Big Easy Boffo
Nicknames have never been in short supply in New Orleans: the Crescent City, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot, to name just a few.
But Malcolm Petal and Kimberly Anderson want to add another. "'Hollywood South' can be a reality," 36-year-old Petal says as he lifts a V-shaped glass to his lips over lunch of sherry-spiked turtle soup and onion-crusted fried-chicken salad at Commander's Palace.
To do that, the co-owners of LIFT Productions, the independent film and TV production studio they started four years ago, are taking advantage of generous state tax incentives for film production. Since founding the company, they've produced more than 30 films and TV shows, adding $250 million in much-needed revenues to a disaster-ravaged state.
Thanks, in part, to LIFT's success, Louisiana is now the country's third-favorite location for shooting movies and TV shows (after California and New York). Post-apocalypse New Orleans is now appearing in films like Déjà Vu, Denzel Washington's latest vehicle. And Shreveport-where LIFT has production studios-has stood in for New York City (Factory Girl) and Seattle (Kevin Costner's upcoming Mr. Brooks).
The pair's new 300,000-square-foot Film Factory production studio and film institute comes online in 2008, creating nearly 2,300 new jobs and adding $131 million in payroll, according to a Tulane University study.
All this isn't to say Hollywood South is an easy sell. Says Petal of one otherwise congenial Hollywood actress's reluctance to go on location in New Orleans: "We had to convince them that the star wouldn't get cancer and that they wouldn't need a private militia for protection."
This story appears in the December 18, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.