CBS series commits to N.O.filming thanks to lucrative tax credits

Film tax credit applications for two pilot episodes of the new CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans” provide a hint of the dollars to come from full production of the television show scheduled to air this fall.

Danni Productions LLC is seeking credits totaling as much as $598,408 from the state for more than $1.88 million in estimated in-state expenditures and wages for those pilot episodes in which New Orleans was used as the backdrop for some of the scenes.

That application showed that CBS planned to spend $10.7 million on the two-episode pilot, with the bulk of that money being spent outside Louisiana.

Producers of the new television show have not yet sought approval for the tax credits, which can total 30 percent of in-state expenditures and 5 percent of the wages of in-state workers. Laurence Franks, who signed Danni Productions’ application for the pilots’ tax credits, is vice president for production finance at CBS Television Studios in Studio City, California.

Now, the network plans to film its new series on location, in and around New Orleans.

“I’m thrilled from a business standpoint that the tax credit exists,” said Gary Glasberg, creator and executive producer of “NCIS: New Orleans.” But Glasberg said he was more excited about the prospect of filming in and around the city.

“I can’t replicate New Orleans and do it as well as I want,” Glasberg explained. “It’s such a unique part of the world that I feel very fortunate that we can film this there. Everything will be done in Louisiana.”

This fall’s new series will cover 13 episodes, Glasberg said. If successful, he said, the series will continue.

Chris Stelly, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Entertainment Industry Development, noted that the original “NCIS” already has run for 12 seasons, while first spinoff “NCIS: Los Angeles” has completed six seasons.

“In general, the impact to the state and the city of New Orleans can be tremendous,” Stelly added. “In terms of direct spending, a series with a five-to-six year run can be well into the tens of millions of dollars.”

Stelly said audits for 13 past scripted television shows produced in Louisiana showed a combined total of $302.5 million for expenditures inside Louisiana. Those audited expenditures led to issuance of nearly $95 million in state film tax credits.

Added Stelly: “The secondary benefits that a successful show can have in terms of tourism, brand recognition, etc., is immeasurable. I look forward to ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ becoming a mainstay of network television and a vibrant part of our motion picture industry.”

Susan Brennan, chief executive officer of Second Line Stages in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District, agreed with Stelly.

Second Line was the studio where FX filmed season three of “American Horror Story” last year, and where that series’ fourth season is currently in production.

Although Brennan’s company is not hosting “NCIS: New Orleans,” she welcomes that new series as “huge for New Orleans. It will mean hundreds of steady jobs for local film crew, cast and production office workers in New Orleans.”

Brennan added support companies — such as lighting, trucking, lumber and paint supply, tent and generator rentals, prop houses and furniture rentals — “will all see a boost in their revenue from a substantial television production such as ‘NCIS.’ ”

“These companies employ thousands of workers throughout the state,” Brennan said. She said 15 such industry-serving firms are located at her studio complex, “and many of them will service ‘NCIS’ over the run of the show.”

In addition, Brennan noted, “ ‘NCIS’ has the potential to show New Orleans as a character basking in its beauty, with scenes of the Mississippi River, the bayous and the architecture, while capturing the music, the food, and the art and culture, which makes us so unique.”

Many of the benefits of such on-location production are fueled by the state’s tax-credit program.

Stelly noted that no tax credit payments have been approved for either the new “NCIS” series or its two pilot episodes.

In both cases, Stelly explained, the television producers must submit a detailed and independently audited list of expenditures for review by his office.

Expenses approved as a result of that review would be certified as valid and forwarded to the Louisiana Department of Revenue for payment of authorized tax credits.

“We have not yet received an audit to verify any expenditures,” Stelly said of the pilot episodes. “We have yet to receive an application for the first full season of ‘NCIS: New Orleans.’ ”

But CBS’ application for tax credits for the pilot episodes illustrates two important points about television and movie production in Louisiana: Expenditures can be eye-popping, and the Bayou State continues to draw significant chunks of business away from California.

“NCIS: New Orleans” continues a trend that FilmL.A. Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit studying California’s loss of such projects, criticized in March. FilmL.A. complained that Louisiana hosted the production of 18 live-action feature films last year, more than any other state, more than Canada and the United Kingdom.

Movie-making expenditures in Louisiana totaled $750 million last year, FilmL.A. reported. That was fourth behind California’s $1 billion, Canada’s $887 million and the United Kingdom’s $843 million.

The list of Louisiana’s television series is growing, as well.

Before CBS brought “NCIS: New Orleans” to the state, there was History Channel’s “Swamp People;” A&E’s “Duck Dynasty;” FX’s “American Horror Story;” and HBO successes “Treme” and “True Detective.”

And, last year, Fox produced “Salem” in Shreveport for WGN. Stelly said filming of a second season is set to begin at that Red River city this fall.

Past television productions filmed in Louisiana include: “Memphis Beat,” two seasons on TNT; “Imagination Movers,” three seasons on Disney Channel; “Common Law,” produced by CBS for USA, one season; “Star Crossed,” produced by CBS and aired on CW for one season; “Second Sight,” produced by CBS for USA, but did not lead to a season; “Ravenswood,” one season on ABC Family.

Other former Louisiana television productions were: “The Gates,” one season on Fox; “Hound Dogs,” a CBS pilot that did not lead to a season; “The Occult,” an ABC pilot that did not lead to a series, and “K-Ville,” one season on CBS.