Motion picture sound stage coming to Clarksdale, MS? 8 advantages for Mississippi, Hollywood and Clarksdale…
by Coop Cooper
Hot on the heels of the news that the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame will install a new museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Mayor Bill Luckett has announced plans to erect a possible motion picture sound stage here in town. While there are currently two other sound stages in the state, one in Canton and the other in Biloxi (with another possibly underway on the coast), this would be the first facility of its kind in the northern region of the state. A sound stage would essentially be a warehouse-sized, open-spaced facility for building motion picture sets and contains all of the equipment, amenities and operational support needed for large productions. Here are eight potential advantages to having a movie sound stage in Clarksdale:
1. Proximity to Memphis International Airport – Memphis International is a convenient airport with non-stop flights to and from Los Angeles and a quick drive from Clarksdale. This might also provide a boost to the Tunica and Clarksdale airports. Rides to and from these airports might also expand the transportation industry for the town.
2. Greatly raises the duration of a production filming on location around town – According to MS Film Commission Director Ward Emling, Clarksdale’s main advantage to attract large productions is the downtown area which has a unique ‘Southern vintage’ look. Having a sound stage to build sets will make Clarksdale more versatile. What cannot be found on location can be replicated nearby on the soundstage. Productions would feel more encouraged to stay in Clarksdale, film more around town and use it as their base of operations.
3. Boost to the local economy – Due to the majority of “The Help” filming in Greenwood, the town benefitted from the millions of dollars pumped into local business. While Clarksdale enjoyed a fraction of that money from the same production, a sound stage will naturally attract more large productions like “The Help” to the area as well as hotels and supporting businesses.
4. Benefits the state – As there are already sound stages in the southern and central regions of the state, having a sound stage in Clarksdale will open up the northern part of the state to productions. The Mississippi Film Office could more easily recommend Clarksdale to large productions. The boost will encourage state lawmakers to increase benefits for filmmakers shooting in the state and this would encourage even more productions as it did for Louisiana when lawmakers there used a similar strategy after Katrina. It could also service Southaven, Oxford, Greenwood and other nearby towns which host frequent Hollywood productions.
5. Encourages tourism – While Clarksdale is already currently experiencing beneficial increases in publicity and blues music tourism, bringing in big-budget feature films can increase tourism even further. Tourists will stay longer and spend more to see where some of their favorite movies were filmed. This has proven true in Greenwood with “The Help” and people still take tours at the Burrus House Hollywood Plantation in Benoit where “Baby Doll” was filmed in 1956.
6. Support local talent – Clarksdale is already home to many talented musicians (blues or otherwise), artists, photographers and even a few local filmmakers. A sound stage in town will compel incoming productions to find local art, local music and other locally produced artistic goods and services to use in the films.
7. Jobs – Building a sound stage will create some jobs in regards to building, managing and providing security for the facility, but it will also hire local skilled labor for the actual productions. In addition to a 25% base rebate for filming in Mississippi, productions receive the largest payroll rebates when they hire in-state crew and talent (30% as opposed to 25% for out-of-state workers). This includes everything from catering and construction to camera crews and actors. They also get a bonus 5% rebate for hiring military veterans. This creates the potential to hire many locals for these productions.
8. A building already exists – The former Delta Wire building in the industrial park is being considered for the location of the proposed sound stage. The 80,000 square-foot building is larger than the other two MS sound stages and has an additional two 4,000 outlying buildings and awnings to shelter parked trucks. That is over twice as large as the other sound stages in the state.
This is an ambitious undertaking, but if the other sound stages continue to book up, the demand for such a sound stage in this area of the state could be substantial.