Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Small Cities and Towns

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

“New Orleans boasts the most diverse portfolio of film and television work in the state of Louisiana,” says Katie Williams, director of Film New Orleans, “catering to the largest of studio features, the smallest of independent projects and a wide range of television and commercial productions.” 2015’s high-profile ventures included Adam McKay’s The Big Short, Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon, Rob Reiner’s LBJ and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, as well as TV projects such as NCIS: New Orleans, AMC’s Into the Badlands, Fox’s Scream Queens and the remake of landmark miniseries Roots. Thirty-eight productions qualified for Louisiana’s 30 percent transferable tax credit (plus, plus—productions using in-state labor get an additional 10 percent payroll tax credit); 91 more didn’t, failing to meet the $300,000 minimum spend cut-off. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One is headed to Louisiana in 2016, amongst other titles.

The NCIS: New Orleans episode “Insane in the Membrane” features the city’s annual Red Dress Run, a charity marathon where participants dress in scarlet.

The NCIS: New Orleans episode “Insane in the Membrane” features the city’s annual Red Dress
Run, a charity marathon where participants dress in scarlet. Photograph by Skip Bolen / Courtesy of CBS Broadcasting

That said, the state’s generous incentive program has undergone some recent changes (with even more rumblings on the horizon), imposing a $180-million cap on tax credits last summer. (A recent case of producers convicted of cheating the incentive system hasn’t helped matters much.)

Still, you’ll find a robust selection of local crew and production facilities in the Crescent City. And, besides the New Orleans Film Society and its top-notch New Orleans Film Festival, the city is home to independent moviemakers with serious street cred, like Bill and Turner Ross (Western) and the Court 13 collective behind Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea and, most famously, homegrown hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.

This is all very good news for a city still rebuilding from Katrina’s damage. On the subject of the last decade’s successful revitalization efforts in New Orleans, Williams believes that the city is “a global leader on resilience.” She notes that “New Orleans has become this nation’s—and in many instances, this world’s—most immediate laboratory for innovation and change,” with major recent improvements in education and criminal justice reform.

Most of Adam McKay's Wall Street-focused The Big Short was shot in New Orleans. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Most of Adam McKay’s Wall Street-focused The Big Short was shot in New Orleans. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

David Akin, a native who moved back to the area after living in L.A. for years and now owns EPK Louisiana, talked to CNN in August 2015 about the boom in the film business. “You know the saying here: ‘Making groceries.’ People are making lots and lots of groceries, and that’s a metaphor for everything. I’m working on two shows right now. I’ve done more cool things in the last six, seven, eight years than I’ve done in a 30-year career.” Oh, and speaking of groceries: You won’t be wanting for good food in the Big Easy. Have a beignet and a coffee on us.

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