Louisiana Hopes to Lure Productions to Deep South with New Studio

When producer Scott Niemeyer came to New Orleans to shoot his 2012 film “Pitch Perfect,” he found a lot of cheap production space: empty warehouses and abandoned stores standing in for soundstages and decommissioned state buildings. But he discovered that, in most cases, you get what you pay for. He had to bring in diesel generators for power, supplemental HVAC systems for air conditioning and erect lighting grids.

And don’t even talk about the soundproofing.

“Anything goes there,” Niemeyer says. “The sound guys pull their hair out, and we spend time in ADR trying to fix it.”

In response to such issues, a handful of soundstage facilities have cropped up in Louisiana over the past decade, but they’re mostly retrofitted buildings, not originally designed for production, Niemeyer says.

Recognizing the need for himself and others, Niemeyer set out to build Deep South Studios, a $63.5 million state-of-the-art, purpose-built production complex not far from New Orleans’ French Quarter.

GRAND OPENING: Deep South Studios is a new addition to Louisiana’s production scene.

When completed, the 17-acre facility will have 262,000 square-feet of production space, including five soundstages, and 100,000 square-feet of office space.

Because the state’s generous production tax credit and, in turn, its ability to attract film and TV projects are subject to the whims of the Legislature, Niemeyer found it difficult to attract local lenders and financiers. So he decided to take advantage of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, in which foreigners contribute at least $500,000 to the capital pool for a new business that will create jobs for 10 U.S. workers for each $1 million invested. In return, the investors are given the opportunity to secure a green card.

Niemeyer says he’s raised seven figures of the project’s total mid-eight figure budget and the site has been cleared for construction.

“If the fair wind continues to blow with the EB-5 subscriptions, I think we could be hosting our first production in the first quarter of 2017,” he says.

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