Lights! Camera! Action!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2010



LAPLACE – If you have come across a blocked off street while driving through LaPlace in the past few weeks, you have probably stumbled onto one of several production sets currently in use in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Two motion pictures are filming on location throughout the parish, and a television production has set up shop inside the St. John Community Center, making for the most filming activity the parish has seen in quite sometime.

“This is probably the most film work at one time we have ever seen,” said Coy St. Pierre, film coordinator for the St. John Center. “This area has really begun to make a name for itself.”

St. Pierre said an aggressive promotion blitz, coupled with the prime location of the parish has made St. John a popular draw for production companies looking to take advantage of lucrative tax breaks the state is offering.

“That doesn’t even include the exposure we get through word of mouth,” St. Pierre said. “Producers come in, see what we have to offer and then spread the word around to others looking for locations.”

One of those locations is a stretch of Louisiana Highway 51 near Manchac, where a crew has spent the past week filming scenes for a $16 million crime thriller currently known as “The Fields.” According to Amber Havens, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Film Commission, the production is scheduled to be in the area through June 11 and is expected to pump more than $7.6 million into the state and local economy.

“It’s about a Texas cop who teams up with a New York City detective to investigate a series of unsolved crimes,” Havens said. “In this case, the St. John area is the stand in for a southeastern Texas town.”

St. Pierre said the television production, a first for the area, is a crime drama called “Memphis Beat” for the TNT network. She said the show has a $4.8 million budget and will spend more than $3.9 million in state.

“They have completely occupied all 26,000 square feet of our soundstage for various set pieces,” St. Pierre said. “They will be here through, pending approval of a second season.”

According to TNT’s website, the show is centered on a Memphis cop who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator and still lives at home with his mother. St. Pierre said the extensive police department sets are modeled after various precincts of the New Orleans Police Department.

“They spent more than two weeks bringing in pieces and assembling walls for these sets,” St. Pierre said. “It’s tremendous.”

St. Pierre said the production has complete use of the community center until Oct. 31 at a rate of $25,000 a month. The show will begin airing June 22. According to the film commission website the Fields has a release date of summer 2011.

The heavy activity in St. John Parish is part of a continually growing state film industry that has, according to Havens “doubled in size over last year.”

“More than 20 productions are currently active in the state with 60 more still due in for the year,” Havens said. “Louisiana has established a brand and producers see us as a reliable and credible location for film production. We are attracting new vendors every day and support has grown throughout the state.”