March 28, 2017 05:06 PM

Image courtesy louisianaentertainment.gov

As Republican lawmakers and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity lobby for an end to Louisiana’s $180 million film tax credit program, some industry players are looking into ways to enhance it and possibly introduce a new reform.

Will French, president of Film Production Capital in New Orleans, is heading up an effort to create a special loan program that would move incentive money away from the big studios and into the hands of Louisiana companies.

He says a “well-funded working group” is putting the proposal together and that it will be ready to put resources, possibly in the form of digital buys and other outreach, behind it when the regular session starts.

“The studios and networks and their production affiliates will never invest in Louisiana,” he says. “They are multi-national conglomerates and their production investments and people are almost entirely in California. By focusing our incentive dollars on them, we are limiting participation in the Louisiana film industry to vendors — companies who service projects sent here by the majors.”

That means trucks, lights, stages, caterers, lawyers and other regular business expenses, French adds.

“That explains why we lost so much business after 2015 and why Georgia picked it up,” he says. “The studios simply redirected it. It also explains why our industry is hurting. All vendors have seen similar drop offs.”

French and his working group want to see the film program incentivize production companies that would invest and — most importantly — be headquartered in Louisiana.

The idea is to encourage banks to lend money to these companies by permitting the state to buy the loans two years after they’re issued.

The money would then have to be repaid to the state before the production company shares in any film profits.

The revenue to support the program would come from a portion of the existing $180 million film tax credit budget.

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