Labor in Hollywood South

The debate over Hollywood South often pivots on the idea of how jobs are created. What is less clear is how many jobs and what kinds of jobs are created by location film production.

The context for this debate is the decline of film production jobs in Hollywood over the past 50 years. Some reasons for the decline are the reduction of overall film studio budgets, placing more burden on independent production houses to raise their own capital. In addition, new technologies and offshore competition in technological specializations (such as animation) have put downward pressure on both numbers of contracted employees and wages. The control of labor costs are a major part of any production’s overall budget, some 85% of the total expenditures, so Hollywood producers look to Louisiana location shooting to help make their bottom line with less resources.

In Louisiana, both the state and the major labor union for film, the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees, say that tax incentives have successfully brought new jobs to the state and have created a new workforce, particularly in the film trades (also called “below-the-line” work), such as electrical, set construction, and lighting. Further policy boosters say that there are residual positive impacts on local service and tourism economies, though it is unclear how this can be factored into job growth. Finally, critics of the policy say that most film jobs are increasingly based on a precarious workforce that must be both mobile and flexible in terms of their employment, with less guarantees of stable work or benefits. In others words, they say these jobs are ephemeral when tied to incentives; they will disappear when the incentives do.