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So you want to have a car chase…Baton Rouge Film Commissioner Katie Pryor talks logistics and what it looks like to be a concierge for an entire city

Katie Pryor Baton Rouge Film Commission

Operating the logistical machinery of Baton Rouge’s film scene requires visualizing some references that project scale:  

The ambitious wizard running the light and magic show in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. How about the monumental grasshopper-terrorizing bird crafted from tree branches by ants in A Bug’s Life? Hm, these aren’t overly flattering. Okay, how about Robert de Niro’s Neil Mccauley in Heat when he orchestrates a daylight bank heist that was so effective it inspired a real-life 45-minute Los Angeles shootout?

Whatever comes to mind cinematically – a wizard, a crew runner, a Pixar grasshopper-slayer – all these sparks of movie memory were made possible by the people who coordinated the logistics of the shoot. None of these movies get made without shooting permits, street closures, and a person to inform producers about the tax incentives for a film budget that looks like the GDP of a small country. Without the groundwork, none of these movies are anything but words in Courier New on an unproduced script.

In the Hollywood of the South, the person opening doors to make it all happen in Baton Rouge is Film Commissioner Katie Pryor.

A wearer of all the hats: professor, entrepreneur…concierge?

Katie was recently named a member of the “Forty under 40” club by the Baton Rouge Business Report. Underneath the accolade, the day-to-day that earned this recognition is her trifecta of roles: she is a Film Production professor at LSU, the co-founder and co-champion of the Film USA commissioner’s network, and in her words – a city concierge for all of Baton Rouge:

To have the opportunity to host people and show them my city and make sure they love it, and have a good experience living here for however long they’re here – it’s helpful. ‘Where do I go buy this? Where do I go buy clothes? The best groceries?’ All those kinds of questions. Basically a…concierge, just for the entire city.

Katie Pryor - 2022 40 Under 40 - The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

Accurate – sure. Reductive? Maybe. I mean, what does a good hostess do? Makes your towels feel crisp and fresh. Nice, cool pillow. Brings $200 million in production and $80 million in payroll to your city in five years, including the shutdown period of Covid where productions burrowed into dens for pandemic hibernation.

Katie’s forward management of the Baton Rouge scene has coincided with the post-Covid regeneration of productions. She sees the wave, invites in as much as Baton Rouge can handle, and irrigates the local industry with production spending that has almost tripled from $28.3 million in 2021 to more than $81 million in 2022.

You’ve got a change in production now that we’re seeing post-Covid, that with the onslaught of streaming services, the shift from the box office, there’s just so much more content that needs to be made… there’s so much business that it’s more of plugging and trying to find the right place for it to go – sometimes it’s based on everything from where the child actor wants to go to school to where the favorite restaurant of the DP is. Or just the right locations to shoot, or the right stage space, the right amount of crew. So lining it up – I think we’re in a unique position where there is so much production that it’s not really about competition so much as it is finding the right place.

Her position deep in the machinery of the industry gives way to some confusion – many people don’t actually know what it is the Film Commission has to offer. So, here’s a little clarity.

What the Film Commission does for indie filmmakers with a project:

They’ll reach out to me – they’ll say, ‘I need a locations packet for this, I need to understand the tax incentive, understand the crew base, the infrastructure, what stages you have, etc.’ Locations breakdown. I’ll do a complimentary locations package…then when they’re getting into the city, help them close the roads, permits, all that kind of stuff. 

After sending the production a locations package, the production sends out a location scout. Katie sends the scout to the local location managers who can then take the location scout through the geography of their shoot. 

She added a note of encouragement for indie filmmakers operating without the backing of a major budget:

If you’re filming anywhere, I recommend contacting the film commission. Because some of them don’t know to do it – independent projects think we’re only after big studio projects. Our job really is to say yes – figure out how to make your film work and grow the creative community in our area.

Katie Pryor at Cannes Film Festival

When it’s time to run with the logistics:

“Usually by the time a film gets to us, they are greenlit, funded, and ready to run.”

So, the production approaches the Film Commission and sends Katie’s team a list of key locations where they want to shoot. The Film Commission pulls from locations in their database and helps them narrow it down. They connect the production with the people who manage or own the shooting locations. The production sends a location manager or scout. The scout tours the locations. The scout circles back to Katie, and now it’s time to get into the fun stuff on the ground: the permitting, the road closures, and what needs to happen to blow things up.

