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On Location — 'Battle: Los Angeles' takes the Bayou by storm

In the upcoming movie, “Battle: Los Angeles,” L.A. represents the last stand for humankind in a fight against invading aliens. The action-packed film, however, was mostly shot in the other L.A. — Louisiana.

Having Baton Rouge and Shreveport stand in for Santa Monica and L.A. might seem as preposterous as aliens attacking the city.

But several factors drew filmmakers to the Bayou State, chief among them a generous film tax credit.

“Obviously, the tax incentives were huge,’’ said Jonathan Liebesman, who directed the $75-million-budgeted film from Columbia Picures, which shot 13 weeks in Louisiana in late 2009 and received a tax credit of nearly $15 million. The movie, which stars Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, debuts in theaters March 11.

Louisiana offers a film tax credit of up to 35% of production costs, whereas California’s program Louisiana provides a maximum credit of 25% and excludes movies with budgets above $75 million. Louisiana officials also offered something L.A. officials couldn’t: shutting down a freeway overpass for 30 days to stage a massive explosion and gun battles.

“The kind of movie we were making, we really needed to be able to shoot in locations that would have been impossible to shoot in L.A.," said producer Neal Moritz. “I could never have shut down the 405 or the 10 [freeways] for weeks like we did with in Louisiana.”

“Battle: Los Angeles” is the latest and perhaps the most embarrassing example of how L.A. has been losing feature production to more than 40 states that offer more attractive film tax credits and rebates. While on-location filming activity in L.A. County climbed 8% last year, it was down 62% from its peak in 1996, according to FilmL.A. Inc.

Louisiana was one of the first to adopt aggressive film tax credits in 2002 and remains the busiest hub for production outside of L.A. and New York. Last year, about 100 commercials, TV shows and movies spent $674 million in the state, including the Peter Berg-directed film “Battleship” and the sequel “Twilight: Breaking Dawn.” That was up from 70 projects and spending of $361million in 2009. Beyond attracting films, the state has also built up its own industry, with 15 soundstages and enough workers to handle 10 film crews at once.

“We’re in a fortunate situation because we’re one of the oldest and most stable tax credit programs in the state, and we have a really diverse landscape,’’ said Chris Stelly, who heads the state film office.

“Battle: Los Angeles” was among the largest features to be shot in the state. With a crew of about 200 people and 3,000 extras, the film contributed about $46.5 million in spending to the state, Stelly said.

Except for the movie’s opening sequences at Camp Pendleton and the alien beach attack in Santa  Monica, 90% of the film was shot in Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport in the northwest part of the state. Several large sets, including a replica of a Santa Monica apartment complex, were built in Baton Rouge. The Capitol building was used to convey City Hall in downtown L.A., and the historic neighborhood known as Spanish Town doubled for Santa Monica and Venice.

Using green-screen technology and CG effects, scenes filmed on the ground in Louisiana were combined with digital aerial photos of the Southland to create the illusion that all of the action was taking place in L.A. The crew also inserted palm trees in locations that needed to look more like Southern California.

“We felt we could conceal a lot of locations and get away with it," said Liebesman.


Hollywood Backlot is behind the scenes on "Battle: Los Angeles"

‘Battle: Los Angeles’: Did we fire the first shot in an alien invasion?

Read more On Location news

—Richard Verrier 

 Photo: A scene from Columbia Pictures' upcoming release, "Battle: Los Angeles," which was mostly filmed in Louisiana. Credit: Richard Cartwright / Sony Pictures


Comments () | Archives (16)

Talk about adding insult to injury.

LA wasn't LA enough.

LA is Louisiana, per the US Post Office.

L.A. is Los Angeles, just saying.

The problem is that LA is, too LA. ...As in, it's in California, which offers some of the least attractive tax incentive programs in the country coupled with the general cost to do business here.

Well, it's hard to compete against an area of the country that remains as devastated as post-Cold War Poland.

Louisiana is THE PELICAN STATE, not The Bayou State.

Another L.A. is "Lower Alabama".

I was really looking forward to seeing this picture, but reading that most of it was shot out of state, I think I'm going to pass. I appreciate that movie-making is a business and that keeping costs in line is part of doing that business, but this film is about Los Angeles and it was shot in Louisiana. I feel as if I'm being scammed a bit and I don't like that feeling. It's asking me to take my "willful suspension of disbelief" a little too far.

Why do our governments (states & localities) compete with each other for business by giving away (or foregoing) taxes?

A constitutional amendment to preclude this practice would benefit all. Businesses would locate based on REAL economics and not bribes paid in exchange for later (or current) "considerations" from politicians.

It is so wrong to ask working people to pay taxes to get some questionable business investment based on the benefit calculations of a politician or bureaucrats beholden to him.

It's the same racket as the "stadium" and "sports team" con occurring currently in Los Angeles.

“Battle: Los Angeles” is the latest and perhaps the most embarrassing example of how L.A. has been losing feature production to more than 40 states that offer more attractive film tax credits and rebates. While on-location filming activity in L.A. County climbed 8% last year, it was down 62% from its peak in 1996, according to FilmL.A. Inc."

How is this embarrassing to LA? Many big budget films are made here. Spider-man and Transformers are two that come to mind. CSI: Miami is filmed here and many other productions that represent other areas of the nation. Battle LA needed some things that LA could not accommodate. The freeway scene was one. We have too many people that travel in LA compare to Louisiana.

Film L.A. Inc, probably did not take into consideration that movie studios are making less films.

Another video game disguised as a Hollywood film-- and not even shot where it takes place!! Thanks, Hollywood Studios, for showing your complete lack of creativity and utter contempt for anything resembling good cinema. We're all waiting for the disappointing reviews and sluggish Box Office grosses... But, not to worry, the 14 year-olds will love it...!!

who cares where the filming was, so its not really in LA, most of your movies/tv shows never even film in the location they say it takes place. to say you wont see a movie bc they did not film it in the location its said to take place is just dumb. by that logic you should never see a movie that takes place in space, bc hell they didn't film it in space so i am getting ripped off right....

Baton Rouge and Shreveport are not damaged at all; New Orleans took the brunt of Katrina, but it's been rebuilt in many areas. Yes, there are some neighborhoods that are still distressed, but the majority of New Orleans is open for movie business. Witness the fairly recent building of the new studios used by "Green Lantern" not to mention the recent films starring Bruce Willis, Mark Wahlberg and semi-resident Brad Pitt all in town or coming to town to film. Between the food, music, culture, friendly folks and yeah, awesome tax credits, who would not want to come here?

I agree with the comments posted; but why does the picture for the article show a girl when this is an Aaron Eckhart movie?

This movie is huge, both in epic scale and for the growth and recovery of New Orleans and the state as a whole. Can't wait.

Man the only reason I wanted to see this movie was for the locations so I could be like "ah man there's my office!" or whatever. I guess I'm not going now. Also as los angeles' "embarrassing" loss of movie filming, like the man said, we can't shut down freeways. Some times it doesn't make sense. Also, we offer 25% tax credit, that's pretty huge already. At a certain point doesn't it stop making financial sense to keep subsidizing films? the whole return-on-investment?

I agree with Not In LA, Paleta Fresca, Top Gallant amd it seems most of the people below.


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