Louisiana’s Lens Leader

Panavision’s new location is now the largest camera facility in the state.
courtesy of Panavision

When Hurricane Katrina hit, Louisiana’s fledgling film scene was far from the Hollywood South we know today, so it would have been easy, and even understandable, for Panavision — an industry leader in manufacturing, designing and renting high precision optics and camera systems —  to pull out of the state in the wake of the devastation.

Instead, the company stayed, operating out of their 12,000 square-foot building on Distributors Row in Elmwood. The global powerhouse was rewarded for their fortitude as Louisiana’s industry grew at an exponential rate for years until, of course, the next hit came last year in the form of the tax credit changes.

“We had just acquired Light Iron (a leader in digital workflow solutions) early last year before the changes were made,” said Steven Krul, marketing executive with Panavision New Orleans, who explained that the company was again faced with the question do they stay or do they go.

“Even with the uncertainty, we decided to double down and expand,” he said. “We’re a part of this place now and we’re not going anywhere.”

Proving their dedication, the company just opened its new, expanded location just a few buildings down from their old digs this past December. More than doubling their footprint, the new 30,500-square-foot building is now the largest camera facility in Louisiana.

Recently, Krul was kind enough to give me a personal tour around the new location so I could see for myself what a one-stop-shop it is.

Except it’s not really a shop, as Panavision doesn’t sell any cameras or equipment, they rent them. They also repair and store equipment.

“Our entire storage area used to be the size of this room,” he said, pointing to a large room dedicated completely to camera repairs. “Now it’s this,” he said, as we stepped into a gigantic warehouse stocked floor to ceiling. “We used to have to keep flying gear in all the time. Now it’s stocked and at the ready.”

Continuing through the ground floor, I also got a look at a lens projection room, where filmmakers can calibrate their equipment before they go out, and took a peak at a small car rigged with nine different cameras that’s being used for a film currently titled “Bad Moms,” starring Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett Smith. The project started filming in New Orleans in January and is due out this summer.

Far more than just a camera rental and repair facility, the new Panavision building is the only location in Louisiana that puts camera services and post-production under one roof. Five thousand square feet is devoted to Light Iron’s first brick-and-mortar facility in the state. The second floor includes a dailies lab and eight edit rooms, including three editing suites that looked more like nice hotel rooms — complete with goody baskets. The second floor also boasts a full kitchen and a theater designed to receive live feed from the test rooms down below.

Krul said the company works with a majority of the larger projects that film in the state. In fact, Paramount Pictures’ upcoming film, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” was the first to use the new space. Signage for the project still hung on a few of the walls.

Walking out of the facility, I have to say I felt proud. Here’s a company synonymous with the “camera” of “lights, camera, action” in Hollywood for decades, and of their 68 locations worldwide, they chose us to serve as the home of this first exciting collaborative endeavor.

“Eventually we’ll do the same thing in Atlanta,” he added.

Yes, but we were first, I thought. That’s gotta say something. 

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life and is thrilled to be covering its emersion in her newly adopted home.


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