Friend and local filmmaker Jonathan Isaac Jackson is currently working on a short documentary about the history and culture of the Mardi Gras Indians, a subject that has been done often enough, but perhaps not from the edgy angle we should expect from Jackson. In teasing us on his progress, Jackson posted some footage on social media and, in a follow-up tweet, lamented the state of indie filmmaking for both people of color and homegrown storytellers:
Appreciate that, Casey. I'm still awaiting the "I'm ready to produce ya" email.
— Jonathan Isaac Jackson (@jonisaacjackson) November 30, 2019
Well over a decade ago saw the theatrical release of the late Tony Scott’s Denzel Washington time travel vehicle and city set Deja Vu. Production came to town in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, bringing big names and big business right when the economy needed a boost and neighbors needed work. I recall a press conference where the filmmakers and stars stated the importance of shooting in the region and how the emotional response from citizens weighed heavily on their efforts.
Plenty of arguments over tax credits later, and at the cusp of a new year/decade, what is the independent film scene like in Hollywood South?
Through trial and error, some advocacy and promotional groups have come and gone, moving the needle ever so slightly in the direction of stronger regional film culture. Think of the siblings behind the shuttered (now underground) Indywood venue, or the maker collective Timecode: NOLA, who attempted a few festivals before going quietly into that muggy night. Incubators like these, on the surface it would seem, reach the inevitable end of an uphill battle eventually. The moviegoing crowd is here, but the support for small yet passionate groups could be better.
While NOVAC trains and our Film Society screens and presents – both to great success and with much heart – there are ever-widening cracks in the community that some have and will fall through, forcing out of town many a potential NOLA auteur. The much-needed investment that the tax credits are supposed to help bring to our indie krewe just hasn’t been enough (perhaps even absent).
In my Amazon VOD collection is a film written by Chris Poche called Flakes. Shot and set in the French Quarter in the mid-2000s, the movie has a youthful but very local glow. I had good friends assist in that production. This year, Poche’s latest released after a festival run. The True Don Quixote was a delight and a pleasure to view. The time between Poche’s two movies has been quite turbulent for Independent Hollywood South, seeing opportunities arise and dwindle on near repeat.
And yet, there is persistence.
Laundry Day had a DIY bar and dive screening tour. Burning Cane won big awards and is being distributed by Array. Local theaters frequently screen eclectic programming from those who’ve stayed in the area. Grassroots festivals and events pop up on both sides of the lake throughout the year.
Somehow, we find a way, despite and in spite of lacking resources. I lent an old VHS camera to a local shoot some time ago, based solely on a facebook request. There are meetups every month for creatives of all sorts, to encourage one another and inspire forward movement.
That saving grace of a producer Deus ex machina is what everyone wants for their career. Instead, we’ll just have to rely on each other.
I feel as though this has been said before. Deja Vu.