Director Li Lu: Despite Film Tax Credit Cuts, LA Still #1 For Indie Moviemaking

NEW ORLEANS – Writer/ Director Li Lu shot her new independent film “There Is a New World Somewhere” in New Orleans.

         Her coming-of-age story is about Sylvia, a misguided struggling artist in New York who’s fired from her job, flees back to her Texas hometown for a friend’s wedding, meets an enigmatic stranger, Esteban, and road trips with him through New Orleans trying to evade facing her internal demons. Lu shot the film locally, but not because she cashed in on the State’s film tax credits.

         “Our film was truly an indie,” Lu said. “We didn’t meet the minimum spend of any of the tax incentives in Louisiana. We shot here primarily because New Orleans was so important to the story. I hope that more indie films feel like they can have the opportunity to shoot here as well.”

         “This is a really tricky time,” Lu said regarding the recent $180 million cap placed on film tax credits in Louisiana, dramatically scaling back the renaissance of Hollywood South. “After spending millions of dollars in building the massive infrastructure to support film and television, i.e. soundstages, equipment houses and production resources, the erasure of these incentives has basically wiped away a huge and vital local industry in Louisiana. So many jobs are now gone, and people who have entered into various crew positions in film now have to think about relocating to Atlanta or the coasts. However, this might be the best time for local indie filmmakers to take advantage of the quiet production scene in the state. Now, equipment houses, experienced crew and locations need to start reaching out to the homegrown talent here, and help provide discounts and establish business with smaller projects, such as indie projects like our film. I hope that this can be the bright side to all of this.”

         Lu, who was born in Suzhou, China, and graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, took a formative trip to New Orleans when she was in her late teens. “It took my breath away,” she said. “Our film is a love story, and what better place to fall in love than New Orleans? Our characters are on a road trip across the Deep South, and this is their first stop before heading northwest. By having the common experience of enjoying the beauty of New Orleans together, these two characters open up and become vulnerable to each other.”

         “I wanted to make a film that captured that sense of awe and magic that I felt when discovering the city for the first time,” she said.

         Lu said the toughest part about financing a film is realizing that it’s as hard as you’d think it would be. She said you can’t lose your energy nor your optimism to keep searching for funding.

         “There is much to be said about what makes a good indie filmmaker, but the most important ingredient is drive,” she said. “We keep trying, even if it seems like an impossible task.”

         Lu found success in crowdfunding her film on Seed&Spark, a platform for independent film projects.

         “We ran two successful campaigns,” Lu said. “One for pre-production and one for post-production. The New York Foundation for the Arts was our fiscal sponsor, which enabled us to get tax-deductible donations during development. That combined with private investment made up our indie budget.”

         Lu said marketing for small independent films like “There Is a New World Somewhere” thrives solely on digital and social media marketing because they can’t afford the traditional print and elevated digital marketing the big studios use.

         “Word of mouth and whisper campaigns really make or break small films like ours, so it was important for us to really mobilize our crowdfunding audience to help us spread the word about our film right from day one of production,” she said. “We’re nearing 2,000 Facebook likes and have an active Twitter presence. It’s a full time job, but for the most part, it is the filmmaking team’s responsibility to keep it going.”

         Lu hopes those who watch her film will fall in love with New Orleans just as she did. When in town, Lu can be found at The Broad Theater in Mid-City where “There Is a New World Somewhere” was screened on Friday, July 8. “It’s an incredible art house cinema that is bringing energy back to the Mid-City area,” she said. “A former world-renowned boxing gym, the owners kept the original windows and wood beams to honor the building’s past. They have state of the art screening technologies, as well as a kitchen and full bar. I love the staff there, and am so thrilled to return to see how it will grow.”

         Lu is also a fan of the varied cinematic locations New Orleans has to offer including the live oak trees in Audubon Park, the arches of the roads around the Harvey Tunnel and out of town locales including CJ’s Antiques in Ponchatoula, LA.

         Lu said she’s also clocked in some quality time at Cochon, Mr. B’s, Jacques-Imo's and Vincent’s Italian in Metairie. Lu said the best tacos in the country can be found at The Rum House at 3128 Magazine St.

         “At this stage in life, I feel as close to our heroine as I’ll ever be,” Lu said about her movie’s lead character Sylvia. “Abundant in passion but lacking in ways to physically manifest it, this story was a way for me to try to understand myself and fight my own self-doubts. This is why I wanted to make this film, for I feel anyone who has tried to express anything abstract can relate to these fears. As filmmaker Wim Wenders said, ‘I want to make personal films, not private films.’”

         The cast of “There Is a New World Somewhere” includes Agnes Bruckner as Sylvia, Maurice Compte as Esteban, Ashley Bell as Samantha and John Robinson as Ethan.

         “There Is a New World Somewhere” will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and various Cable on Demand services on August 2, 2016.


         View the film’s theatrical dates here.



Categories: Leslie’s List