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New Orleans Five Years Later: TV and film

August 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hurricane Katrina came close to destroying New Orleans five years ago. Some wondered if it could ever come back. But business is booming in one respect: Movie and television productions are flocking to New Orleans.

This is certainly a good news story for New Orleans, but just the opposite for Los Angeles. L.A. is losing business to New Orleans.

Upcoming movies like "The Green Hornet, "Twilight" and "Batman" are shooting in Louisiana instead of California.

The critically acclaimed TV show "Treme" on HBO may be the single most recognizable New Orleans production in the entertainment industry.

"I think with 'Treme' we've had an opportunity to show New Orleans at a level a bit deeper than what we are able to see on many news reports," said writer Tom Piazza.

Piazza is one of the writers for "Treme." He said the post-Katrina story is compelling, but more importantly, how the city is coming back is what makes New Orleans such an interesting setting.

"In large measure, the culture of the city, meaning the music, the food, the way of joking, the different little rituals of being here, is what really brought the city back," said Piazza.

But "Treme" is not unique. Thanks to tax cuts and the region's fascinating characteristics, New Orleans is becoming the next hotbed for production.

Runaway production, from L.A.'s standpoint.

"This year 85 or 90 films have already filed for permits to shoot here," said actor Tracy Miller. "The rumor is that it's going to double next year."

Miller has made a living as an actor for 26 years. He grew up in Los Angeles. But he has taken the absolute opposite approach of most actors who want to make it. Instead of coming to L.A., he left L.A. 18 months ago.

"I can be a small or a miniscule fish in a very large pond in Hollywood or I can be potentially a big fish in a small pond here in Louisiana," said Miller.

Miller has been steadily working. But here's a little insight: He didn't necessarily want to let the acting world know about his newfound opportunities.

"It's simple. I'm not 25 anymore. This is not about competition. This is not about chest-pounding. This is about me supporting my family and working in my chosen profession. So I don't need people flocking here left and right," said Miller. An honest answer from a man who's trying to make a living.

As he showed me around the charming 150-year-old home he is renting, it doesn't make up for the fact that his wife and children remain in Santa Monica. It's difficult being apart from his family. But it's a means to an end, a sacrifice he is confident will pay off.

"I'm more optimistic right now about the potential, the possibility in my career today than I have been in many years," said Miller.

Where there is dramatic change, there is dramatic opportunity. Perhaps New Orleans will be a new frontier for entertainment. And my apologies to Tracy Miller for letting the cat out of the bag.

Coming up Wednesday at 11 p.m.: One of the greatest reasons people love New Orleans is the music. Vibrant and unique, it's still there. But it's been a tough road back for musicians. They are struggling to maintain that old New Orleans tradition. We'll tell you about their hurdles. But we'll also give you a taste of that wonderful New Orleans jazz.


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