Louisiana‘s tax incentive program started scaling back two years ago, resulting in a 75% loss of jobs for union crews. Because of redemption caps, buybacks and budget cuts, the premier production facility in Baton Rouge — the Celtic Media Centre — largely has been left vacant. The facility has now opened their doors to 3,500 displaced residents who have sought shelter there from the massive flooding that has claimed many homes on the eastern side of the state’s capital city.
Celtic Studios is the top facility in the area and has been used for such productions as WGA America’s Underground, the first season of MTV’s Scream, NBC/Universal’s Battleship and Summit’s Twilight final two installments Breaking Dawn 1 and Breaking Dawn 2. 20th Century Fox also filmed its superhero film Fantastic Four there.
It has 150,000 square feet of stage space, which Deadline was told was crammed to capacity overnight. In fact, the Celtic Media Centre has taken in more evacuees than any other facility in the area.
While the industry basically has abandoned Louisiana for productions in Georgia, Celtic Studios executive director Patrick Mulhearn said: “There are a lot of misconceptions about what is going on with the tax-incentive program. A lot of business has left because of those misconceptions. The fact is that you can monetize your credits in less than a year after the moment they are issued for all new projects going forward.
“This is Baton Rouge’s Katrina moment,” he added. “We’ve actually have done this before when Hurricane Isaac hit in 2012, and it worked out really well. This was before Beasts of the Southern Wild was released, and Fox Searchlight actually screened it for volunteers here, which was a real morale booster.”
The Celtic Media Centre has become the epicenter for reuniting family members and getting help to flood victims. The first buses started coming in at 5 AM. For short-term, the Red Cross is helping get families to shelter but were stretched so thin they didn’t initially show up, said Mulhearn, who urged a larger response. He said evacuees need help.
“We need an industry response to this,” said Mulhearn. “We need to think about what assets do we have to help people recover not only in Baton Rouge but wherever disaster happens.”