Jason Waggenspack, Head of Possibilities at The Ranch, talks with WGNO Fox 8 about the film industry’s efforts to help communities most affected by Hurricane Ida. The Ranch Film Studios sent generators across Louisiana to help communities power emergency services and restore communication towers. We also setup feeding station at the University of New Orleans to feed the lineman working around the clock to restore power to the residents of the Greater New Orleans area.
Watch the video below:
Reporter: When Hurricane Ida plunged a lot of the region into darkness the Louisiana film industry stepped up to bring the light. Because of the storm, movie sets broke down and 10 large generators that would have been powering productions instead were loaned out to power some key needs in small communities. It was one of the many acts of generosity that might have gone unnoticed after the storm. We are joined this morning by Jason Waggenspack from the Louisiana Film Entertainment Association and also The Ranch Studios in Chalmette to tell us this wonderful bit of generosity. Jason, good morning to you. How big are these generators by the way?
Jason: Good morning thank you for having me. The generators are anywhere between 70 and 120 kilowatt generators, so big generators. They power almost our entire sets our entire base camps and can power large buildings if needed.
R: Because that’s the thing you know when people see remote productions you know you’re used to being off the grid. And we see a picture of one of the generators now. Movie productions are used to being off the grid. You don’t have an ac to plug into.
J: That’s correct. We’re like the military. We run into a location, we set up tents, we set up crew base camps feeding areas, we go into a house a residence or a commercial building. We film for several hours, sometimes two and three times a day, packing up moving to the next location, putting things back the way we found them before we got there and able to supply all the power and all of the necessities necessary to run a full crew.
R: So these were powering hospitals in some cases or parts of hospitals and and what were you using them for?
J: So well, let me tell you what happened. So what ended up happening is, me being a local from baton rouge and living in New Orleans almost 20 years now, I was able to basically organize all of our efforts from LFEA and say “you know what, we are a community asset here not only in St Bernard with my facility but all over the state. How can we be a better service to the community?” We were gonna be down two or three weeks and so all the generators that sat in my lot and other lots on other studios basically were going to be lay dormant. We said how can we get these out to these affected areas as soon as possible. We called Lafourche Parish, Albany, Hyman, Lutcher Thibodeaux. And we’re able to actually get in touch with a lot of folks in need to actually start servicing a lot of these things like sewage and water boards, hospitals, town halls.
R: Because as you point out, you’re a Baton Rouge native, you have been through these storms, you know how they impact communities for such a long period of time. What’s the response you got? Well first of all were people surprised to hear from the film industry? Like hey, we can help you.
J: Well of course, anybody’s surprised when, you know, when you’re in need, anything you can take is going to be obviously appreciated. And so yes we had a lot of surprise calls like absolutely it’s really fantastic you’re calling me I actually have a sewer that’s about to back up into my entire community: Albany, Louisiana. And we were literally there within an hour to be able to service them get their sewage and water back online again so they didn’t have that issue. We had hospitals down in Lutcher, Louisiana that had no power that we’re trying to obviously service all the needs of the people in that area and feed people out of the hospital. We were able to take our catering crews that, again laid dormant, take all their catering trucks move them out to UNO and start servicing all of the linemen that were out there that were ready to deploy. There were places like all the way down in Galliano who had no communications. They could not communicate with each other. We got their cell phone towers back up and running and their internet backup for running so that they could communicate with each other so far down south. So it was really a wonderful group effort. I applaud all of the studios that were willing to come on board. You had big big names like the Disney’s of the world, the Apples of the world, the Paramounts and the Warner Brothers of the world, all wanting to be able to be a community asset and to be able to help in an area that they’ve been able to be able to do a lot of filming activity.
R: Well it’s a wonderful story. I know we were talking before we went on and you thought that you might be of service sometime in the future again. Hopefully not too soon, but we we appreciate you sharing the story with us and I know those communities certainly appreciate the film industry and The Ranch Studios among them sharing your generosity.
J: Thank you very much. Like I said we are here trying to build a bigger community in Louisiana, filmmakers, and we want to obviously put our footprint here and in whatever way we can help we’re here to do it.
R: Alright Jason Waggenspack, we appreciate your time telling the story this morning. Thank you, Jason.
J: Thank you, great to see you all.