By Bill Arceneaux
If you, like me, watched this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, you were probably on pins and needles come the Best Picture announcement. Best Director went to Alfonso Cuaron, but his film Gravity wasn’t considered a full lock to win the top prize. It had swept just about every technical award available, but after nabbing Director, prior doubt was beginning to shift towards certainty, and its victory almost a foregone conclusion.
If you, again like me, are from Louisiana, you were probably cheering for 12 Years a Slave, one of the more critically acclaimed flicks to come out of the state since “Hollywood South” was first uttered. A win here would be like a landmark for all in the local film community – a sort of validation that our motion picture tax credits are working.
Allow me to posit a more meaningful affirmation – one where we have become the new moviemaking frontier.
It was more than a month ago when the newest arthouse cinema in New Orleans, Indywood, opened its doors. For my first screening at this very DIY (and BYOB) theater, I viewed a series of shorts from the Court 13 production team – the studio famous for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that I felt should’ve been our first Best Picture. I’ve heard mumblings of distaste for this group, mostly involving how they’re “from out of town” among other things.
But, isn’t that how the original Hollywood got started? If D.W. Griffith hadn’t been sent to the West Coast, who knows if or when California would’ve become the (now former) filmmaking Mecca? The Beasts teams’ catalog of shorts show such a wonderfully clever command of the cinematic language, I’d be more than happy to hand them NOLA citizenship.
With the news that Louisiana has now beaten all other states as the top film production destination, I’d expect more hungry talent to migrate down here.
Of course, to truly be the new Hollywood, we can’t just be a destination. As @CaseyMoore says often, we must become content creators.
I can’t tell you how many times I receive a Twitter follow or email from a representative of an up-and-coming studio, made up of homegrown talent. Ghosts of Elysian Films is one such group, currently working on a feature project. They’re made of local film students, who in turn have experience working on the sets of the major movies that come to the region.
Imagine a generation of local Louisianan filmmakers, inspired by the crews that have come to their neighborhoods, who’ve gained experience through observation, work and then study.
The more filmmakers we get, the more films we may end up watching. That means a better movie culture. Aside from the good folks at Indywood, a group called Shotgun Cinema – made up of kids from out of state – have moved here to build up the cinema scene with monthly screenings. This has begun to up the game of already established theaters and similar groups in town to program exciting content. And, as a film critic myself, I’ve felt the added responsibility of getting the word out on outside the mainstream films, which have been flowing through projection booths at an expedited pace.
Finally, the winning movie was named, and it was 12 Years a Slave. The cast and crew got up on stage and celebrated. Hollywood South in general got up and celebrated. It’s nice and all, but the reality feels far much better. We are now a new destination. We now have a new skill. We are building a new culture.
Find Bill at patreon.com/neauxreelidea