Hollywood South back in action, needs skilled local film crew
BATON ROUGE – Now that the lights are back on in Hollywood South studios, the need for crew to work on set has grown.
“I love the fact that it's really busy right now. I get called a lot. I kind of do commercials, music videos and docuseries, and I'm still getting called for the feature films because they need people,” said Mason McGuire, who has been working as a gaffer on sets for almost 20 years.
For the past two weeks though, McGuire put on his teaching hat. He’s helping a group of people at Celtic Studios learn the ins and outs of making a movie. Those skills include how to properly light and power up a set and handling all of the equipment safely.
“They know how to wrap cable, run cable, set C stands... And they already know how to properly wrap stinger, which we call our extension cords. These things make them very, very valuable,” McGuire said.
The program is free. The nonprofit New Orleans Video Access Center is partnering with entertainment union Local 478 of IATSE and Louisiana Economic Development to provide the training.
"It's helping me push forward for the things I want to do in life. It's good for me. It's good for my family," said Ray Gautier, who enrolled in the program.
Gautier has worked on some movies and commercials, but wants to revamp his career.
“Even when you go on certain sets and get to see different people-and you go to other sets and see some of the same people–it’s a big family,” Gautier said.
He, along with a handful of trainees, live in Baton Rouge. That was the organizers’ goal to get more locals involved in the film industry workforce. Otherwise, productions will bring in crew from out of state.
“It’s a big deal,” McGuire said. “In about 2010, we started doing big-budget films. And they would fly in the DP, the gaffer and the key grip, and everyone beneath would be hired locally. But now we’re to the point where we can do everything from produce, to being the cinematographer and the gaffer and key grips. It’s all local.”
Moviemaking is booming again, increasing the need for skilled crew. Tons of projects were put on hold last year due to COVID-19 and are now ready to start production. Many are happy to take advantage.
"It's magic. And it's a ton of work, and you're outclassed by the equipment around you. But with the team, everyone working in unison, it all moves like a smooth machine,” said Jack John Gradney, who enrolled in the program.
The same training was recently offered in New Orleans. The program is highly sought-after. There are 165 spots available between nine different trainings, and 239 people applied. In October, another training will be held in Baton Rouge.
“Louisiana is one of the most sought-after states for film and television. We want to diversify the talent pipeline and get as many local people to work as possible. Many productions are choosing Baton Rouge to shoot their films, and we want to make sure we are getting local people trained and hired.. Participants are able to earn “days worked” towards IATSE 478 union membership, and NOVAC acts as a liaison between trainees and production opportunities,” NOVAC Executive Director India King Robins said in a statement.
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