The Austin Chronicle this week offers an exhaustive and distressing report on the state of the Texas film industry. But, I must admit, what really stood out for me while I was reading the piece is this indication -- the second I have spotted this week -- that Shreveport, my stomping ground during the late 1970s, has become a major center of filmmaking activity:
"Louisiana has proved that incentives are mightier than the storm. New Orleans was on track to be a major U.S. film hub when Hurricane Katrina tore it apart in 2005. Into the void stepped Shreveport, a former oil town now best known for its riverboat gambling. With a population somewhere between Waco and Corpus Christi, it has fashioned itself now as Hollywood South. Jerry Henery, a film construction coordinator from the Terrell, Texas, area, now keeps an apartment in Shreveport, claims dual residency, and is looking at buying land there after more than 20 years in the Texas film business. 'I've basically been working in Shreveport for the last three or four years,' he says. "There's been no work in Texas. Last year I was [in Texas] for two months. The two years before that I wasn't there at all except for holidays.' He brings with him to Louisiana a construction crew of four and sees familiar Texas faces in other departments, like paint and props. 'Lots of people are doing the same thing with dual residency,' he says.
Jeff Nightbyrd glimpsed the film industry's Louisiana future and opened a second office of his Austin-based Acclaim Talent in New Orleans in early 2005. When Katrina hit, the city of Shreveport offered him free offices there until he found the space he wanted. Since then, he's also opened the Actors' Cafe, bringing to Shreveport a touch of the arts scene of the 'weird' Austin. Nightbyrd, a longtime Austinite (and occasional Austin Chronicle contributor), thinks Shreveport took advantage of New Orleans' loss in a way savvier Texas cities might have. 'Austin could have jumped on it,' he says. 'The improbable thing is Shreveport did. Strangely this has become the third film production center in the country. Los Angeles, New York, and Shreveport? That's absolutely jaw-dropping. We have more than 30 films on our boards, and they're shooting three Hollywood films right now in a city about the size of Waco – actually a little larger than Waco. I've had people doing table reads with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker.' In one cruel twist, Shreveport is doubling for New Orleans, still considered an iffy filming location, in Microwave Park, a story set among post-Hurricane Katrina gangs."
In light of this, I'm adding a new link to my Resources lineup: Louisiana Movies Blog.