7. Seattle, Washington
Rainy, brainy Seattle is making a comeback this year after slipping off our list in 2015. With nearly 3,000 local crew hires in 2015 and 2,000 local talent hires, more features and TV series are moving through the coffee capital of the world: like Syfy’s Z Nation, a unit on Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, and the long-awaited reboot of Twin Peaks.
Washington State’s financial incentive offers 30 percent cash back on local expenditure (up to 35 percent for some TV), with additional sales tax exemptions on assets like equipment rentals and housing. Seattle’s moviemaking community is directing grassroots efforts toward raising the $3.5 million statewide cap on film spends, as well.
Amazon and Microsoft (which the local moviemakers lovingly name “Seattle’s Artist Support System”) provide opportunities for short-form commercial and corporate work that can keep a moviemaker afloat between feature projects. They’re also interested in exploring VR, immersive storytelling and other forms of new media.
Seattle-based director and cinematographer Ben Kasulke observes that the tech boom has “opened a lot more doors to potential storytellers who are not specifically feature-film driven. There are more opportunities to be a director in a non-traditional sense.” The state’s film commission, Washington Filmworks, offers special incentives for new media through their Innovation Lab, and events like the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival showcase the intersection of tech and storytelling.
Something else we love? Female moviemakers find a more level playing field in Seattle. “It’s a very female-driven industry up there,” Seattle stalwart Lynn Shelton said at L.A.’s Film Independent Forum in October 2015. “Producers and directors who are women make up at least half of the force.”
If the great outdoors and legal recreational marijuana are your jam—and you don’t mind a relatively high cost of living—Seattle is the place to be.