New Orleans Film Fest: Local Artists Share Spotlight With National Filmmakers

Barge New Orleans Film Festival
Courtesy of New Orleans Film Festival

Just as the New Orleans Film Festival has grown into a significant destination for filmgoers, so too has the state of Louisiana — helped by some of the world’s most competitive tax credits — expanded into one of the busiest film and TV production centers in the U.S.

“I think the festival has had a big impact on the local industry,” says Scott Niemeyer, a longtime partner in Santa Monica-based Gold Circle Entertainment, whose producing credits include “Pitch Perfect,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and their respective sequels. “It’s really the perfect complement to the local motion picture ecosystem, and the festival’s growing profile has really helped put the whole region on the map in terms of production.”

Niemeyer, who grew up in New Orleans and now divides his time between the Crescent City and L.A., reports that his company has made four films in the past four years in Louisiana — and eight over the past decade.

“It’s just a great place to shoot, with wonderful locations and very experienced crews,” he says.

The producer and his company are also key elements in the ongoing upgrades to local film infrastructure. They are building a production complex in New Orleans called Deep South Studios.

“I found land very close to the central business district, and we’re developing what will be the largest purpose-built motion picture and digital media campus between Atlanta and Albuquerque,” he says.

Niemeyer, who hopes to have the facility ready for production in the first quarter of 2017, adds that the symbiotic growth of both the festival and the local film industry “fits really nicely with the culture and heritage of the state, which has always had this singular embrace of the arts. People here are very proud of our history, and it’s a unique place to make and enjoy filmed entertainment.”

Susan Brennan, CEO of Second Line Stages in New Orleans — where “American Horror Story,” “Scream Queens,” “Django Unchained,” “Get Hard” and “21 Jump Street” have all shot — agrees that the festival “brings a lot of attention to New Orleans and the quality of the movies and TV shows being shot there.”

As a highlight, she cites best picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” the opening night film at the New Orleans Film Festival in 2013, when cast and filmmakers came down for the event.

“It was very exciting for both local fans and the local industry.”

Brennan credits New Orleans Film Society executive director Jolene Pinder for turning “our sleepy little festival into one of the top ones in the country.” She adds that the fest receives significant support from the local industry, including directors, producers and crew.

“It’s always fun when the festival screens a movie that was shot here,” she says. “People love that.”