One Lafayette-based production company is changing the way Hollywood and the rest of the country view Louisiana and its growing film scene.
Louisiana’s standing as “Hollywood of the South” is attracting some serious attention from heavyweight movie makers like AMC Studios, Lionsgate Films and myriad independent filmmakers who are quickly establishing the Bayou State as the next haven for cinema-savvy businesses, many of them homegrown right here in Acadiana.
Enter Holbrook Multi Media, a local production company that has had a hand in the Louisiana movie business in some form or another for nearly two decades. The company is owned and operated by a family that simply eats, sleeps and breathes cinema, whether it’s on the silver or small screen.
Lately, the little production studio that could has been making some serious moves in conjunction with the blooming Louisiana film scene, including the recent opening of a new facility in New Orleans, cornering the turnkey production market, planning to build a soundstage in Lafayette and landing a coveted opportunity to work on the next hit series from AMC.
ABiz recently sat down with the Holbrook clan to see just what they have on the horizon.
“Here’s the problem: Everybody says perception is the reality, but what we have in Louisiana right now is reality without the perception,” says company patriarch and CEO Bob Holbrook. “In other words, we know we are the most creative, we know we have all of the creative resources in our natural resources, our people, our culture and in everything we do. We have writers, we have playwrights, we have actors and everything that it takes. We might not have the experience yet that L.A. has, but we have all that it would take to do a creative work and keep it here in Louisiana.”
According to Bob Holbrook’s son, Bobby, the company’s production manager, Louisiana is slowly but surely breaking out of the particular perception that many Americans have of the Bayou State and its citizens, particularly in regard to its rising status as a destination for professional filmmakers and production studios.
“The toughest thing getting over from being a Louisiana native is, ‘Well that person is not as good as somebody else in New York or Chicago or L.A.,’ and that’s the toughest thing to beat, to get through their head, until they meet you and they realize that you just completely smoked anybody that they’ve ever worked with,” says Bobby. “Fighting that is one thing, and it’s probably something that we’ll always have to fight as a society in Louisiana, but it’s good to change minds five minutes into meeting somebody.”
Earlier this year, Holbrook Multi Media took a major step in breaking that perception by expanding into New Orleans with a new facility that offers cinema equipment rental and production support to accommodate motion pictures, television and commercial productions across the state. And with the addition of the new facility, Holbrook Multi Media has virtually cornered the local market on offering turnkey production services, a term Holbrook uses to describe taking a project and seeing it through from start to finish, including creating it, producing it and marketing it.
“Turnkey really is to be self-sufficient for us primarily,” says Bobby. “We have advertising and marketing that we take care of, and we have our film side that we recently launched. To be that self-sufficient, to have all of these assets, the tools, the talent and the facilities as we grow is tremendous. Nobody else has that and it’s huge.”
According to Bobby, turnkey services are the focal point for the new facility and the projects Holbrook is currently producing on its own.
“We’re coming out with our own titles as well,” says Bobby. “So we’re also creating a self-sufficient [model] to do our own productions and cater to everything that’s coming in and other local artists and filmmakers around the state.”
The first major project the company landed with the new facility was working with seasoned cinematographer Shane Hurlbut on the next major television series from AMC Studios titled Into the Badlands, which is shooting around New Orleans and is expected to premiere later this year. The Holbrooks wouldn’t say much about the show other than it’s being shot almost entirely inside the state and that the technical camera work that is going into it easily rivals many blockbuster feature films being shot today.
“I would think that this is a series where any particular day they would have a minimum of six cameras shooting at one time,” says CEO Bob Holbrook. “For a television series, that’s almost absurd. It’s just huge and that’s what you would do The Matrix with or something like that.”
Bob says that with this feather in its cap, Holbrook Multi Media is establishing itself for projects set to come into Louisiana in the near future.
“From this point on, for us especially, not everything is gravy, but it’s going to be a lot easier to supply almost any other show that comes in that would need our help or that we would want to produce within the state,” says Bob.
“There are veterans in there for 30 years that have never seen a show so big,” adds Bobby. “So if we could handle this one we could handle any of them.”
And while the New Orleans facility might be getting most of the focus right now, Holbrook still has plans to construct a fully functioning production facility here in Lafayette.
“We’re still building a huge Lafayette facility with a soundstage and everything, called Producer’s Playground, here in Lafayette,” says Bobby. “So we’ll already have the footprint in New Orleans and have a little bit more traction in terms of the people that we’ve worked through already.”
The Holbrooks make it clear that this momentum is only building and will soon carry Louisiana to the forefront of modern moviemaking where perception will finally meet reality.
“That will further position Louisiana in the minds and eyes of everyone around the United States as the creative class we are,” says Bob. “And Louisiana will continue to become more and more attractive to everyone who comes here for the creative food, for the creative music and hopefully for all of the other creative arts that are already here, but again the perception doesn’t exist, and again without that you can’t have everybody driving here.”
Even with the passage of a controversial bill that caps Louisiana’s film tax credits at $180 million near the end of this year’s Louisiana legislative session, Bobby says that its potential impact on the business doesn’t discourage them. “Nobody likes a redemption cap of sorts or anything,” he says. “But I think that since the dust has settled, all the people saying that our industry is going downward is just overblown and we’re starting to realize that this is going to be alright.”