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GREENLIGHTING LOUISIANA: Producing Films 10 Years After Katrina

Posted By Matt Hundhammer, Monday, January 4, 2016

The Sound of air reverberating through brass echoes in the damp, still air under a morning sun; the smell of buttery croissants dances with the chatter of New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood. This is Louisiana. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge inundated the state, Cajun energy is on the rise.

This rich cultural melting pot of French, African and American cultures is redefining itself with experimental civil reengineering and blank-slate opportunity. With open arms the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development has welcomed the creative minds of the day, pushing tax credits and other stimuli to attract film and television productions to its gulf shores.

The film and television industry has answered the call by returning to Louisiana to film world class productions in state-of-the-art facilities while creating a positive environmental, social and economic impact on a state in the throes of recovery.

Chris Stelly, Executive Director of the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development, says the growing number of film and television productions filming in Louisiana has been key to its revitalization. "In October of 2005, when nobody was hiring, the film and TV productions stuck with us,” Stelly told us. "They hired Louisianans, invested in our communities and acted as a catalyst for the rebirth of our state as a hip, creative and attractive location for motion picture productions.”

The state’s incentives, which include up to 30% transferable tax credit on qualified in-state expenditures including resident and non-resident labor and an additional 10% payroll credit for in-state labor, are bringing in the largest names in film and television. In 2005, Louisiana attracted 10 large productions to film within the state; today, it is recruiting more than 100 projects annually.

Productions are amplifying their positive impact on the community by integrating more social and environmental initiatives into the process. From food donations and celebrity appearances, "these small measures are making a big difference,” Stelly says.

Louisiana brings a significant value proposition to studios while giving productions an incredible opportunity to extend a helping hand to post-Katrina revitalization efforts.

Production Environmental and Social Initiatives Support Louisiana’s Rebirth
Here are just a few of the environmental and social initiatives on recent productions in the state.

Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World
Environmental Initiatives: Through the filming of this world record-setting feature film, the production drew inspiration from the NBCUniversal Sustainable Production program to integrate environmentally-conscious practices into daily set routines. The production office strongly encouraged the set crew to save paper by requesting hard copies of lists and schedules only on an as-needed basis.

By defaulting to digital distribution, the film reduced paper use by 50% compared to similar-sized productions. The printing reductions also boosted security around the highly-confidential production environment, while simultaneously cutting printing costs and conserving natural resources.

For more information on reducing paper use on set check out Nine Ways to Reduce Production Paper Use.

Social Initiatives: While filming in New Orleans, the production office forged a new partnership with Second Harvest of New Orleans, a non-profit on a mission to end hunger in South Louisiana. Through daily communication between the production office and the donations coordinator at Second Harvest, hundreds of meals worth of food were successfully recovered and donated to local hunger-relief organizations. At the end of a meal, catering packed up excess prepared food onto disposable trays and handed it off to the receiving agency.

At wrap, the greens department received approval to coordinate and organize the donation of several palm trees and other plants used as set dressing to the Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans. The donation assisted with the beautification of a local non-profit and kept the plants and trees from entering a landfill.

Paramount Pictures’ Daddy’s Home
Environmental Initiatives: Throughout filming, the Daddy’s Home production operated with a low paper directive, encouraging digital distribution of dailies, double-sided printing and recycling throughout departments. Additionally, Klean Kanteens were ordered for all crew members, reducing waste from plastic water bottles and paper cups.

A no–idling policy was strictly enforced throughout the production with empty trailers triggering generators to shut off.

Social Initiatives: Upon wrap the production made set asset donations to the Salvation Army, the Green Project, The New Orleans Mission, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity.

Sony Pictures Screen Gems’ When the Bough Breaks
Environmental Initiatives: In addition to standard green production efforts, during pre-production, the Screen Gems studio office in Culver City worked closely with the production office in New Orleans to make sure there would be as little on-set waste as possible. In preparation, the art and construction departments pre-arranged recycling methods for various materials and set assets after use. Reusable water bottles were purchased for the cast and crew to avoid disposable plastic bottle use.

Social Initiatives: Over the course of the production, 354 lbs. of prepared but unserved food were donated to a homeless shelter, creating 272 meals and reducing landfill-associated CO2 emissions by 269 lbs. Upon wrap, the production donated a tree to be planted for each day of filming to the New Orleans City Park. Additionally, more than 70 items including four live oak trees, 20 camellias, six ligustrums, 40 azaleas and a refrigerator were donated to local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Furthermore, in an effort to normalize sustainable behavior, reusable coffee cups, dishes and grocery bags were used on-screen.

A decade after Katrina, there’s a new light on the state of Louisiana. Setting environmental and social initiatives on the front end and measuring success with dedicated tools like a carbon calculator or food donation tracker will ensure the continued improvement of industry efforts in Louisiana and beyond. ¢

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