Video recorded and edited by Chad Graham

Road blocks, wrecked and smoking cars, and army soldiers were all part of yet another riveting movie scene in downtown Baton Rouge this past week.  In addition, the streets were lined with an array of filming paraphernalia as the cast of “Arachnoquake” played out a science-fiction plot about a devastating earthquake that releases deadly albino spiders.

Starring in a comedic role as a tour guide, actor Brandon “Bug” Hall, former Alfalfa in the 1994 “Little Rascals” film and leading actor in “American Pie Presents: The Book of Love,” describes Arachnoquake, scheduled to be released in June, as mostly comedy.

“It’s got its serious moments and its action moments, but we’re definitely not missing the moments for comedy,” Hall said.

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Arachnoquake co-stars, Lucky Johnson and Brandon "Bug" Hall, former Alfalfa in the 1994 film "Little Rascals"

Co-star Lucky Johnson explained that intermingling humor into an intense story plot about disaster “breaks the monotony of you being so serious and so scared throughout the film.”

Standing in the middle of the blocked-off Third Street, Hall and Johnson talked about how much they were enjoying working together. In fact, they claim that after completing Arachnoquake, they’re hoping to team up in an all-out comedy production. After proudly making this announcement, Johnson threw his arm around Hall in a buddy-grip, laughed and said, “And we know it’s gonna happen because it’s already on Twitter.”

Johnson’s most recent productions include “Da Block Party” and HBO’s “Treme.” In theaters January 13, Johnson will join a star-studded cast in a major motion picture titled “Contraband.”

Arachnoquake’s cast includes other well-known actors, but Director Griff Furst says that those names cannot yet be released to the public.

Why film downtown?

Between shoots, passersby could see a friendly and approachable Hall stretched out on the sidewalk in front Roux House, sitting with his parents on a bench outside of Happy’s Irish Pub, or occasionally strolling through the new Town Square.

“I thought I was in New York or something,”  Hall said in compliment of the metropolitan look the new Square bring to the downtown area.  He added that the people of Baton Rouge have treated the actors very well and that area officials and business owners have been very cooperative.

Furst, who is also an actor in the upcoming movie “Battleship,” said producers chose to film in the downtown Baton Rouge area because of ample parking spaces available for the large amount of vehicles and equipment needed in the film.  In addition, Third Street looks similar to the story’s New Orleans setting.

Donna Reichman, Interim Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Film Commission, recently told NBC33 that “We can double and stretch downtown Baton Rouge to make it look like different cities around the country, even Europe, and even different time periods. I think that, along with the fact that this is a very supportive town, is what’s attracting a lot of attention.”

With the filming of popular productions such as the TV series “Break Out Kings,” the presence of movie sets and acting crews in downtown Baton Rouge has actually become the norm.

At one point this past year, as many as three sets were stationed downtown at the same time. According to the Baton Rouge Film Commission, next year as many as seven productions are on scheduled to be simultaneously filming in the same area.

Louisiana Filming Industry is #1

With a flagship tax incentive program, Louisiana’s motion picture industry defies national trends by offering higher wages and production numbers, according to Louisiana’s 2011 Fiscal and Economic Analysis.  Here are some interesting facts about this growing industry:

1.  Louisiana tax credits return up to production companies 35% of allowed in-state expenses for labor and materials/services.

2. In 2012 over 200 productions are schedule to be filmed in Louisiana.

3. P3 Update Magazine, a Hollywood-based magazine, ranked Louisiana the number one state in which to film based on the following aspects.

  • crew base
  • talent pool
  • infrastructure
  • accessibility
  • significant production revenue
  • overall popularity among filmmakers
  • tax incentives