So you want to have a car chase…

The first thing we do is go through traffic permitting, make sure we can close the roads. Then we bring in the fire department – for any pyrotechnics, they have to be included. The police are there for every part of it… If anything’s blowing up where you’re using prop guns or anything like that, we paper the neighborhood, we notify the neighborhood or area of town several different ways, and then put barricades up on the roads to let people know it’s coming. Everything we can to alert people this is happening so no one thinks it’s actually a chase.

So you want to shoot cannons on the edge of the Mississippi…

Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was shooting cannons off the World War II battleship we have docked in the Mississippi, so that was a fun notice to send out: ‘please expect cannon fire noise and nothing is wrong’ to the entire downtown – every business, every resident got a letter.

Things that Katie Pryor cannot do for you:

While it is an accurate representation to say the Film Commissioner’s role is eclectic and multi-faceted, she does not have the power to:

  1. Hire you as an extra.
  2. Read your script and make it a 2023 sleeper at Sundance.
  3. Introduce you to Tom Hanks.

(If you are interested in extras work, there are casting resources on the Film Commission’s “Be an Extra” page.)

The big picture: Film USA and establishing a united voice for the American film industry

Film USA

As a passionate advocate for the Louisiana film community, Katie’s workflow constantly intersects with her position as co-founder of Film USA. She saw a “big-picture” industry opportunity when she attended the 2021 Cannes Film Festival with Tony Armer, Katie’s co-founder of Film USA and the current film commissioner of Dallas, Texas after an impressive run as Film Commissioner of St. Petersburg Clearwater, Florida. Besides the embedded prestige that lives at the event, what they saw was an incredible platform for networking on a global scale. 

Every relevant filmmaking country had a pavilion that represented the allure and specific economic perks of filming within their country. In the U.S., the deficit is that we haven’t really had an established presence that globally champions the tax incentives, film commissions, and resources that exist here. Each city and region in the U.S. has been independent and disjointed from one another, making its own headways. A united network could serve as a valuable resource for every film community to pool together as one massive streamlined network: 

So it started by us (Tony Armer and Katie Pryor) going okay, next year (2022) we’re going to do an event at Cannes, (we will) host a pavilion that represents all the U.S. film commissions. We started looking at it and realized there’s really not an association that represents all U.S. film commissions. When we started reaching out to film commissioners across the country, there was a really high demand for other services and all those things that they needed. And that would be facilitated by an organization like us. So then we said, ‘Alright, well let’s do that’. 

Film USA is an actively growing non-profit 501(c)(6) with an expanding power base of members that range from the Austin Film Commission right across the country to the Upstate California Film Commission. Their signature event each year will be their pavilion at the Cannes Festival, and the network provides inroads not just for film commissions, but indie filmmakers who aren’t sure where to start: 

Let’s say today you want to film somewhere in the U.S. You’re not exactly sure where, you don’t know where you qualify for tax incentives, you’re really trying to budget everything, and you need a one-stop resource. So your options at that point are to go and seek out every single film commission’s website, and try and figure out what they’re offering, OR you can go to Film USA, because next year we’ll be launching an online database for our members.

Katie Pryor Baton Rouge Film Commission

What the job is at its core: A love of film and the process of making them

Behind the nonstop phone calls,  marketing, and logistical coordination is a job predicated on being passionate about the movies. For Katie, this passion translates to her natural disposition as yes – a hostess – but also as a teacher with encouraging words:

My advice to them and to all filmmakers is: make something. The threshold to entry now is lower, thanks to technology, than it ever has been. Before it was really hard to get your hands on a camera, really hard to get your hands on editing software, but now you’ve got movies shot on an iPhone 5 that have made it into Sundance. 

It’s pragmatic, attainable, and should resonate with any creator hesitant to take that leap forward. Not everyone wants to be the person getting midnight phone calls from an assistant director about where to find a local chiropractor for an actors’ thrown back. But whatever you want to do, go get it. Or in the wise words of a certain Baton Rouge Film Commissioner/Film USA co-founder/LSU professor:

“Nothing is gonna happen if you don’t show up.”


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Fable House is a video production company based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that specializes in production for film, video, commercials, and TV. Our team are experts in physical production, post-production, and VFX. We produce content for major brands, TV networks like Syfy and Lifetime, and provide production services to Louisiana’s never-say-die indie filmmakers.

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