Destination 2016: New Orleans

In the summer of 2013, NCIS writer Gary Glasberg was researching story ideas for the upcoming season of the hit CBS procedural drama when he came upon the real-life Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Office in New Orleans. Managed for 25 years by essentially one man—a “larger-than-life, eccentric,fantastic guy,” Glasberg notes—the New Orleans NCIS stirred Glasberg’s imagination, and he planned a two-part episode set in the city. When he pitched the idea to his producers, they realized that the setting could be an entire spin-off series. “New Orleans provides a wonderful backdrop of heart, soul, music, fun, food, celebration and history—not to mention amazing people,” says Glasberg, now creator and executive producer of NCIS: New Orleans.
Civic Leadership
A generous incentive program has lured significant TV and film production to the Big Easy.
Cultural Life
From Mardi Gras to Jazz Fest and countless other live music events, New Orleans is a cultural destination.
Access to capital and renewed confidence make this city a good environment for startups.
Glasberg is hardly the only writer-producer attracted to the city. From 2012 to 2015, New Orleans hosted 60 productions, with feature films such as Django Unchained, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Jurassic World and The Big Short, and TV series including Scream Queens, and two seasons of American Horror Story all shot on its streets and sound-stages. Driven by New Orleans, Louisiana earned the nickname “Hollywood South”—and surpassed California and all of Canada in the number of films produced during that period, according to the Los Angeles film office, FilmLA.

Film and TV producers like New Orleans for more than its ambience; they are enticed by a generous incentive program for the entertainment industry launched by the Louisiana Economic Development agency in 2002, a time when the city needed help. Long before Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans was in decline. “For more than 30 years, we hadn’t been moving forward,”says Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, a business development nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship in the city. “We were coasting on our railroad and shipping past, and drawing upon our two biggest resources—the energy industry and our unique culture—but not sustaining what we had or growing.” Crime, corruption and a broken education system were also contributing to a “lack of confidence and community drive,” remembers Tim Williamson, a native New Orleanian and cofounder of the IdeaVillage, a local business incubator that hosts the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. “The city didn’t feel open to new ideas or people, and was losing its best local talent.”

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