The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2017

Big Cities: (Tie) 1. Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver: Hollywood’s dirty little secret, or a moviemaking paradise? The city has doubled for so many American metropolises on screen—like, in 2016, Jason Reitman’s Tully; Wonder, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay; Bong Joon-ho’s Okja; the upcoming Power Rangers movie and dozens upon dozens of series—that it’s sometimes easy to forget its own sizeable charm. So what’s all the buzz “aboot?”

The obvious first answer is that production is, simply, cheaper: British Columbia offers a Production Services Tax Credit for international projects with a base refundable 28 percent credit (down from 33 percent before October 2016), with possibilities for an additional 6 percent depending on region, and a 16 percent Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) credit. For local BC productions, it’s even better: a base refundable credit of 35 percent, up to 12.5 percent regional credit, plus a 30 percent film training credit. There are no caps and no sunset date on these programs.

Vancouver has a tight-knit community of moviemakers (genre ones especially), and a huge slew of production and post facilities and local innovators—including Aircover Inflatables, which won a 2016 Technical Achievement Academy Award for their Airwall, a blow-up green screen. With 16 schools offering filmmaking programs, from Centre for Digital Media and University of British Columbia to Vancouver Film School and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, talented crew is easy to come by.

“People are extremely generous with their willingness to work on your low-budget project,” says Victoria Angell, writer and director of the horror short “Summoned,” currently making the festival rounds. “I’ve managed to get away with having a lot of volunteers that I can pay back with food, credit and other things.”

The festival culture in BC is rich, with the Vancouver International Film Festival (now in its 35th year) hosting the widest array of East Asian films outside of that region, the Whistler Film Festival at a nearby mountain resort town, and the long-running Vancouver Jewish, Asian and Queer Film Festivals all in their third decade of existence. Since 1999, the Crazy8s Film Society has held an eight-day filmmaking challenge to fund and support short moviemaking; the 7-year-old MPPIA Short Film Award also helps short films get off the ground. Indeed, Angell believes that “there are definitely funds available from more public sources here than in most places in the States.”

Grant Gustin and Keiynan Lonsdale in The CW’s series The Flash, shot in Vancouver. Photograph by Katie Yu / Courtesy of the CW and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Located in a non-tropical rainforest, Vancouver can be rainy, sure, but the climate makes for a lot of lush, otherworldly spaces, like the gorgeously dense, 1,001-acre Stanley Park. Fresh seafood abounds across town, as does particularly excellent Chinese food. And yes, downtown rent can be pricey—but once you earn your Canadian citizenship, free healthcare will offset some of the cost, right?

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13 Comments

  1. Larry Anderson

    January 26, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Excuse me but Cleveland Ohio is no where near a small City where do you guys get this misinformation from Greater Cleveland covers 5 counties while the heart of Greater Cleveland which is Cuyahoga County in which Cleveland city proper is the county seat covers roughly 457 SQ Miles and thats not even including the Lake Erie Shoreline

  2. w picket

    January 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Savannah is great, until you get a gun put to your head walking down the street by someone who wants the $20 you might have in your wallet. If you’re lucky enough to avoid that, you still have to deal with the drugged up homeless population that harass tourists on every block. I don’t see the movie industry staying long once another area promises the same tax incentives.

  3. angelo misterioso

    January 22, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Yes, Santa Fe IS wonderful.
    But saguaros? They don’t exist here.
    Otherwise, nice artwork.

  4. Ron Merk

    January 21, 2017 at 8:02 am

    I live and work in San Francisco as a filmmaker, film distributor and film preservationist. I was very surprised not to see San Francisco on the list of best places to live and work as a filmmaker in your 2017 survey. There are many filmmakers working here, thousands of them, and some of the best support from organizations, film festivals, and the City of SF. Add to that San Francisco, itself, is one of the most beautiful natural “backlots” in which to film, with great dining and entertainment, and it just doesn’t make sense that San Francisco did not make the list. We are a gigantic tech capital, too. Dolby’s new building is just one block from where I live, and I can literally see into the offices of Twitter from my apartment. It was very disappointing not to see our city on your list.

  5. Kese

    January 20, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    When clicking on the Albuquerque link it takes me to Memphis, TN instead…

  6. AustinCleveland

    January 20, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Cleveland/Pittsburgh are both bigger than Austin… Hmm…

  7. Don O'Keefe

    January 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    So, Pittsburgh is in the small cities and towns category and Albuquerque is in Big cities? Using the city proper population is a strange choice indeed… Don’t you realize that the political structures of city limits bias lists like this to west coast or sunbelt (newer) cities? Don’t you also realize that the same political structures have no effect on economic opportunities for filmmakers? Or do filmmakers usually just refuse to shoot anything if they have to cross a county line? Get real.

  8. Liam Wilmoth

    January 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    As always, a great compilation of places to be as a moviemaker. Nice to see some international coverage as well, like Toronto. As a former resident, I’ve known a handful of people who have had great experiences directing and on the set of films in the area. And all the best people come out of Canada, ey?

    Cheers from Ontario,
    Liam

  9. Alex Michaels

    January 19, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    I am so happy to see my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio here. When I started my company Prelude2Cinema, people always told me I couldn’t be a real filmmaker unless I moved to Hollywood. I am so glad that ideal is finally changing and you can make movies anywhere even in Cleveland.
    Alex Michaels

  10. Casey Moore

    January 19, 2017 at 8:32 am

    New Orleans has some great vendors who will work with indie filmmakers. We also have a lot of crew who have worked both the studio films and the low budget indie films (I am one of the people).

    Also, the credits didn’t take a blow. We simply have a cap now. The credits are still there, and smaller films can get their credits as well.

    We are also getting better with places to see movies.

  11. Dan Stoddart

    January 18, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Also, as the feature “The Mountain Between Us” discovered, the east Kootenay’s area is also a great spot with an international airport (Cranbrook) and endless camera friendly locations. Not to mention a few knowledgeable locals who can create great scenery!

  12. K Matsuoka

    January 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    A robust incentive providing solid work opportunites, a strong commitment by the local community in developing the next generation, a state funded creative development program pairing young filmmakers with Hollywood professionals, and an internationally recognized film festival alone should qualify Honolulu for the list, add the beaches, year round tropical climate, and the availability of diverse locations and population (see ‘Lost’ and ‘Hawaii Five-0’) and the Aloha State should easily be a contender for the top 10.

    • Marty Lindsey

      January 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Agreed! I’d love to shoot a film in Hawaii. Denver didn’t make the list because our incentive package is shite. However, there were 3 films from Colorado at Sundance this year.