New Orleans returns to its film glory after Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans is bouncing back. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, much of the city’s production scene moved north to Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Now, however, according to local producers and film officials, the Crescent City’s film biz has definitely rebounded.

“In terms of the goods, services and crew needed to service the film industry, New Orleans has completely recovered from any effects of Katrina,” says Jennifer Day of the city’s Office of Film and Video. 2008 was a record year, with 21 major productions in the city. At one point, as many as six features were shooting simultaneously.

2009 has also been busy, notes Day, despite the economic slowdown, with 15 major projects slated for New Orleans. Ten of those have wrapped, including “Jonah Hex” (see related article) and the HBO pilot “Treme.”

Latter is from “The Wire’s” David Simon and has been picked up to start lensing in October. Per skein’s scribe and exec producer, Eric Overmyer, the plan is to shoot the entire first season on location in the city and its music clubs.

While the entire state of Louisiana benefits from production tax credits, New Orleans is a major lure for creative types due to the lively cultural scene, plentiful lodging and remarkable dining.

“After seven years, we have the bugs worked out,” Day says of the state’s production rebate program, adding that it’s “tried, tested and true.” The city’s film and TV office offers free location scouting to producers of qualified projects (minimum budget of $300,000). She points to the city’s 300 years of architectural history and its varied looks from contemporary urban to some of the oldest buildings in the U.S.

Infrastructure is another piece of the production picture that’s falling into place. In November, two of the three newly built production soundstages at Second Line Stages will be complete. A third 18,000-square-foot soundstage plus three floors of production office space will open in January. The “green” complex is located in the lower Garden District — not far from the I-10, downtown and the French Quarter.

“Productions tell us this is what New Orleans needed,” says Kevin Murphy, Second Line Stages’ director of studio operations, who frequently previews the facility to filmmakers and production designers. “This is the missing piece.”

Other notable facilities include Seven Arts Post, a new edit space under construction close to the French Quarter.

“New Orleans feels like it’s back,” Overmyer says. “It’s not exactly the same, but very recognizably and unmistakably New Orleans.”

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