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Panelist Bio

Mark Smith
Legislative / Congressional Liaison

Mark Smith brings over 10 years of public sector expertise to the Department of Economic Development. Mark previously held the positions of General Counsel, Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the former Office of Film and Video for the department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. In addition to his extensive work within the Department of Economic Development, Mark has also served as General Counsel for Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu.

As Director of the state film office and later as the Entertainment Industry Director, Mark's vision was to treat the emerging entertainment industry as just that -a business with tremendous growth potential. In practice, Mark considers himself more like an entrepreneur than a public employee.

Since 1997, Mark has changed the direction of the film office in order to pay greater attention to the *business* side of the film industry. Mark based this strategic change on the following:
  • Building strong relationships with key decision-makers in the entertainment industry (i.e., studio executives, producers)
  • An economic impact study of the film and television industry in Louisiana
  • A comprehensive film industry assessment report;
  • Global competition for the U.S. film industry (i.e., runaway productions)
  • Professional governmental experience as a public official (Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary, CRT)
  • Professional background as an attorney working in both the private and public sectors (general counsel, CRT and no n-profit entities)

Louisiana has experienced an unprecedented increase in production activity since the inception of the Motion Picture Incentive Act of 2002. Some of the films that have been enticed by the incentive program include: Ray (formerly titled Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story), Disney's Mr. 3000 starring Bernie Mac, Fox's Because of Winn Dixie, Skeleton Key featuring Kate Hudson, A Love Song for Bobby Long with John Travolta, and Disney's Glory Road.

Not only has there been an increase in feature productions, but several movies of the week have chosen Louisiana because of its incentive program. These tele-films include Infidelity (Lifetime), Stuck in the Suburbs and Pop Rocks (Disney TV), and a Growing Pains Reunion, as well as two television pilots, Nikki & Nora (UPN) and Dean Koontzs Frankenstein (USA Networks). Other television projects filming in Louisiana in 2004 include Brooke Ellison, Dead Will Tell and Miracle Run and Thief.

The following activities have occurred or are in the process of occurring during Mark's tenure in Louisiana Economic Development :
  • In the 2005 Legislative Session, worked with lawmakers to enhance the film incentive, with an infrastructure credit added, as well as passed new legislation offering tax credits for sound recording & digital media.
  • In the 2004 Extraordinary Legislative Session, successfully worked with lawmakers on making investor tax credit a permanent credit
  • Served as a panelist at the Global Film Finance Conference at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival
  • In the 2003 Legislative Session, successfully worked with lawmakers on making investor tax credits transferable, restructuring the Film Office, and adding new staff positions.
  • In the 2002 Extraordinary Legislative Session, worked on the introduction and passage of the new Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Act.
  • Hosted a 2001 Film Summit on "How to Finance Your Independent Film."
  • Hosted a 2001 Film and Video Production Strategic Task Force Meeting.
  • Conducted a direct mail campaign to film and video industry decision-makers New York and Los Angeles) using a CD-ROM. This CD-ROM approach also enabled a direct link to our website.
  • Conducted a film commission industry assessment survey.
  • Completed the final upgrade and redesign of our website (http://www.lafilm.org), which resulted in the web site being awarded 2nd Place in the 2003 Best of the Web Awards for Governmental Agencies.
  • Reformatting the annual hardcopy production guide to an online version.
  • "Supporting the expansion of the annual New Orleans Film Festival.
  • Reestablishing Louisiana's annual screenwriting competition.
  • Assisted with the development of a transaction structure for use by non Louisiana-based film and video production companies enabling them to take advantage of a state tax credit incentive (i.e., Investor and Labor Tax Credits).
  • Developed and maintain strong collaborative relationships and partnerships with universities statewide, in-state and out-of-state film industry decision-makers (e.g., NEW REGENCY, MIRAMAX, 20th CENTURY FOX, CRUSADER ENTERTAINMENT, HSI PRODUCTIONS, RKO PICTURES, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, DISNEY CHANNEL and the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY), law firms, and banking institutions.
  • Facilitated the structure for LEDC to collaborate with Hibernia Bank on providing partial financing (i.e., loan guarantees) for independently produced films that have distribution in place.
  • Collaborated with Senator Paulette Irons, the New Orleans Media Access Center and the Greater New Orleans Urban League to provide a 7-week film and television training program for a select number of low income female participants.
  • Facilitated the development of a Community/Technical College curricula dealing with or related to the film and video industry.
  • Facilitated the upgrade and enhancement of the Robert E. Nims Center for Entertainment Arts and Multi-Media Technology.

As Entertainment Director, Mark spearheaded the drive to incentivize other areas of the entertainment industry, specifically sound recording and digital media. Through his tireless efforts, there are now programs in effect in Louisiana to further enhance the state's position in the entertainment industry.

Current Topic

     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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