Shreveport Film Industry Hopes Darkness at Millennium Studios Turns Into Light
North Louisiana's Diverse Film Industry Braces For Lean Days Ahead But Hopes For The Best
Friday, November 6, 2015
The Shreveport and North Louisiana film community is hoping to turn the lights back on after Millennium Studios president says the Shreveport movie studio is "going dark."
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The 70,000 square feet movie studio complex built by Millennium Studios in Shreveport that opened in 2011 is "going dark" according to the president of the Shreveport studio, Diego Martinez.
Shreveport's Millennium Studios Going Dark in North Louisiana
In a personal statement, Martinez said the film studio would only keep one person on staff to complete an "investigative thriller" in current production titled The Tale, starring Ellen Burstyn, Laura Dern and Jason Ritter, The other staff members will be laid off. A full copy of the personal statement is below.
Trouble may have been brewing at Millennium Studios for some time, according to people who work in the North Louisiana film industry. A change to the method and manner in which Louisiana distributes its film tax credit (which encourages film production in the state) has been blamed for the major drop in Louisiana film production and a loss of jobs for those in the local film industry. However, Diego Martinez is the only employee in the upper echelons of Millennium who has wanted to speak publicly so far.
Millennium Studios is probably best known for The Expendables franchise and the new film franchise based on a movie filmed in Shreveport, Olympus Has Fallen. It had $161 million in worldwide receipts and has spawned a sequel dropping in March 2016 titled London Has Fallen.
Ark-La-Tex.com has been reaching out to newly laid-off employees at Millennium and others who work in the Louisiana film industry. Only one person would talk (and only off the record). The employee said that everyone first believed it was all over. But, upon reflection, the employee came to the realization that the "talented and trained film production talent in North Louisiana will find a way to succeed."
However, another production person who has worked in some of the Shreveport area's most popular locally filmed movies told Ark-La-Tex.com that things might change. "It is important to note that Millennium is not shutting down for good," the local production crew member added.
The production crew member added: "The action taken means that no new productions will be filmed or anchored at the studio compound. However, the current production of The Tale, which is leasing the space will carry on until principal production is completed. It's possible something comes to Shreveport later but Millennium has shifted production to its Bulgarian studio" The Millennium Studio in Bulgaria is called Nu Boyana Film Studios, and it is the largest film production studio in Eastern Europe. Movies from The Expendables series were filmed there.
Martinez is somewhat optimistic as well, even though the studio president said Friday was his last day at Millennium Studios. In fact, Martinez said he does not believe this is the end for the studio complex. "This is a state-of-the-art studio and facility right here in Shreveport, Louisiana, and I believe that her best days are not behind her but actually in front of her." Martinez said.
Ark-La-Tex.com contacted the global headquarters of Millennium Films in Los Angeles Friday afternoon, and the person answering the phone said the studio would comment through Elizabeth Wolfe from EWOLFE Public Relations. Ark-La-Tex.com then called and left a message on the cell phone of Wolfe, but there was no reply before 9 pm CST. According to the trade magazine, Variety, Wolfe was a former Senior vice president for publicity and communications for Nu Image/Millennium Films before she was chosen as senior VP for a well known London PR firm, Freud Communications, in 2009. Before leaving for the job at Freud, Wolfe worked at Disney-owned Buena Vista Pictures in the marketing department for over a decade and helped promote "Toy Story" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."
When Ark-La-Tex.com reaches Millennium PR person Elizabeth Wolfe, we will ask if the change in Louisiana tax credits was a main cause for Friday's action by the studio. In June, 2015, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal approved a $180 million dollar cap on the amount of tax credits the state will redeem for film production, and the law suspended Louisiana's film tax credit buyback program for a full year. Jindal defended the measure, but his opponents viewed his actions as a crushing blow to the Louisiana film industry when he turned down Louisiana crew members lobbying to veto the legislation. Ark-La-Tex.com
Full Statement of Millennium Studios in Shreveport president, Diego Martinez, at Millennium Studios on his last day of work, Friday, November 6, 2015:
"I want to make it really clear that this is a personal statement that I am actually making today. It is coming from me. It is not an official press release, or this is not an official press conference on behalf of Millennium Studios. This is personal for me. I know there has been a lot of speculation and conversation over the last 24 hours about Millennium Studios. Nuimage/Millennium has made a business decision to have the studio go dark. Essentially (uh) one of our staff members will remain to service the current production that is shooting here now and will remain to maintain the building. I want to reaffirm my personal commitment to what I strongly believe:
Louisiana is the best place to film, period. I am optimistic that this is not the ending, but rather the foundation for the transformation for the studio and filmmaking in Shreveport and Louisiana as a whole. Even though next Friday will be my last day, I plan to do all I can to make sure that this is very much the case. This is a state-of-the-art studio and facility right here in Shreveport Louisiana and I believe that her best days are not behind her, but actually in front of her. I look forward to taking on the new challenges that await me personally and all those that face our film industry here in Louisiana."