HOLDEN, La. (AP) — It's taken decades, but an actor best known for his role on "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV series is finally doing what he always thought was his calling: producing films.
John Schneider, best known for his role as Bo Duke on the show, opened John Schneider Studios in the southeast Louisiana town of Holden — between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — two years ago and is celebrating the recent release of his horror-comedy "Smothered," which was shot there.
But it's taken years for him to reach this point and Mother Nature nearly wrecked his dream when massive flooding earlier this year covered all 58 acres and left thousands of homes in the area under water.
"It was awful, not being there," he said. "I was helpless to do anything about it."
Schneider said he's considered himself a filmmaker since the age of 12 but knew even earlier that he wanted to be in the industry.
"I was the kid with the Super 8 and splicing tape in Mount Kisco, New York," he said. "I believe that when you get in touch with your design, you know it. You know when you're young, but then adults try to talk you out of going after your dreams."
Now 56, Schneider said he can recall going to theatres to see movies and knew deep within himself that he was in the "wrong seat."
"I would say, 'I should be there, not here,'" he said.
Schneider pursued acting and has a successful career in that field. He also had opportunities to scratch his itch for writing and directing through episodes of "The Dukes of Hazzard," which ran from 1979 to 1985. In the 1980s, he also made his mark in country music, scoring a string of No. 1 songs along the way, while also producing other artists.
"But I was still telling other people's stories," he said. "That 8-year-old inside me was still tugging on me and did so for decades — until now."
John Schneider Studios, located on 58 acres that includes a swamp and bamboo forest nestled against the Tickfaw River, is his way of tapping into that inner struggle, he said.
"This is a haven for independent filmmakers," Schneider said of his studio. "You can stay here, bring your script here, film your movie here and swim in the pool while it's being edited. If you're a storytelling person then you'll like this space. It's a place where you can dream and fulfill those dreams at the same time."
Schneider said he recognized the value of having a studio when he started working with Tyler Perry on his TV show, "The Haves and Have Nots" and saw how his facility operated.
So he bought the gated property that once housed Camp Singing Waters in the 1940s and 50s and once was owned by James McCarroll, an early settler of the area. There are two homes on the property: his mother lives in one and the other — each side painted a different color to give the illusion of entrances to different homes — is the center of the studio's operation. It includes a screening room and an area for sound mixing and editing.
There's also a swimming pool, a baseball field covered in sand from the flooding, sound stages and other buildings that can be used as sets or backdrops. In addition, the studio offers help with setting up corporations or taking advantage of the tax credits the state has to offer.
After mid-March flooding, Schneider and a group of volunteers helped clean up the place, vacuuming dirt, silt sand and water out of the property. They also helped save pictures, including some of him and country legend Johnny Cash, tables, editing equipment and other items from water damage.
So far, seven films have been shot at the studio since he took over the property, including three Schneider wrote and directed.
"There's no limit to what you can shoot here, other than a high-rise and we can go into Baton Rouge for that," Schneider said. "It has everything you could want from Louisiana in this one spot."
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