The Cajun Expats

The Movie Guy: Bill Doyle

“It’s the most un-American of American cities,” said Bill Doyle by telephone on a recent weekend.

Mr. Doyle came to New Orleans two years ago as the location manager for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a job which entailed finding sitting rooms, bars, houses and shops for the $165 million, man-child movie starring Brad Pitt, who now keeps a residence in the French Quarter.

Mr. Doyle, who is 45, had been living in Chelsea, in an apartment where “you could almost touch the walls on both sides if you spread out your arms.” For that, he paid $2,000 a month.

Now he is working on Green Lantern, the comic-book movie, starring Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, which is shooting exclusively in the parishes within New Orleans city limits. His sublet apartment in the French Quarter has a Mardi Gras–beads–encrusted, street-front balcony and a rooftop terrace, where he entertains the cast and crew.

“They’re essentially paying us to be down here,” he said with a laugh. “They” is the Louisiana government, which offers movie production companies a 30 percent tax credit, including film expenses and incidentals like renting houses and going out for meals. He estimates that it saves big-budget movie studios like Warner Bros., which is behind Green Lantern, as much as $30 million to make films there.

Even Mr. Doyle’s girlfriend is benefitting. “She’s looking for work here in films, in wardrobe, and sent out seven résumés in just the past half-hour! That’s how many movies are being made here.”

Throughout New Orleans, television shows such as HBO’s new Treme and TNT’s Delta Blues (produced by George Clooney) are currently shooting. According to the New Orleans Office of Film and Video, never before have there been so many movies and TV series being shot in the city itself.

Meanwhile, Mr. Doyle spends his early mornings cruising along the scenic old waterfront of the French Quarter, along Esplanade Wharf. He wears a U.S. Navy T-shirt to please the Harbor Police, who navigate the heavily marked, no-trespassing-signed stretch that joggers and Mr. Doyle pretend not to notice. “The celebration of food, music, living here … It’s not fake, or put on for the weekend. It’s in the people’s blood.”

The Musician: Drew Young

Drew Young watched Hurricane Katrina come ashore on television while sitting in an Irish bar in Manhattan. “It was at that moment I decided I was going to fly back the moment it was possible to go. I just felt this amazingly strong urge to be ‘home.’”

Mr. Young, 43, is a singer and recording artist in the Pete Yorn vein. As a live performer, he had come and gone from New Orleans—he once had a band there called Ruben Kinkaid, named after The Partridge Family’s manager—but had been living in Soho in a rent-stabilized apartment, and he kept finding it hard to give up. The New York native didn’t make it officially back to New Orleans until this past year, when he found a house and landed a full-time job, working for a local record company, Putumayo World Music, as its strategic marketing manager.

He recalls how when he moved into his new two-bedroom, two-story house on Uptown’s Milan Street, a doctor neighbor living across the street immediately came over and started to help him carry boxes into his new home. “I got sick in New York once, and had to go to the hospital for a few days, and when I got home, I realized I’d been living in the same apartment for years, and I didn’t know anyone in my building. As neighbors, we grunted at each other in the elevator, and stared at the ceiling when forced to interact with each other.

And what of his music career? The competition is steep, there’s no shortage of good bands,” he says, “and that can be daunting. But it just makes everyone raise the bar.”

The Cajun Expats