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Cajuns cook $50 mil prod’n fund

Bayou state to back 10-12 pix

The state of Louisiana has teamed with Los Angeles-based Samy Boy Entertainment to create a $50 million production fund, LA Squared.

The fund intends to back 10-12 pics, all of which will be shot in Louisiana.

The films will be produced through Samy Boy and HSI Entertainment, which plans to produce two to four films per year with budgets under $10 million.

Equity comes from Sam Nazarian’s Samy Boy and the Louisiana Economic Development Corp. The Louisiana Institute of Film Technology (LIFT) arranged debt financing.

The first title under the fund is “Trespassing,” a horror pic directed by James Merendino that stars Estella Warren. The pic is in post.

The next title, “Home of Phobia,” begins production in August. The comedy was written and will be directed by Ryan Shiraki. Producing with HSI are Greenblatt Janollari Studio (“Six Feet Under”), Dan Halsted (“S.W.A.T.”) and Persistent Entertainment (“An Unfinished Life”).

The third title is “Waiting,” a comedy written and to be directed by Rob McKittrick (“Son of the Mask”). Set for a September start, Ryan Reynolds (“Van Wilder”) will star. Additional producers are Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures, Chris Moore (“Good Will Hunting”) and Jeff Balis (“The Battle of Shaker Heights”).

LA Squared was conceived by Mark Smith, the director of the Governor’s Office of Film & Television Development in Louisiana. He then approached LIFT chief exec Malcolm Petal, HSI’s Stavros Merjos and Adam Rosenfelt and Nazarian.

Samy Boy has a deal to provide P&A for the domestic distribution of 10-12 titles through MAC Releasing. While “Trespassing” will go through MAC, not all LA Squared projects are expected to go through that arrangement.

HSI’s chief operating officer and general counsel, Randy Winograd, and Petal negotiated the deal with the LEDC.

Sam Nazarian, a real estate financier and developer of national boutique hotel properties such as Los Angeles’ Avalon and Viceroy hotels, established Samy Boy two years ago. Samy Boy Pictures has a 10-picture P&A slate for domestic distributor MAC Releasing and has provided co-financing for the films “Beautiful Country,” “Wonderland” and “A Midsummer Night’s Rave.”

LA Squared comes on the heels of legislation enacted last August designed to put Louisiana on par with Germany, Canada and the U.K. when it comes to film production tax credits (Daily Variety, Aug. 26).

Qualifying productions can earn tax credits of up to 15% of the total production expenditures in Louisiana.

While Louisiana is the first state to invest in a film production fund, New Mexico is an equity investor in the Cruise/Wagner Prods./Intermedia production “Suspect Zero.” New Mexico allows productions to borrow up to $7.5 million interest-free.

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