As film production work pours into Louisiana, a nonprofit media arts group is helping locals access jobs and cultivating a more robust local film community.
Louisiana appears on the big screen a lot these days. But whether it’s a star-studded Hollywood venture or a small indie effort, it all starts with people in Louisiana getting together and getting to work, from camera operators to grips and gaffers to accountants and attorneys.
“One of the things that’s unique about filmmaking is that it is never a solitary venture, you cannot make a movie on your own,” says Darcy McKinnon, executive director of NOVAC. “Even the smallest film is a community of people required to make it, so that’s what we help to do is develop that community.”
NOVAC, or the New Orleans Video Access Center, is a nonprofit that serves as a bridge for the film industry coming into Louisiana and locals who want to take part. It’s an industry that’s booming, of course, thanks to a state tax incentives that have made Louisiana a top destination for film, TV and other video projects. NOVAC’s work gets into the technical and business decisions that make the industry tick. But NOVAC also keeps a focus on the artistic and cultural potential of filmmaking for Louisiana.
“We are dedicated to cultivating the art of filmmaking and local artists in that realm. But we’re also connecting them with job opportunities in the film industry because we view them as connected,” says McKinnon. “What is necessary for a really thriving film community is the community and that’s what NOVAC tries to do, is connect people together, connect people to resources, connect people to opportunities.”
So today NOVAC offers different training programs and events that may be geared toward local indie film directors looking to up their game or toward a local electrician looking for work on the set. It has a low-cost equipment rental program and can assist local productions with fundraising. There’s NOVAC’s Ready Set Film workforce training program to grow local talent and a job referral program for producers looking to crew up.
“These productions want to hire local,” says Ashley Charbonnet, NOVAC’s director of programs. “They don’t want to bring in a gaffer, or a grip or a dolly grip or a make up artist from Los Angeles or New York. They want to hire local because their tax incentive is greater. So, we try to train these people who are interesting in gaining access, who may have experience, who may have no experience, who may have experience in an applicable skill.”
Lately, NOVAC has partnered with the Jazz & Heritage Foundation to produce SyncUp Cinema, a film conference held between Jazz Fest weekends while people from across the entertainment world are in town. And this summer NOVAC is running a youth media summer camp, where high school students will make music videos for local bands.
“We are really hoping that the influx of resources around the film industry that have been coming to the state of Louisiana in the past few years, we can really harness that to cultivate a sustainable, long-term local independent filmmaking community,” says McKinnon. “My dream is that 10 years from now there is a Louisiana or New Orleans style of filmmaking, and a community of filmmakers that people know about because of this time that’s happening right now.”
Learn more about NOVAC at www.novacvideo.org.