Shreveport I’ve got a soundstage to sell you

Originally published in The Inquisitor

With the hope of Film Production returning to Shreveport now firmly planted in Mississippi where Film Tax Credits are unlimited and there is movement toward elimination of the state income tax, word came that the Shreveport City Council approved Mayor Perkins’ plan to buy the Millennium Studios for $3.8 million dollars.  But it isn’t a done deal yet. 

That it is even up for discussion is disturbing a lot of citizens.  Like Stageworks, the other derelict soundstage downtown, it was busy until former Governor Jindal and Louisiana Legislative leaders, including then Speaker John Bel Edwards, ratcheted back our film tax credit program to provide only enough film production to keep studios and workers busy south of I-10.

Shreveport can’t afford another pig in a poke. Why buy an empty building that is on city property and add to our inventory of buildings that we can’t afford to keep up?  Word is that 50% of downtown floor space is empty.  We bought the empty D’Anna Produce Building a couple of years ago for goodness’ sake.  We can’t keep our municipal buildings in good repair, air conditioning working, and grass mowed.  Do we need another square foot of municipal building under roof?

I asked around and it seems that a confidentiality agreement prevents discussion of what might go on inside the empty film studio once we own it.  It won’t be a private business, so it won’t pay property or sales taxes which we need here.  Won’t be a tourism draw, we need that here desperately and the Municipal Auditorium, hello.  There is a rumor that it may provide a multimillion-dollar space for another “workforce development center”.  

Shreveport architects and urban planners are appalled.  It shouldn’t have been built in what is a residential neighborhood needing redevelopment to begin with they say.  Like the planned Duncan Donuts to be situated between stately mansions and the gorgeous Kings Highway Christian Church on Kings Highway, it’s something like the proverbial dog manure in the punch bowl of what could be a great downtown neighborhood.

So, I asked some questions of City Council members and only one, my councilman, Grayson Boucher would speak on the record.  Boucher told me it is the vote that he most regrets and this is a vote that will be tough to undo.  Only Councilman John Nickelson voted against this boondoggle.   With James Flurry’s resignation, there are only six voting members, and so we would have to convince three members to change their vote, including the new chair, Councilwoman Taylor, who would have to call a vote.  Not likely.  

The money for this comes from the most dangerous place it can come from, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and it looks like it Is going to rescue Israeli American film producer, Avi Lerner, founder of Millennium Films.  Voters here are wondering what’s next?  Happy New Year Avi.

Readers, what would you do for Shreveport with $3.8 million dollars?