You may be living in or near a famous landmark from a movie shot in New Orleans or in Louisiana. It’s very possible given the fact that Louisiana’s film history dates back over 100 years. So many movies have used our scenery, buildings, landmarks and unique culture that you may not even realize how close you are to being in the scene itself.And you may not realize that this current filming boom is not the first. Production of movies and film existed in the city and state long before any of us were born.(unless you were born in the 1800’s)
Most of this information would be lost if it were not for two enterprising people named Ed and Susan Poole who, by themselves, have taken on the colossal task of compiling decades of movie information. They have written two books on the subject, have a movie poster website dedicated to Louisiana movie posters, and give numerous speeches and classes on our rich film history. There part of a small but global group of researchers who research films for production companies and studios. And yes, they are right here in the city of New Orleans.They have teamed up with Nicholls State University to put on an first ever, extraordinary exhibit of our Louisiana Film History. The list of recent well-known and popular movies is long and make for an exciting read, however, the list of movies that you would recognize, but didn’t know were filmed here, is very long as well. The exhibit is currently open at Nicholls State University and will run through June 21st. There will also be an official opening March 4th.
Recently I sat down with Ed and Susan and discussed this new exhibit.Is the interest in our film history gaining momentum and interest?
Simple answer – Yes. Fast Enough – NO. Every time we give a lecture on Louisiana Film History, we get a tremendous amount of thanks and new contacts. Of course, we wish it was moving a LOT faster. At times, we feel like we’re shouting in the wilderness. But, we know that it HAS to come for the Louisiana film industry to become more stabilized. A tremendous amount of jobs in California are in the history and archival information areas which is a base for other industries to build on. So, we continue to shout to try to get more attention.
Will the exhibit come to New Orleans?
I hope so, but it is not scheduled to go anywhere else at the moment. This exhibit at Nichols State is the first and only exhibit scheduled, but I hope to find a permanent location for the exhibit and I believe that it should be in New Orleans.
What is the connection to Nichols?
We have a one hour lecture on Louisiana Film History with movie trailers and posters that we present to academic groups and historical societies. We gave a lecture to the LaFourche Parish Historical Society and the archivist for Nichols was a member and present. He really liked our presentation so after the lecture, he came over and talked with us about an exhibit. He took us to the college and showed us their facility. In other words, it was actually THEIR idea.
Louisiana has a long history in film, what was the attraction before the film credits?
The first proposed tax credits weren’t until 1993 and they didn’t work. The first film production crew came to New Orleans almost 100 years before (1896). The first attraction was Mardi Gras. At that time, only the rich who could afford to travel were the only non-locals that were able to see Mardi Gras, so it was an automatic draw. But after they came for Mardi Gras, they saw a lot more. In 1929, when Evangeline was filmed, Edwin Carewe, the director, stated that the film HAD to be shot on location because the Louisiana setting couldn’t be reproduced in the studio. So, you could say, our climate, our diversity of people, our life style, our plantations, our voodoo, and much more. Where else will you find Cajun living, mardi gras, the French quarter, jazz, our famous cooking and above ground cemeteries - all in one place?
Why do you think we don't have paparazzi here with so many film shoots?
Paparazzi are part of a hype and promotion industry and the hype and agency groups, along with the supporting foundation aren’t here yet. And we are more laid back here than California, which I believe the celebrities enjoy.
What do want to see happen in New Orleans in regards to our film history?
We need markers for our major film productions for tourist and locals to be able to see what Louisiana has produced. This will immediately help build the tourist industry. We need preservation facilities to not only preserve Louisiana films but to reach beyond the state. We need facilities to create presentations and permanent and traveling exhibits for the public, schools, libraries and academic and historical organizations. We need a facility that not only the ‘learned and curious’ but also the general public can come to learn all areas of information on the Louisiana film industry.
We are working as fast as we can to create THAT facility.. AND HOPEFULLY it will be in New Orleans.
The MPAA puts out a report each year on film production state by state. They haven’t released the 2012 figures yet, but if you look at the 2011 figures, it shows Louisiana with “8,655 direct jobs and $377.9 million in wages in Louisiana, including both production and distribution-related jobs. Over 3,400 of the jobs are production-related”
The 2012 figures are supposed to be a lot better. If you remember, Senator Landrieu praised the film commission for their great job last month. We supposedly had more new production in 2012 than Los Angeles. So why isn’t California upset at losing the new production?Well, maybe the 2011 figures for California will give you a hint. Now remember, we are getting close to matching their new production figures. THEIR overall figures show California has “191,146 direct jobs and $17.0 billion in wages in California, including both production and distribution-related jobs. Over 129,000 of the jobs are production-related”.
So what’s the difference? The FOUNDATION that supports it. Let me give you a quick example. There has been recent discussion (problems?) about the production companies having to clean up after their production is over. In other words, what to do with all the props and sets? In California, there are salvage yards that snatch up ANYTHING after a production and sell them to new low budget production companies to save them money. WE DON’T HAVE THAT YET! We’re barely getting our first movie tours and even THOSE aren’t even marked for tourist to see.We’re doing well with new production support. Companies like Hollywood Trucks is one of the fastest growing in the nation, but NOW we also have to focus on the support foundation to start getting the more stable, more reliable, foundation money.
If you would like to hear a radio interview with Ed and Susan discussing their new book, please click the link below.