Mississippi film industry sees steady growth - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi film industry sees steady growth

A dozen productions called Mississippi home in 2015; five of those on the coast. (Photo source: WLOX News) A dozen productions called Mississippi home in 2015; five of those on the coast. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Officials say the biggest challenge is workforce training and infrastructure. (Photo source: WLOX News) Officials say the biggest challenge is workforce training and infrastructure. (Photo source: WLOX News)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

According to State Film Commissioner Ward Emling, the film industry is on a steady incline.

A dozen productions called Mississippi home in 2015, and with five of those on the coast, Emling thinks production is only going to become more frequent.

"We feel like we're in a really good spot right now," said Emling.

Although neighboring states Louisiana and Georgia receive a great deal of film work, Emling says Mississippi is starting to compete.

The biggest challenge is workforce training and infrastructure, but Emling says even smaller budget productions will help put the state on the industry's map.

"We need that vocational piece," said Emling. "That's a week here, or five weeks, of intensive training to get people kind of into the flow of a film and get them aware of the vocabulary of a film and the equipment of a film and then we throw those people out into the world."

Emling hopes more productions will start relying on Mississippi to host work.

"Those build capacity, they build workforce, they force infrastructure development," said Emling.

Sherry Queen with Sleep Inn and Suites in Gulfport is passionate about bringing films to the coast, and says the Inn housed many producers who came to the coast for the Sun and Sand Film Festival.

"When you take our beaches, our water, our casinos, we're a state that has everything to offer and there's no reason why people shouldn't come here and make their movies," said Queen.

Maureen Powell, with the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, says she thinks Mississippi has a fighting chance to bring more productions to the state.

"There are so many good things happening, and the incentives really help and I think it's really getting our name out there," said Powell.

Incentives include multiple rebates of up to 25 percent for production work in the state, and Hollywood is noticing.

"The word got out. People know now that south Mississippi, particularly the Gulf Coast area has so many opportunities and so many locations," said Bill Webb with the state's only satellite film office, which represents the Gulf Coast.

One thing that Emling noted in his presentation was the fact that a new internet infrastructure would be a game changer for the state. Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich is working to establish a fiber internet connection throughout the coast.

According to Webb, doing so would set the coast apart in a big way in the film world.

"I mean it's going to rise all boats. We have to have it if we're going to compete globally, whether it be film industry or economic development or whatever," said Webb.

With more than 20 diverse communities on the coast and two sound stages that are ready for productions to come, Webb is confident that they will.

"The future looks really bright and I'm excited about what's going to happen in 2016," said Webb.

According to Webb, there are several projects possibly coming to the coast soon. One is a reality tv show that's been scouting areas in Jackson County. It could begin production after the first of the year.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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