A fund to bolster Baton Rouge’s film industry is in the works

Baton Rouge film professionals and LSU alumni are planning a film fund through the university that aims to inject sustainability into an industry that critics have long said is dominated by out-of-state ownership.

LSU alumni Patrick Mulhearn, executive director of Celtic Studios, and Sam Claitor, co-owner of the local film company Fable House, hatched the idea, which they say is in the early stages.

Tentatively called the “Purple and Gold Film Fund,” the fund would invest in local film productions that could train LSU students in the film process. Profits from any films made with fund investments would go back to the LSU Foundation, making the foundation essentially an executive producer.

“Louisiana is absolutely fantastic at facilitating productions,” Mulhearn says. “We have the crew, we have the infrastructure, we have the equipment, have the know how. … The valid criticism is, in the end, we don’t own it.”

Mulhearn and Claitor are laying the groundwork for the fund and will soon seek investors for it. With a film fund, Mulhearn’s hope is to augment Baton Rouge’s film industry and bring ownership home. In addition, the fund would invest in an LSU film school to develop more local talent. The aim is to eventually have a film school at LSU that rivals the top schools in the country.

Claitor, 26, has seen the state’s industry ebb and flow with the tides of the tax credit program and the general health of the industry. He’s one of a few Louisiana residents left in the Producer’s Guild of America, and says meetings with film professionals throughout the country are increasingly happening in places like Georgia and Los Angeles.

“I live here and I’d love to be working more in my home city and home state,” he says. “The mission of the fund is to have Louisiana and LSU ties and to benefit the image of the state and the entertainment industry.”

The Legislature in 2015 capped the tax credit for filmmakers, and last year the industry took a dive. Film spending was down 93% in Baton Rouge and 65% statewide in 2016 from the year before, but industry leaders say they remain optimistic about 2017.

The first film idea for the Purple and Gold Film Fund is the story of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, the iconic LSU point guard. It is hoped the movie will do for LSU what Rudy did for Notre Dame, using the film as a vehicle to advance school’s image, Mulhearn says.

There are two competing scripts floating around, he says, adding that he has received some strong interest. Mulhearn and Claitor don’t have a set timeline for the fund. Claitor says it will be up and running this year if all goes well while Mulhearn says he wants the ball rolling by this summer.

The standard structure for a film is half of the profits go to the creators, half goes to the producers, Claitor says. The Purple and Gold Film Fund would own part of the producer’s share.

Certain films that become classics can make enduring profits—residuals—for decades after their premiers, Claitor adds. “Only the top-level guys make residuals off films,” he says. “It’s time we make some residuals here in Louisiana.”

Beverly Brooks Thompson, an LSU alumna and president of Brooks Thompson Consulting, says the idea would not be much different from any other fund at LSU, but would simply focus on filmmaking.

“How cool would it be if people were making money off tax credits and depositing into an LSU fund?” Thompson says. “All the spokes of the wheel are there—like everything else, it just takes money.”

Mulhearn and Claitor have set up an email address at info@purpleandgoldfilmfund.com for anyone seeking information about the fund.

—Sam Karlin

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