Making Movie Magic In Acadiana
08/21/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Locals’ Resumes Get The Star TreatmentBy Lisa Hanchey
Christmas decorations downtown in July? Witches and sharks invading swamps? It’s not your imagination – movies are being shot right here in South Louisiana. And, because of the booming film industry, the local job market is on the upswing.
For the past few years, locals from throughout Acadiana have been working on the movie scene. One of these is makeup artist Annie Bonaventure, a Lafayette native who attended Cathedral Carmel and Saint Thomas More. During her senior year of high school, a friend’s sister told Bonaventure about cosmetology training. “I thought doing hair and makeup could be a fun job to have while attending college,” she shares. But, never did she imagine she’d be doing it for movie stars.
Her first job in show business was as an assistant on “Cold Moon” a film shot in the New Orleans/Slidell area three years ago. Last year, Annie and her boyfriend, Gabe, attended the premier in California. “It was a fun experience,” she recalls.
After the State of Louisiana changed the Motion Picture Production Tax Credit (film companies shooting outside of New Orleans earn an extra five percent), more companies began locating to Lafayette. Bonaventure seized the opportunity to work in her hometown. Since then, she has worked on independent short films such as “Lost Bayou,” written by locals Hunter Burk and Nick Lavin, and “Freedom,” penned by Carrie Simon.
This year, Bonaventure has worked on two movies with Curmudgeon Films, which launched a studio in Lafayette at the beginning of 2018. Recently, she did makeup for the movie “Dream Shark,” airing later this year on the SyFy network. “I’m really excited about that,” she says. She just wrapped on a yet unnamed production for Curmudgeon to be announced later this fall, and is slated for another movie on the Lifetime Network.
After 14 years as a makeup artist, she’s enjoying her new gig in the film industry, and plans to do more movies in the future. “You definitely get the movie itch,” she reveals. “Once you start working in film it’s hard to stop. I’ve made some really great connections and friendships.”
Bonaventure is especially happy that the movie biz has come to Lafayette. “It honestly made me extremely proud that our city can offer different job opportunities to our locals,” she says. “Not to mention it’s also nice to be able to get off after a fulfilling day on set and sleep in your own bed! It allowed me to discover places in my hometown that I had never explored before.”
Episcopal School of Acadian graduate Savannah DesOrmeaux, who is now a working actress living in New York, is excited about the opportunities to film in Lafayette. She became interested in the craft while in high school. “I think my initial awe from seeing and performing plays in school was how theatre as an art form is able to take a one dimensional page and make it into a three-dimensional moving living thing,” she recalls. “That’s magic to me. As I think is the case for a lot of children, TV and movies are a form of escapism into a whole other world and that was really cool to me – the going through a wardrobe and ‘finding Narnia’ aspect of it.”
At age 13, the bold preteen sent a letter to a New Orleans agency to get in on the action herself. By college, her career choice was obvious. “When it came time to choose what I would study in college, it was a no brainer for me at that point,” she says. “It was already where I had put so much of my effort for most of my adolescence.”
So, the brave 18-year-old aspiring actress packed her bags in 2011 and moved from the hot and slow-paced life in Louisiana to the frigid and fiercely competitive lifestyle in New York. “I went to live on the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], die of hypothermia and drink exclusively iced coffee,” she shares with a laugh.
As a New York actress, DesOrmeaux performed a lot of Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “As You Like It”) and, occasionally, a new play. Among her favorite experiences – doing a children’s musical written by Lisa Loeb. “I got to meet her before knowing of her full goddess icon level,” she gushes. Currently, she is primarily performing stand-up comedy in NYC.
On-screen, DesOrmeaux has acted in several short films, and Louisiana-shot television series including “American Horror Story” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” Currently, she has her own projects in mind. “I’ve got some stuff in the works right now to create my own stuff in the coming year,” she teases.
Recently, she landed a key role in her first feature film –shot right here in Acadiana. She’s excited to have the opportunity to work locally. “It’s, of course, very special,” she says. “I love working as a local hire in a place that’s so intrigued by having film production happening. In New York, people will just walk through an active set because they need to get to work on time. They just cannot be bothered. Lafayette locals are very interested in hearing about productions happening right under their nose. It means a lot to be a part of a once again rising industry for Louisiana.”
In fact, Louisiana is so special that at least one out-of-towner has decided to relocate – permanently. The hospitality was so overwhelming that I wanted to bring my whole family out,” reveals Cincinnati native Donald “Hollywood” Finley. A true Renaissance man – actor, wardrobe designer and caterer – the multi-talented Hollywood moved his mother, sister Michelle, niece Jayama, and six-year-old grand-nephew DIonnetae to the area.
Hollywood started his career in Louisiana three years ago when he worked as costume designer for the Lifetime movie “Family of Lies,” which was filmed in New Orleans. Next came a movie with Cumudgeon Films, “Trailer Park Shark,” where he was a star as well as costume designer. That followed with Lifetime’s “Bad Stepmom” and “My Mother’s Murderer.” He also served as producer and assistant costume designer on a new film for TV One network starring rapper Shad Moss (aka “Bow Wow”), a Lafayette-based story shot in Gonzales.
Earlier this year, Hollywood worked as a costume designer on his first film in Lafayette – “Dreamwitch” – and fell in love with the city. The “hometown feeling” was what sold him. “The hospitality, the energy of a big city in a small pond,” he explains. “The food, from around the world, with a Southern influence – Greek, Indian – that’s what I really love.”
While working in Louisiana, he catered on the sets of two movies. His favorite “Cajun” items to cook are shrimp and gumbo. “I have taken my northern-Greek-southern influence and given it a Cajun flair,” he says.
Hollywood also just wrapped on two movies – one for Curmudgeon and the other – “The Christmas Contract” – for Lifetime. He also has more Acadiana-based projects in the works. “I enjoy being a part of the Lafayette community,” he shares.