Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2014, Big Cities: #5 Seattle
by Mark Sells

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.


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!


Top 10 Big Cities

#5. Seattle

The Space Needle, Starbucks, Soundgarden – things that immediately come to mind when you think of Seattle. Not to mention some of the most popular movies from the ’80s and ’90s, like An Officer and a Gentleman, Say Anything, 10 Things I Hate About You, Singles, and of course, the unforgettable romantic charmer, Sleepless in Seattle, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Recent films include The ArchitectLaggies and Lucky Them.


Today, moviemaking in Seattle is stronger than ever with over 390 projects currently permitted. One of the fastest growing and wettest cities in the US, it is commonly referred to as the “Emerald City” for its overabundant greenery and lush forests. Sitting comfortably between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle is a seaport, sprawled across seven hills, from Capitol to Beacon Hill. A “city of neighborhoods,” it is a welcoming, inspiring, and open minded community that fosters both independent, edgy music and collaborative, creative moviemaking as evidenced by the supporting, Seattle Office of Film + Music.

There is a great arts vibe in Seattle,” says writer/director/producer, Douglas Horn (Full Disclosure). “The film community here crosses over fluidly into music, theater, visual arts, digital, and gaming in a way that is beautifully inclusive. Washington is arguably the most progressive state in the nation and I think this is reflected in an openness to artistic experimentation as well. Plus, I think the Seattle film community still feels it has something to prove after so long in the shadows of LA and Vancouver. So there are a lot of scrappy filmmakers here who have the experience to make great work but the ingenuity to get projects done at today’s smaller budgets.”


“There are no short sentences in my enthusiasm for Seattle,” says actor/director, Tom Skerritt (Redwood Highway). “To live in Seattle is to be surrounded by creative input everywhere. And it may be the most beautiful and creatively vibrant region in the country. Seattle is one of the most literal cities in North America, it has a film festival focused on a world of good storytelling in visual arts, creating the most sophisticated film audience in the country, and has more would be filmmakers shooting than anywhere else.”

Those would-be moviemakers attend schools entirely devoted to filmmaking like the Seattle Film Institute and The Film School. There are over 30 film festivals like Seattle International and Seattle True Independent and the Seattle Cinerama is one of only three movie theaters in the world that is still showing three-panel Cinerama films.


The state of Washington offers a 30% cash back film incentive for every dollar spent locally, plus sales-and-use tax exemptions on rental equipment, vehicles used in production, and 30 consecutive days of lodging. On top of that, the Office of Film + Music provides permits for use of all city-owned property for just $25 per project (up to 14 days) for low-budget film productions and parking passes for location scouting—a winning combination that helps keep more green in your moviemaking pocket.

eden (1)

Writer/director, Megan Griffiths (Eden) concurs. “Seattle is a phenomenal community filled with passionate, hard-working crew, dedicated actors, helpful vendors and an infrastructure that supports both local and visiting filmmakers with equal enthusiasm. Pair that with the killer 30% cash back incentive and the ridiculously beautiful scenery, and I don’t know if you could find a better place to shoot a film.” MM

For more information about filming in Seattle visit the Seattle Film Office.

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


10) San Francisco

9) Memphis

8) Portland

7) Philadelphia 

6) Boston 

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One Response to “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2014, Big Cities: #5 Seattle
by Mark Sells

  1. Sam Longoria

    I was born in Seattle, and remember it fondly. That photo of the CINERAMA Theatre takes my breath away! That’s where I saw “2001,” and got started in my filmmaking.

    I have an office in Seattle Chinatown, working on a project, and am having a blast re-connecting with the scenery and the energy. It is a good place to work, especially if you do Animation, and are inside, out of the rain!

    Tacoma and Everett are good places to shoot movies, too. I’ve spoken about filmmaking, in both those cities, and people there are enthusiastic and committed.

    Thank you, _Movie Maker Magazine_, for correctly calling it “Three PANEL” CINERAMA, and for the nice article about my favorite theatre, and the city of my birth.

    Best to you,

    Sam Longoria
    Hollywood CA USA

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