The Filmic New Orleans After Katrina, 2006 to present

How has the new political economy for film production in the region impacted local culture and representations of the region? Although the incentive policy began in 2002, leading to the filming of Ray and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the boom of film productions has made this question more pressing in the years since New Orleans flooded in 2005.

Unlike in previous periods, the storylines in most films shot in New Orleans have no connection to the region. Blockbusters, such as Planet of the Apes or The Green Lantern, use the city as a backdrop for a generic urban environment, transforming the landscape with set design and special effects. In many productions, New Orleans actually stands in for another U.S. city, such as Memphis or New York.

However, post-disaster recovery has been directly invoked in some film and television narratives. Many talk shows and reality programs since 2006 have landed in New Orleans to assist in home rebuilding, the provision of basic supplies, animal recovery efforts, and the “makeovers” of public spaces. These programs remind national audiences of the disaster and suggest private solutions to what has been a failure of public agencies and services. Some fictional film and TV productions have also promoted the city’s recovery. Although the television series K-Ville was widely panned by television critics for its lack of realism, the program’s producers made public overtures that filming in the city would help boost the recovery efforts through its local investment.

In 2010, Treme received critical praise and public accolades for its authentic and realistic portrayal of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Director David Simon, producer Eric Obermyer, and a star-studded cast received regular press coverage both for their economic investment over four years and their sustained coverage of cultural production in the city, in particular music, food, and public culture. Public screenings and donations, charity events to support local musicians, and local hires have contributed to the series’ aura as a “positive” contribution of the film economy to the city.

What do you think?