Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Big Cities

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2. New York, New York

Make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. Is that still true, Frank? Because there are 8.5 million people all trying to make it there, and if you’re in the business of film, you have some steep competition. Luckily, New York continues to present a veritable cascade of opportunities in TV and film with 256 films and 46 primetime episodic, digital and mini-series projects shot in the 2014-15 season (up from the year before).

Of course, rent is high, apartments are small, and the overall cost of living can make the daily grind seem almost impossible to maintain long-term. Where do New Yorkers find the strength to wait for another subway train, hail another taxi, stand in line at Duane Reade, or fight for a table at Sushi Nakazawa? After the collective spells of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Spike Lee and Lena Dunham lure you into the city’s boroughs, what keeps you going?

Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan stars New York favorites Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke. Courtesy of TIFF

Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan stars New York favorites Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke. Courtesy of TIFF

Mandy Ward, co-founder of the five-day festival First Time Fest, says her New York-survival mantra is “Don’t show your weaknesses or insecurities, and live with passion.” She explains: “Success in New York depends on you. I’ve been in the city for 13 years and have found a way to work in the industry as a locations manager, producer and film festival owner—and also pay my rent. With a great city comes sacrifice, but you can always figure it out.”

Craig Shilowich, writer and producer of Christine (in competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival), has been making movies in New York for 15 years and counting. He has collected some refreshing evidence against the city’s reputation for being too costly. “People have a misconception that shooting in New York City is more expensive than shooting elsewhere. I find it’s the opposite—that if you want to pull something off on the cheap, New York tends to be one of the better places to do it.” He credits the state’s stable and generous tax credit, ease of securing permits, and tight-knit, skilled crew pool for that.

Antonio Campos' Christine, premiering at Sundance, was shot in part in New York City. Photograph by Joe Anderson

Antonio Campos’ Christine, premiering at Sundance, was shot in part in New York City. Photograph by Joe Anderson

New York’s 300 square miles of city streets, parks and architecture have provided the backdrop for hundreds of films—such as, in 2015, Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, the star-studded rom-com How to Be Single, Zach Braff’s Going in Style … you know, the usual roster. Perhaps the biggest star to emerge in recent years, though, is the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, with its “Made in NY” program assisting productions with permits, police, marketing and other pieces of the logistical puzzle of shooting.

So you still wanna wake up in the city that never sleeps? Then here’s your survival guide: Reach out to potential collaborators in students and faculty at Columbia and NYU, the School of Visual Arts, The New School and New York Film Academy. Volunteer at a film festival, like Tribeca, New York Film Festival, New Fest, DOC NYC, Big Apple Film Festival and so on. Feed your cinematic soul at the IFC Center, Angelika, Film Forum, Landmark Sunshine, BAM Rose, Village East and The Ziegfeld. There are even brand new art house cinemas planned for this year. So go see theater, walk the High Line, picnic in Central Park, snap opinionated selfies by the Trump Tower and tell yourself, “I can make it here!”

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8 Comments

  1. Chris

    January 21, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Man… Shreveport snubbed again. Louisiana snubbed again. Chicago? Really? Dallas? Hardly. I’d love to see some real love for one of the nation’s biggest states for production where resources, talent, and infrastructure flourish: Louisiana. All that without mentioning the huge indigenous filmmaker incentives from the state, the world’s largest cash prize short film contest. Hundreds of short films shot here a year from all over the country. Low cost of living, downtown currently being revitalized, home of louisiana’s #1 ranked beers, right at the intersection of I-20 (connecting Dallas and Atlanta) with I-49, which will eventually be a straight shot to New Orleans. Take a look. Shreveport deserves to be on this list more than about half the places.

  2. Tom Lenard

    January 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I filmed this about 50 miles south of Albuquerque back in June of 1980. Crew based itself in Albuquerque. Hired a makeup person locally…His first name was Chip.. Casted Uncle Same in Georgia..rented film gear and Uncle Sam wardrobe in Atlanta and flew from there to Albuquerque. (Got caught in a major sand storm out in the desert..got no warning about such from NM Film Commission) Guess I was ahead of the curve eh…

    (Remember, at one time, it was truly thought that we were running out of oil..Oil Topping Point they called it)

    (Note: This was a reedit of the original film with a new temp track used to convey the public service message..project was not funded…Temp Track appplied was the incredible music of the incredible composer John Barry’s “Dances With Wolves” Wolf Theme..

    • Tom Lenard

      January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      Done…..

      Meant to write “Uncle Sam”

  3. Michelle

    January 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Did Ant Man really employ that many “Georgians” or were many of them Californians who have moved here to work in the movies. I would be curious to know how many were actually Georgians.

    • Alice

      January 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Most of the crew was LA-based. And many also moved on to Captain America and likely to Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Ditto Furious 7, which spent $15 million just on hotels for the nonresident workers.

      On another note, X-Men Apocolypse filmed in Quebec, Canada…not Georgia. And Quantico only shot the pilot in Atlanta. The series moved to Montreal.

      • Rob

        January 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

        I don’t know where you’re getting your information from but it would be nice if you’d stop trying to sabotage our industry. As an atlanta local I can tell you that there are hundreds of locals working on these films and our union has grown by the hundreds each year that these films shoot here. Every single department has local workers in it, and we depend on these jobs to feed our families. Please stop the negative propaganda, it does nothing to help the locals that you pretend to care about.

        • Alice

          January 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm

          I am sorry if you think facts are sabotaging “your” industry. My facts about the Marvel films come from the set. The Furious 7 spending info comes from the MPAA in a press release.

          Sure, some projects have tons of locals. Some have almost 100% locals. And others have very few. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a fact.

      • Michelle

        January 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

        So that is just my point. I object to articles like this that make it look like the movie industry employed 3500 Georgia residents. I am not impressed that millions were spent on major hotel corporations. That does not put meals on Georgia resident’s tables or pay their bills. The industry needs to be employing residents. We have a lot of talented Georgia residents who belong to the local union who are being passed over for LA crews that the production brings in. They need to hire Georgian’s first then bring out of state workers in to cover the gap.