‘NCIS: New Orleans’ production crew’s rude antics spur call for new filming rules in Louisiana

Angered by the “NCIS: New Orleans” production crew banging into trees near his Uptown home and yelling at a neighbor’s child, the chairman of one of the Louisiana Legislature’s most powerful committees asked state officials Thursday to come up with new rules of behavior.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, recalled the large trucks coming on his street one evening – without warning – blocking off the street, filling up the parking spaces, and setting up loud generators to film a scene for the CBS crime drama that last week was the 15th most watched television show, with 8.33 million viewers.

Neighbors had not been told about the film production’s plans to shoot on their block and they came out of their homes to ask what was happening only to be treated rudely by the crew, Abramson told a group of state and local officials at a specially called meeting of his committee.


One teenager was berated by a security guard for parking his car in a legal space the production company wanted for a truck, Abramson said.

“It led me to realize that there’s probably a gap in our program where there’s a lack of relationship between the production companies and the local community to make sure this goes a little more smoothly,” Abramson said. “It’s not about compensation. It’s about convenience and respect.”

Abramson said he has since learned of similar confrontations all over the state whenever Hollywood comes to town. In Hammond, a movie production shut down part of Main Street forcing businesses to close, he said.

He asked state officials to consider changing rules, even consider levying fines, in order to give communities more of a voice in film production planning. His committee oversees state tax credits and exemptions like the one that attracts television shows and movies to film in Louisiana.

“It is the exception to the norm and unacceptable,” Louisiana Department of Economic Development Assistant Secretary Mandi Mitchell said about Abramson’s experience. Not many of those types of complaints make their way up to the state level, she said.

Carroll Morton, interim director at Film New Orleans, which handles the permits for production companies, said she receives two or three complaints a month.

“I don’t let any complaint go unresolved,” she said, adding that often she will drive to the shoot to work out issues that have arisen between residents and filmmakers.

Morton intervened and a subsequent shoot in Abramson’s neighborhood went much smoother, he said.

A production company needs a permit, insurance and must agree to abide by the city’s guidelines. The companies are supposed to distribute a flyer in the neighborhood in advance of filming.

The state’s Motion Picture Production Tax Credit forgives up to 40 percent of personal and corporate tax liabilities for productions that spend more than $300,000 in Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Economic Development, or LED, administers the tax credit.

The credit has been the target of much controversy in the Legislature with opponents saying the state can’t afford to giveaway so much tax revenue. They cite a recent study showing taxpayers gave film producers $282.6 million in tax credits in 2016 while economic activity from the movies made in-state generated only $63.2 million in tax revenues.

Supporters counter that the program gives Louisiana a higher profile and created 14,194 jobs in 2016.

Chris Stelly, executive group director for entertainment and digital media in LED’s Office of Entertainment Industry Development, said he and his office will have to review existing regulations, then talk with producers and community leaders before developing definitive recommendations.

In the meantime, Stelly said local film commissions have a lot of power through the permitting process to police the production companies. They can prohibit shooting in certain neighborhoods or require filmmakers to work around communities with physical issues like narrow streets or low hanging trees, he said.


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