10. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is consistently ranked in the top 10 cheapest cities in the country. Considering Memphis’ culture and history, what bang for your buck! And not just music and BBQ; we’re talking film history too: Homegrown regional theater chain Malco Theatres, which offers self-distribution deals for indies, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015. At Malco’s Summer Drive-In, the only remaining drive-in theatre in the region, Jimmy Tashie, Mike McCarthy and Matt Martin, co-owners of the hip independent video store Black Lodge Video, hold the Time Warp series of classic and genre screenings.
Memphis was repped on the 2015 international circuit by the award-winning drama Free in Deed, set in the city’s storefront churches. Writer-director Jake Mahaffy was persuaded to move the project to Memphis in 2014 after original plans to shoot in Detroit, and the film ended up involving many from the small, tight-knit local indie scene.
Tennessee offers no tax credit incentives at the moment, but it offers 25 percent cash back to qualified productions for in-state expenditures. There’s life in this city yet: In spring 2015 a small contingent of Memphis and Shelby County legislators and local power brokers, coordinated by powerhouse film commissioner Linn Sitler secured $4 million in state film incentives for Memphis and Shelby Country-specific projects. That’s a pretty good start.
On the Cusp
More than 500 projects were shot in Dallas in 2015, with more shows, both scripted and unscripted, on the books for 2016. The city continues to grow, with 8.8 million people and an unemployment rate of only 4.1 percent… and there’s no personal or corporate income tax. Gadi Elkon, entertainment editor of the Selig Film News, brags about his “amazing city,” highlighting everything from the renowned Nasher Sculpture Center to production facilities at Mercury Studios. Dallas is a city on the rise.
Its substantial film culture is what we love most about Portland, with an impressive 17 independent cinemas (including possibly the most vibrant in the country, The Hollywood Theatre), 14 festivals, and indie bigwigs such as Gus van Sant and Todd Haynes calling the city home. Production facilities and tax incentives are solid, but need to improve to offset Portland’s rising cost of living and land the city back in our top 10. Nevertheless, productions like NBC’s Grimm and, TNT’s The Librarians, and, of course, IFC’s Portlandia boost the profile of this misty creative mecca. MM
This article appears in MovieMaker’s Winter 2016 issue. Illustrations by Jon Boam. Featured image from Chicago-shot The Headhunter’s Calling.
Click here for our Best Small Cities and Towns 2016 list. Read last year’s lists here: Big Cities, Small Cities and Towns. Is there a place you think should be in the running for 2017? Tell us where and why in the comments.
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