NCIS: New Orleans on location near the city's St. Louis Cathedral
New Orleans has always been a mecca for tourists. But it's become a production mecca, too. Consider that in 2020 the city hosted $475 million in television and film production. That number jumped to $974 million in 2021, despite the lingering pandemic.
"It's been extraordinary," says Carroll Morton, the director of Film New Orleans, noting that television — specifically, episodic shows and limited series — "has really driven the expansion."
Series in preproduction or shooting last spring include: the CW Supernatural prequel, The Winchesters; Amazon Freevee's Leverage: Redemption; Prime Video's Daisy Jones & The Six and I'm a Virgo; AMC's The Driver, Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire and Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches; and the final season of OWN's Queen Sugar. Projects shot last year or wrapped earlier this year include: the Queer As Folk reboot and Craig Robinson's Killing It, both for Peacock; NBC's The Thing About Pam; and the Disney Channel's superhero-themed Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion.
So, what is it about New Orleans that producers find so appealing? "They absolutely fall in love with the look of the city, the feel, the culture, the relaxed nature, and how kind, tolerant and fun people are here," says Morton, whose job it is to attract and enable production.
While some productions, like the new Queer As Folk and Interview with the Vampire, are set in The Big Easy, other projects filming there are not, but they can shoot there because of the architectural diversity — from the stately mansions of the Garden District to the colorful shotgun houses found in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods. "We can really double for a European city, a South American city, New York City or a street in any historic part of the world," Morton says.
Ninety-five percent of the crewmembers working on shows in New Orleans are locals, and the city can currently crew as many as eighteen productions, Morton says.
On the new Queer As Folk, "Almost all of our crew is local," says Stephen Dunn, the show's creator-writer-executive producer and director of the pilot. "And I can't speak highly enough of the level of craftsmanship that has gone into this project. I've been blown away by the work from our art department, special effects, camera team, hair and makeup, wardrobe, etcetera."
But how worried should producers be about hurricanes and possible flooding? Last August, Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion was among the productions that paused filming as Hurricane Ida approached. Thankfully, Morton says, everyone was able to get back up and running quickly because New Orleans has a state-of-the art levee system. "The federal government invested $1.3 billion into rebuilding the levee system in New Orleans" after 2005's Hurricane Katrina, she says, "and our levees continue to hold."
A version of this article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #4, 2022, under the title, "Easy Does It."