The Publicist:

New Orleans is putting on quite a show to lure the film industry

New Orleans is putting on quite a show to lure the film industry

I've started working on a new movie in New Orleans, which has become the Hollywood of the South. A dozen studio features have filmed here since Louisiana enacted tax incentives to lure film production, including Ray, an early Oscar contender. Stars ranging from Dustin Hoffman to Bernie Mac to Britney Spears have filmed in Louisiana, and the number of well-trained crewmembers has increased substantially. In fact, I've met several people who've relocated from places like North Carolina and New York to work in the city's thriving film business. Can you believe it? Departing New York to find work? "I would never have dreamt of leaving New York to go south, but this isn't really the South," says Yankee transplant Lewis, a production assistant. "New Orleans is unique - it's not like the rest of the region." True enough. New Orleans (excuse me, 'Norlins') is a true "blue" city that is misplaced in a sea of staid conservative red states. There's no Bourbon Street in Alabama or Mississippi. There are some producers on this film who wish there were no Bourbon Street here, either. It has already taken a toll on our hard-drinking camera crew, which is showing some wear and tear. Two of them are Brits, which doesn't help matters. Drinking is a sport to them. And they don't like to lose. When working outside LA (forget USC - students there have parents who run studios), I like to share a little of what I learned in the publicity biz with the youngsters, so I normally invite the local college to send a few sharp students to the set to learn the ropes. They are taught requisite skills: working with talent, conducting interviews, building relationships, and, most important, being first in the lunch line. But I'm not sure it's going to work out this time. The university, which I'm tempted to name but won't, sent over a film student who, though filled with enthusiasm and exuberance, doesn't seem to possess the necessary, um, attribute. By that I mean a brain. Seriously, this gal could not think her way through a second-grade spelling test. She wants to get into the film business to meet people like Jessica Simpson (who's shooting Dukes of Hazzard in Baton Rouge) and, in her words, "go to cool parties and stuff. Especially the Oscars. That'd be so awesome. My friend Debbie would totally die." Me, too. I politely sent her back with best wishes and a souvenir. I'm considering giving a math student a try. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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