2. Asheville, North Carolina
On the September 3, 2014 broadcast of The Late Show with David Letterman, Kristen Wiig expressed her love for the “hippie” town of Asheville, particularly the “great restaurants, Friday night drum circle, salt cave meditations,” and “concept spa” Still Point Wellness.
Terrific! But what about the work? Wiig was in Asheville this year to shoot Masterminds with Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, directed by Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared Hess. Other 2014 features include Warner Bros.-MGM feature Max and indie feature Chasing Grace, and numerous Discovery, History and Travel Channel productions.
For another perspective, talk to area native Ellen Pfirrmann, who has various location manager credits on projects like The Hunger Games, Leatherheads, A Dance for Bethany, and Homeland. “You can’t beat the atmosphere,” she said. “It’s big city funky, artistic. I grew up there. Unfortunately, to make a living you often have to branch out—but I’ve been very lucky the last few years, with North Carolina’s film incentives in place, to be able to stay home. I know Dupont State Forest, where Last of the Mohicans was shot, back and forth.”
While the North Carolina Film Office reported better-than-ever film-related expenditure across the state in 2014, celebrations were undermined somewhat by the state’s decision in August to reduce its incentive budget to a small $10 million grant program for the first half of 2015 (up to 25 percent credit with a $5 million per-project cap for features). This change is a major reason Asheville, our top town last year, has fallen from its perch this year. Still, the quirky college town is a great place to live, with a well-known culinary scene and a reputation for friendly Southern hospitality.