Actor opens movie studio

John Schneider Studios locates near Holden

Actor-writer-director John Schneider has opened a film production studio near Holden in Livingston Parish.

A 35 percent tax incentive available through the Louisiana Department of Economic Development influenced his decision to acquire the rural acreage last year, Schneider said in recent telephone and email interviews.

Schneider added, however, “My decision to build in Louisiana is based on the work ethic and enthusiasm of the people here. Passion for working hard and then relaxing hard is like a breath of fresh air since everyone in California takes their office (work) home with them.”

Schneider said he didn’t wait long to begin improvements on the 58-acre, former campground, just west of the Tickfaw River on the south side of U.S. 190.

“I shot ‘Smothered’ at the property last summer and was quite impressed with its versatility … but also the overall vibe of the place,” Schneider said. “If ever there was a studio where passionate filmmakers could come to immerse themselves in the project at hand, with no distractions, this is it.”

Schneider wrote and directed “Smothered,” which is a horror film scheduled for completion at the new studio later this year. He said the film’s producer is Doug Blake, who was executive producer for “The Sessions,” a 2012 film that starred Helen Hunt.

In addition to the Tickfaw River, Schneider said he was attracted to the property because of its variety of outdoor scenery — including a small lake, swamp and a bamboo forest.

“For 100 years, it (the Holden property) was Camp Singing Waters,” Schneider noted.

The camp now is John Schneider Studios.

The rural Livingston Parish complex includes a 5,000-square-foot soundstage with 20-foot ceilings. Also available for indoor and outdoor filming are two homes, one built around 1910 and the other around 1950.

Outbuildings include an enclosed cafeteria/production office and a covered eating area.

The property also has a 250,000-gallon swimming pool with a maximum depth of 14 feet, added officials with Louisiana Entertainment, an arm of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

State officials said Schneider plans to add post-production sound and editing capabilities to the studio by May. Other planned additions include an on-site chef and living quarters for key film crew members.

“I am putting in a pre-mix sound room that will be available for ‘Anderson Bench,’ when we are done with principal photography,” Schneider said, adding that his film will be ready for the sound room in May.

“‘Anderson Bench’ is a rather twisted love story,” said Schneider, who wrote it. “Anderson Bench (is a man who) has never had a dream or a goal, never. When Bethany comes into his life, he sees adventure, daring, life. The twisted part is that he sees it mostly in death.

“Someone once said that you never feel quite as alive as you do when you are close to death,” Schneider added. “This is at the foundation of the story.”

After more than 30 years in television and film, Schneider’s face should be familiar to a wide variety of audiences.

As a young man, Schneider portrayed fast-driving Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard” television series of the late 1970s and early 1980s. He later played the role of Jonathan Kent, adoptive father of Clark Kent, for the series “Smallville.” And he currently stars as flawed and philandering Judge Jim Cryer on Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Despite his busy schedule for “The Haves and Have Nots,” Schneider said he expects to spend approximately six months in Louisiana each year to make movies at his studio through his John Schneider’s Fairlight Films.

“The rest of the time, I will be pestering my kids and grandkids somewhere,” he said.

Fairlight is not a film photography term, Schneider said.

“Fairlight was my 16-year-old standard poodle, who passed away last year,” the actor said.

Schneider also said his decision to stamp his name on both his studio property and his film company was driven entirely by business concerns.

“In my work with Tyler Perry in Atlanta, I have learned that the way to not be cut out of the picture in the long term is to name your endeavors after yourself,” he said. “As narcissistic as that may sound on the surface, both he and Oprah assure me that it is at the very foundation of business success.”

Added Schneider: “When two people like that give you the same piece of advice, you should take it.”