July 15, 2016 11:14 AM

Can we develop a sustainable industry that works?

If past behavior is any measure of future performance, we can expect the return of big budget Hollywood film projects to Louisiana once we set a few things straight.

First, the state’s tax incentive program.

Now capped at $180 million in annual redemptions, the 35 percent credit remains one of the country’s most generous. (It’s worth noting that $180 million is the yearly average redeemed over the full 14-year history of the program.) The state’s temporary suspension of buy backs expired July 1, so all commitments will be honored and soon.

Academy Award-winning "12 Years a Slave" was filmed in Louisiana.

It is also taking time to craft the new law. Promulgating rules are still being drafted with stakeholder input to incentivize an indigenous industry and set tighter controls over all. For example, a qualifying company must have an office here and at least three full time employees who are Louisiana residents.

So there is uncertainty about Hollywood South for now. There has been an exodus of big budget projects, but those producers — with their focus on the bottom line — are historically itinerant, always chasing the best deal. And if our new deal remains attractive, they’ll be back because, among other things, they like Louisiana.

But the goal is to create some permanency. We’ve been enamored with Hollywood but the industry has changed dramatically since we got into this game.

In the age of Netflix and YouTube (neither existed when we started), the new opportunity is trans-media. That includes traditional media (film and television) but also apps, video games and small screen projects. For example, there are technology and production innovators in the state using live action puppetry with digital animation techniques to produce new content. And the need for new content seems to be insatiable. Louisiana has a rich tradition for story telling and artistic creation plus a 14-year track record that has produced over $6 billion in film and TV production, at least three Academy Award-winning projects and thousands of jobs throughout the state. Louisiana’s competitive advantage in this space is its creative culture, and we’re a long way from maximizing that potential. It’s an economic development opportunity that’s worth the investment with sustainability and fiscal prudence the goal. And besides that, it’s cool.

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