3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
With a population just under half a million, this capital city hosted over 35 productions in 2015, with local production spending exceeding an impressive $175 million. Productions shot in town included The Magnificent Seven (the Antoine Fuqua reboot with Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai), MTV’s Scream, Sundance Channel’s Hap and Leonard, Underground (WGN’s original series about the Underground Railroad), a digital series from Vimeo called The Parallax Theory, and Showing Roots, an indie feature starring Uzo Aduba and Elizabeth McGovern and inspired by the Roots miniseries.
An 80-mile drive from New Orleans, the Big Easy might outweigh it in volume of production, but it is Baton Rouge that has Celtic Studios, the biggest purpose-built production studio in the entire state. “Big Raggedy” is rife with little bonuses like these, on top of the strong Louisiana tax incentive program. As a major testament to the Baton Rouge Film Commission’s prowess, production has gone digital. Its free app, BY BATON ROUGE, streamlines information pertaining to shooting locations, crew, and hundreds of local vendors offering discounts to film and television productions.
Want more? “The city also offers a fee-free filming location known as the Public Safety complex,” notes Amy Mitchell-Smith, former executive director of the Baton Rouge Film Commission, “a former hospital facility where productions such as Scream, Hap and Leonard and Zipper filmed.”
Louisiana State University’s film program features the likes of Zack Godshall (Lord Byron, Low and Behold) teaching screenwriting. Also, NOVAC: Baton Rouge (a division of the 43-year-old nonprofit New Orleans Video Access Center) offers free training programs to prospective crew members in various facets of film and television production. While Baton Rouge may not yet have New Orleans’ rich cultural history, the city seems on its way to building a cinematic legacy of its own.