records shows Louisiana received 14 film credit applications in January of 2015. The state received three in January of 2016 and only one so far in January of this year.

"You hear about productions coming and you hear about productions going. That's unfortunate. It's up and down," said screenwriter, Drew Tewell.

Tewell moved to Baton Rouge two years ago to work in the film industry. He was among film crews who struggled to find work in 2016. While he's used the downtime to write and develop his own projects, including a screen play on the life of Pete Maravich, he says others weren't as fortunate.

"People are moving to markets that have more production opportunity because they have to make a living," said Tewell.

The head of Louisiana's entertainment development office, Chris Stelly, says they worked hard to assure filmmakers that Hollywood South is still very much open for business and ready to support production. He's also confident things are looking up for the industry, saying 2017 "is off to a roaring start."

"We're starting through our efforts and a lot of the industry effort makes sure we're reinforcing the message that Louisiana is going to honor its commitments," said Stelly.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said in a statement his department is reviewing and analyzing the state's film industry at the request of the Governor John Bel Edwards. They will also develop policy recommendations for lawmakers to strength the program and ensure that taxpayers have a good return on the investments.

"With those elements in mind, we are confident that a stronger program will encourage the decision makers in the film industry to operate here and invest more permanently in Louisiana," said Pierson.

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