Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2014, Big Cities: #9. Memphis
by Mark Sells

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It’s MovieMaker’s 2014 edition of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker! We’re counting down through our Top 10 Big Cities, Top 5 Small Cities, and Top 5 Towns—releasing one location a day for the entire month of January. The full list, published in MovieMaker‘s Winter 2014 issue, will be available on newsstands January 28.

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Unlike previous years where locations were pitted against each other in a single pool, this year we separated the list into three distinct categories: Big Cities (pop. 500,000 and up), Small Cities (pop. 100,000 to 500,000), and Towns (pop. 100,000 and under). After months of research, interviews, and mathematical formulas, we boiled the rankings down to the essential elements. All locations were rated according to six criteria: Film Production in 2013 (shooting days, number of productions, dollars generated), Film Community and Culture (film schools, festivals, independent theaters, film organizations), Access to Equipment and Facilities, Tax Incentives, Cost of Living, and a General category that included lifestyle, weather, and transportation. Did your place of choice make the list? If not, maybe you should choose again if you’re serious about rooting yourself in a location that’s conducive to your career and life goals – or drop us a comment proposing a place we overlooked this year!

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TOP 10 BIG CITIES

#9. Memphis

According to local director Morgan Jon Fox, “Memphis is a town where soul seeps through the cracks in the concretes and overgrown parking lots. It’s a place where dreams emanate in heat waves that rise up from the banks of the mighty Mississippi River.” Potent stuff. Memphis has ranked on this list on three separate occasions thanks to one of the coolest film festivals around (Indie Memphis), and a 25 percent cash refund from the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission, with free office space on Beale Street, free locations, and discounted police rates or free use of available on-duty personnel thrown in. Memphis director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) cited the city’s low cost of living. “You’re not killing yourself to make rent. When I made my first movie, The Poor & Hungry, I was shelving books at Barnes & Noble and living with three people in a house with a monthly note of $700. That’s the Memphis way to do it—making it work without a lot of money.”

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Memphis has all the amenities of a big city with rural landscapes and small towns just minutes away. Plus, the best barbecue in the land. There’s Graceland, Sun Studio, the seven-mile Shelby Farms Greenline Trail, vintage trolleys, and amazing record stores like Goner and Shangri-La Records. And the South Main Historic District downtown has retained much of its period charm, making it one of the most popular filmmaking locations in Memphis, used in such films as The Firm, Walk the Line, and 21 Grams to name a few. One of the biggest factors in this year’s ranking was the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission’s new partnership with financial experts at SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), to provide financial guidance to independent Memphis based films, inclusive of crowdfunding efforts. Also, regional theater chain, Malco Theatres, Inc. offers local moviemakers a run at their theaters throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

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“We may not be like Atlanta or Shreveport, with multimillion dollar productions filming year around,” said Brewer, “but we have at least a dozen local premieres ever year. Everyone here supports each other, especially businesses willing to give locations and services for little to nothing for first time filmmakers.” “There’s no place like it in the world,” said Fox. “It’s an honest place that has no shame in its flaws. Memphis knows what it is: magical, beautiful.” MM

For more information on Memphis, visit the Memphis and Shelby County Film/TV Commission at filmmemphis.org.

Check back every day for the rest of January to see what other places made the list! Previous rankings:

BIG CITIES

10) San Francisco

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