Actors, film executives, politicians praise film tax credit compromise
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Actors and film executives celebrated the continued health of their industry Tuesday.
The Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association threw a party at Celtic Studios. Initially it was billed as an event to raise awareness about a bill the LFEA said would damage the industry. Instead, its members rejoiced with dozens of state legislators.
"I'm breathing a sigh of relief right now," said Will French, president of the LFEA. "Because we started out months ago, fighting a governor who was trying to make changes without understanding what those changes would do. And then we started fighting a legislature who wanted to make changes without understanding what those changes would do."
The bill the LFEA focused its attention on was HB 161, which proposed cutting in half the state's film tax credit and removing the ability for studios to sell those credits. The tax credit, created more than a decade ago, is largely responsible for the growth of the film and TV production industry in Louisiana.
"(Without it,) I would probably be in some other state, or some other country," said Daniel Lewis, COO of Active Entertainment.
The industry supports more than 15,000 jobs statewide and generates more than $1 billion every year.
"The industry had responded to an incentive program that was designed to build it and nurture it, and it's been effective," said Scott Niemeyer. Niemeyer has produced multiple movies in Louisiana, including the upcoming comedy "Search Party." That is one of a number of productions to film in the Baton Rouge area.
"For the last two years, it's generated $200-plus million in revenues here," said East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden.
After several weeks of discussions, the state House of Representatives unveiled its budget package last week. It offered only small changes to the tax credit, such as reducing the tax credit to 25 percent for equipment purchases, and requiring all employees claimed under the credit to pay state income tax. Those proposals were meant to decrease the state's losses on the credit and reduce fraud.
"The administration, the legislature, and the industry are all on the same page," French said.
"Because arbitrary cuts are not good for anyone," Daniel agreed. "But if cuts need to be made, we're definitely here to help support that and be a part of that."
Several of the stars of "Search Party" attended the event, some of them in costume. They all enjoyed themselves Tuesday night.
"This is my first time filming in Louisiana," actor Adam Pally said, "and I gotta tell you, I love it."
Holden said he could not imagine what Baton Rouge would be like with the film industry.
"In 2005, we were almost null and void," he stated. "Come now, fast forward to 2013, and people all across the country and the world are mentioning Baton Rouge."
But French noted that LFEA's work to preserve the tax credit is not finished just yet.
"Anything can happen between now and the end of the session," he said. "So we need to be vigilant, we need to work hard, we need to stay at the capitol so that if anything else comes, we can be there to provide that backup, provide that support, provide that education."