Should Memphis And Tennessee Become The Hollywood Of The South?

(Memphis) Over the past two decades, Memphis has seen its share of lights, cameras and action, and last year, Moviemaking Magazine even voted Memphis as one of the top ten cities to live and work as a movie-maker.

But recently, Hollywood studios have taken their productions like “The Blindside” and “Footloose” to Georgia, and now Louisiana, to make movie magic.

Welcome to “Salem.” It’s a new show on WGN America focused on the town’s infamous witch trials.

But this isn’t Massachusetts, New York, London or Hollywood.

This is Shreveport, Louisiana, and this state is carving out a reputation as the “Hollywood of the South.”

Brannon Braga is the director and writer of “Salem” and other shows such as “24,” and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“So, they’re doing  things right here. In my opinion. in my voice and no one else’s , yeah, they are. They are attracting productions. so they’re doing something right,” Braga said.

A lot of work went into making the set of “Salem” look authentic and real, but what’s also real is the impact productions like this will have on Louisiana and that impact isn’t based on magic.

More movies were filmed in Louisiana last year than anywhere else in the world and last year there were 108 films released by major film studios. 18 of them including “12 Years A Slave” and “The Butler” were filmed in Louisiana.

California came in second place with 15 major films. Louisiana also ranked second in terms of jobs, with nearly 14,000 jobs being created from the films made here.

“The reason we picked Louisiana is not only welcoming to production right now with their incentives, we needed a giant piece of land with a very specific geography,” Braga said.

Members of the Northeast Louisiana Film Commission credit a 30 percent tax incentive in helping the Bayou state get named the movie making capital of the world.

In order to receive the 30 percent tax incentive in Louisiana, a production company must spend at least $300,000.

Louisiana is also seeing increasing competition from other states. Mississippi offers a 25-percent rate on in-state investments, with a separate employment rate incentive of 30 percent for taxable salary paid to state residents and 25 percent for out-of-state workers and there’s a state of the art film studio in Canton, Mississippi.

Tennessee’s Film Incentive program, administered by the Tennessee film entertainment and music commission offers up to $2 million dollars in grant money.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville revamped the Tennessee movie and TV series grant package last year in the General Assembly.

“We actually did away the tax incentives as we know them and turned it into a more of grant program and it can provide up to 25 percent of the in-state spending,” Norris said.

Norris said the Tennessee package is competitive creating infrastructure and jobs without losing its identity to Hollywood.

“We don’t want to be the Hollywood of anywhere. We want to be Tennessee and that’s what we’re doing and putting our best foot forward in a conservative fashion. We don’t give away the store, but do get a great return on our investment our taxpayers make,” Norris said.

David Von Ancken is a director for the TV series “Salem.”

“Yeah, certainly Louisiana is aggressive in its tax incentives and features, TV shows come down here very, very often now,” Ancken said.

The stars of “Salem” say they’d also like to sing the praises of Memphis and the state of Tennessee regarding movies being made here and they said you wouldn’t have to cast a spell to make it happen.

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