It’s home to the busiest airport in the world, but there are lots of reasons to not just pass through. Atlanta, last year’s top Big City, maintains its immense popularity for moviemakers—especially with blockbuster talent. The studio productions that rolled through in 2016 include The Fate of the Furious, Office Christmas Party, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and Hidden Figures, as well as series like The Walking Dead, Star and, of course, Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed new series Atlanta.
You can’t argue with that extremely attractive Georgian tax incentive: a transferable 30 percent with a minimum $500,000 local spend. The nearby Pinewood Studios are also a draw, accommodating full-service production and post-production, including soundstages and offices. Other studios include Tyler Perry Studios, Atlanta Metro Studios, and the brand new Third Rail Studios, offering soundstages and a backlot nearby the Antique Row District.
For early-career moviemakers, the breadth of high-profile productions in the city means that a wealth of below-the-line jobs are open. In fact, you might have heard that Atlanta has more movies than crew these days. That’s a rumor Shanna Worsham, a set decoration buyer (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Logan Lucky and currently MacGyver-ing decorations for the TV show of the same name), is a little wary of: “There are a ton of people in the industry in Atlanta, so the rumor that Atlanta is desperate for people isn’t always well-received.” Worsham’s career has certainly grown since moving from L.A. to the less-saturated Atlanta market, though. (She enjoys scouring the city for sets “because there aren’t as many prop houses. It gives you a sense of community to deal with vendors who are grateful for your business.”)
With a cost of living hovering around the country’s average, this is the cheapest option of our top five Big Cities, with plenty of affordable quality housing options. Atlanta is diverse, young and energetic, a city with a rich cultural history. It was, after all, one of the wellsprings of the civil rights movement, and you can visit Martin Luther King Jr’s birthplace. Or pay a visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, or hike the BeltLine, a former rail line that has been repurposed into a 22-mile trail. Oh, and the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, the Varsity, is located in downtown Atlanta and somehow sells the equivalent of two miles of hot dogs daily. That could feed a pretty large crew!