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Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Big Cities

Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Big Cities

Winter 2016

3. Austin, Texas

If you’ve never been to South by Southwest, do yourself a favor and buy a pass now. A week at this fest may be all it takes to convince you to move to cooler-than-cool Austin. Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater paved the way for anyone to reject the notion that living on a coast is a requirement for a serious indie moviemaker, building a solid film community with plenty of resources in the way of studios and soundstages—like Austin Studios, ATX Studios, Spiderwood Studios and Troublemaker Studios.

Actress Hannah Marks in the Austin-shot indie feature Slash, directed by Clay Liford.

Actress Hannah Marks in the Austin-shot indie feature Slash, directed by Clay Liford. Photograph by Whitney Devin

But if you’ve already been to SXSW, and need more relatable examples than Linklater and Rodriguez, then take it from two of Austin’s contemporary working filmmakers.

Malaysian-born Yen Tan, who made the 2013 Sundance-premiering feature Pit Stop, works in Austin because “the sense of community here is unparalleled. Most Austin-based filmmakers know and support each other. That remains the biggest draw to me.” What if you’re new to film, new to Austin—where to even begin? “The Austin Film Society would be the very first place one should look into,” says Tan. “They have year-round screenings that’d impress even the most hardcore film aficionados, and events that facilitate a lot of networking. Being a member of the organization is a must.”

Jason Cortlund is the co-director of features Now, Forager (2012) and La Barracuda (shooting in the spring) and has been living and working in Austin for the past 20 years since attending the University of Texas. He does express some concern that Austin’s cinematic day in the sun has a shelf life, with recent Texas legislation reducing filmmaking grants from $95 million to $32 million—one reason our multi-time Big City champ has fallen slightly this year. “I wish the state incentive programs would improve, for both out-of-towners and locals. Every time a Texas-set story is shot in Georgia or Louisiana for budgetary reasons, Eagle Pennell sheds a tear in heaven.”


Longhorns 2.0? Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Gavin Free and Burnie Burns in sci-fi comedy Lazer Team, the first feature by Austin’s own Rooster Teeth studio. Courtesy of Rooster Teeth Productions

Even as storm clouds gather around public funding for Texas productions, Austin remains weird, cool and friendly. The city has famous bars and BBQ. There are more than 300 days of sunshine, a deep pool of seasoned crew and production staff, top-notch film schools and a nigh-unparalleled line-up of film festivals and independent theaters. And hey, beyond the scrappy indies, if shows like American Crime, The Leftovers, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and Urban Cowboy keep knocking as they did in 2015, y’all can keep the industry you love alive and thriving.

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  1. Michelle says:

    Did Ant Man really employ that many “Georgians” or were many of them Californians who have moved here to work in the movies. I would be curious to know how many were actually Georgians.

    • Alice says:

      Most of the crew was LA-based. And many also moved on to Captain America and likely to Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Ditto Furious 7, which spent $15 million just on hotels for the nonresident workers.

      On another note, X-Men Apocolypse filmed in Quebec, Canada…not Georgia. And Quantico only shot the pilot in Atlanta. The series moved to Montreal.

      • Rob says:

        I don’t know where you’re getting your information from but it would be nice if you’d stop trying to sabotage our industry. As an atlanta local I can tell you that there are hundreds of locals working on these films and our union has grown by the hundreds each year that these films shoot here. Every single department has local workers in it, and we depend on these jobs to feed our families. Please stop the negative propaganda, it does nothing to help the locals that you pretend to care about.

        • Alice says:

          I am sorry if you think facts are sabotaging “your” industry. My facts about the Marvel films come from the set. The Furious 7 spending info comes from the MPAA in a press release.

          Sure, some projects have tons of locals. Some have almost 100% locals. And others have very few. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a fact.

      • Michelle says:

        So that is just my point. I object to articles like this that make it look like the movie industry employed 3500 Georgia residents. I am not impressed that millions were spent on major hotel corporations. That does not put meals on Georgia resident’s tables or pay their bills. The industry needs to be employing residents. We have a lot of talented Georgia residents who belong to the local union who are being passed over for LA crews that the production brings in. They need to hire Georgian’s first then bring out of state workers in to cover the gap.

  2. Tom Lenard says:

    I filmed this about 50 miles south of Albuquerque back in June of 1980. Crew based itself in Albuquerque. Hired a makeup person locally…His first name was Chip.. Casted Uncle Same in Georgia..rented film gear and Uncle Sam wardrobe in Atlanta and flew from there to Albuquerque. (Got caught in a major sand storm out in the no warning about such from NM Film Commission) Guess I was ahead of the curve eh…

    (Remember, at one time, it was truly thought that we were running out of oil..Oil Topping Point they called it)

    (Note: This was a reedit of the original film with a new temp track used to convey the public service message..project was not funded…Temp Track appplied was the incredible music of the incredible composer John Barry’s “Dances With Wolves” Wolf Theme..

  3. Chris says:

    Man… Shreveport snubbed again. Louisiana snubbed again. Chicago? Really? Dallas? Hardly. I’d love to see some real love for one of the nation’s biggest states for production where resources, talent, and infrastructure flourish: Louisiana. All that without mentioning the huge indigenous filmmaker incentives from the state, the world’s largest cash prize short film contest. Hundreds of short films shot here a year from all over the country. Low cost of living, downtown currently being revitalized, home of louisiana’s #1 ranked beers, right at the intersection of I-20 (connecting Dallas and Atlanta) with I-49, which will eventually be a straight shot to New Orleans. Take a look. Shreveport deserves to be on this list more than about half the places.

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