Cajun country calls on the motherland

Louisiana seeks to attract industry

CANNES -- Mayor Joey Durel is hoping Lafayette's French connection will bring the international film business to the heart of Louisiana's Cajun country.

Durel has made the journey to Cannes to pitch his city's entertainment initiative designed to attract and sustain an industry, based on its unique culture, high-tech capabilities, city-wide fiber optic connection and state tax credits.

"Cannes is the best venue to tap into the international market," Durel said. "And with the U.S. dollar it makes it attractive for European companies to film in the U.S. and with our tax credits and other incentives, it makes it that much more attractive."

The move comes as Lafayette's service industry gets back to normal following Hurricane Katrina and nearly a year after the city established the Entertainment Initiative and named Marcus Brown to head it.

"Following Katrina, the entertainment industry evacuated to the north of Louisiana," Durel said. "They took a glancing look at Lafayette, but all the hotels were full of evacuees and bonding companies weren't insuring during hurricane season."

Now, however, Durel said Lafayette is the only parish south of Interstate 10 being insured as if it were north of Interstate 10, a man-made geographic divide separating southern and northern Louisiana.

In addition to the 25% state tax credits offered for movie production, digital media for video gaming and sound recording and additional 10% for using a local crew, Lafayette offers a culturally rich and aggressively entrepreneurial city.

"What are you paying elsewhere?" Brown said. "We have the ability to make it more attractive to come to Lafayette."

Lafayette also offers the French the added bonus of "more French heritage and French-speaking citizens than anywhere else in America," Durel said.

According to Durel, the city's state-of-the-art Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, the $27 million 70,000 sq. foot, high pre-visualizing complex coupled with the broadband connection to allows for 100 MB/sec capacity makes Lafayette the ideal place to set up shop.

"We're a technological hub, so production can get out of the community better, faster and cheaper than anywhere else in the state," the mayor said.

According to Brown, companies have already started taking advantage of Lafayette's infrastructure and three service companies.

In addition to French director Bertrand Tavernier's "In the Electric Mist" which shot in the area, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are presently shooting "I Love You Phillip Morris."

Since the state tax credits were introduced in 2002, the state has steadily attracted more high profile projects. Last year, more than 40 productions filmed in Louisiana. While this year the number is expected to grow. Oliver Stone's biopic of the George W. Bush is shooting there now.