Louisiana's Anti-Gay Order Won't Disrupt Its Film Industry, Says 'Pitch Perfect' Producer
Governor Bobby Jindal signed a "religious freedom" executive order protecting same-sex marriage opponents, but Niemeyer doesn't think this will affect Louisiana's film industry.
Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal has received heavy criticism this week for signing a "religious freedom" executive order to protect same-sex marriage opponents in his state. Louisiana is the No. 1 location for major motion pictures filmed in the U.S., according to a study released last year. Could Jindal's perceived anti-gay measure affect the success of the film industry in Louisiana? New Orleans native and Gold Circle Film's Scott Niemeyer doesn't think so.
Niemeyer executive produced Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, both of which were filmed in Baton Rouge. Niemeyer, along with many other people in Louisiana, sees Jindal's executive order as a political maneuver designed to bolster his presidential campaign.
Niemeyer tells The Hollywood Reporter that producers who work in Louisiana know that Jindal is vacating the governor's office next January. "We're aware that he is on his last leg," Niemeyer says. "Although we do appreciate his support [of the film tax incentives] throughout the last 7.5 years, his bigger goal is the presidency, it seems. That's really where his motives lie. I don't think there's really any whipsaw effect on the movie industry."
A very similar bill protecting same-sex marriage opponents was voted down 10-2 in a Louisiana House panel hours before Jindal signed his executive order. On Thursday, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu signed an executive order of his own, promising "discrimination in any form will not be tolerated in New Orleans." Niemeyer says that without significant state legislator support, plus taking into account Louisiana’s generous motion picture investor tax credit, it is unlikely much will change in "Hollywood South."
"Hollywood likes its money," says Niemeyer. "It tends to go where its flowing, especially when its subsidizing production or supporting production. It would have to be a much more aggressive move on Jindal's part to actually get anybody's attention at a level that would alter production decisions."
The film tax incentives program in Louisiana is a controversial one in the state, as locals debate whether or not the program should be capped. Critics say there is insufficient evidence that the program creates an economic boost comparable to its cost. Niemeyer has been very vocal in his support of the tax credits, as well as in his support of Louisiana as an epicenter of film production. He is currently building Deep South Studios in New Orleans, a 262,000-square-foot facility that would be the largest in the region.
Even if the film tax incentive program stays the same, Niemeyer admits that Jindal's executive order would have negative consequences if it became the norm in Louisiana. "If the legislature were to ratify something like that, I think we would have the same chilling effect that we saw in Indiana, absolutely."
"It would not be a wise move, clearly, for that policy to be advanced," says Niemeyer. "I would hope that both the governor and legislature can take a lesson from what happened up north."
New York legislators have already asked Governor Andrew Cuomo to call for a ban on all non-essential travel to Louisiana following Jindal's order. When the bill that protected same-sex marriage opponents (HB 707) was filed, IBM sent Jindal a letter saying the company "will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law." In addition to tourism and film, New Orleans' convention center has given the city a large boost in its post-Katrina economy. Stephen Perry, the head of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau said that if the bill passed, it "has the possibility of threatening our state's third largest industry and creating economic losses pushing past a billion dollars a year and costing us tens of thousands of jobs."
Kristian Sonnier, a rep for the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, agrees with Niemeyer, telling THR that Jindal's executive order "is nothing more than a political campaign document" with "no force of law." He says it should "have no impact whatsoever on the film industry in New Orleans or the state of Louisiana."
"Unfortunately, some people may think that the Governor’s executive order circumvented the legislative process and breathed life into HB 707, or worse, made it law. It does neither," Sonnier says. "This bad bill is dead and the excitement about the executive order should soon fade away. Louisiana is still the same welcoming, inclusive, diverse, tolerant place that it has always been and always will be. We will not stand for laws that protect discrimination of any kind."