Tuesday’s House Ways and Means hearing on bills to cap the film tax credit program brought out some of the big names in Louisiana movie-making, like Lampton Enochs of the Oscar-winning Moonbot Studios, and former Dukes of Hazzard star, John Schneider.
“I have not won an Academy Award, but I’ve seen several films that have,” Schneider said, eliciting laughter from committee members and the packed audience in attendance.
But charmed as lawmakers were by the big names, it was Louisiana residents working in the movie industry who made the biggest impression. Dozens spoke against Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris’s bill that would scale the credits down to zero over the next five years.
Harris said the state could not afford to keep wasting money on movie-making.
“It’s kind of like a 40-year-old son that won’t get out of the house,” Harris said. “You’re still spending money on him, but he won’t leave. And mom and dad have to eat peanut butter while the kid goes out and parties.”
Tangipahoa Parish constable Don Marshall, who works security details on movie sets, said the film industry helps him make ends meet.
“If your bill passes, I don’t know that I can put food on the table for my family,” Marshall told Harris.
“If this bill passes, we would be forced to move to Atlanta,” testified Martha Huckaby, a native New Orleanian married to a film producer. “Guys, I don’t want to move to Atlanta!”
Michael Papajohn, a stuntman who played baseball for LSU in the mid-80s, said the film tax credit program gave him the ability to finally move home, while doing the work he loves.
“I’ve never worked more,” Papajohn told the committee. “The movie business is right in my backyard, and I don’t want to move back to California. This is my home.”
It was enough to persuade Rep. Harris to allow his bill to be amended. As it goes to the House floor, HB 276 sets the cap for film tax credits at $200-million per year, and language to end the program has been removed.