Movie credits cap stalls studio expansion in St. Charles Parish

A multi-million-dollar expansion planned at Quixote Studios in St. Rose is on hold indefinitely while the film industry sorts out bills Gov. Bobby Jindal signed last week capping tax credits that has lured hundreds of film productions to Louisiana.

“We were trying to give the region more assets for more productions,” said General Manager Haryl Deason. “But we won’t be expanding at this point with all of the uncertainties.”

The project included an option on another 100 acres adjoining the studio site on Airline Highway – all in St. Charles Parish.

Quixote Studios represents the next step in the industry’s evolution in the state, a permanent investment serving as a one-stop shop for filmmakers and poised for growth. The action thriller movie, “Hunter Killer,” featuring actors Gerard Butler, Billy Bob Thornton and Willem Dafoe, is in pre-production there. The company had bought a trailer company last year for cast trailers.

“We were shocked by it,” Deason said of the credit cap. “We just really need to be careful in how we proceed in our industry here.”

Deason said they’re dedicated to staying in the parish and state, but future business has become uncertain.

“It’s not about us leaving,” he said. “But is it going to stop productions from coming – that’s the issue for us.”Quixote Studios employs nine full-time people  that Deason said supports hundreds of people in crews.

Variety, a major film industry magazine, has already headlined fears of an industry slowdown in Louisiana, noting the credits fueled major movie productions such as “Fantastic Four,” “Jurassic World” and the “The Magnificent Seven.”

Jindal called the credits “a catastrophic mess,” but those in the state’s film industry point to the industry growth and investment that has made Louisiana an increasingly preferred location for new film productions.

Deason and Gary Huckabay, production manager for the TV series, “Underground” being filmed in Louisiana, both point to North Carolina productions fast drying up after it let a film tax credit expire last year. Film projects pumped more than $316 million last year into Louisiana’s economy.

Opponents argue the rate of return on these credits doesn’t justify the investment.

Louisiana legislators pushed the credit cap to help deal with the state’s $1.6 billion deficit. Passed in the closing minutes of the session, the new law states tax credits are still unlimited while only $180 million in credits can be redeemed each year.

The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association said it will challenge the constitutionality of the new law in court.

Huckabay said last year’s tax credits hit $256 million, but it generated $1.5 billion of film industry business.“That, for some reason, doesn’t make any sense to these legislators,” he said.

Disney-ABC Television Group reportedly got it and froze its new film productions in Louisiana until it, like Quixote Studios, clears up questions about the impact of capping the tax credits, according to news reports. One of its projects is “The Astronaut Wives Club,” which Deason said currently airing episodes were filmed at Quixote Studios.

Huckabay further questioned the state’s move on the tax credit when business had become so good in Louisiana that he had to start calling major movie areas like Los Angeles to find crews.

“The system was working perfectly,” he said. “Last year, we were the biggest hub of feature films in the world.”Deason agreed.

“We have an incredible base of filmmakers here now, from grips to makeup artists, and that has grown exponentially in Louisiana,” he said. “There’s no excuse you can’t find good crew.”

While Huckabay said there may be some benefits with changes in the law, he is concerned the tax cap could create a domino effect stalling new productions from year to year that could slowly kill the industry in the state.

Huckabay and Deason doubt filmmakers will wait for Louisiana’s tax credit when states like Georgia are welcoming the industry, offering tax credits and accommodating them. Although they both describe what they do as being behind the scenes, they also talk about the considerable money these productions bring to communities where they film.

“I shot ‘Jonah Hex’ all over St. Charles Parish near Bayou Gauche and Raceland,” Huckabay said. “Boutte and Bayou Gauche have never made as much money in their lives as when our film crew was there. And they wanted to know when they were coming back.”


About Anna Thibodeaux 2009 Articles
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