The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities

12. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“When it came time to direct my first feature, The Honeymoon Phase, there wasn’t anywhere else I could imagine shooting it,” says Philadelphia-based director Phillip G. Carroll Jr. about his indie psychological thriller that wrapped in early 2018. “One reason why I love shooting in and around Philly is local excitement for film—people hear you’re making a movie, they want to get involved,” he said, while offering kind words for the Film Office. “The local office is another asset; they’re excited for every project that comes through the city, no matter the budget. Sharon Pinkenson, Executive Director, worked very closely with us and helped us to attain a Film Tax Credit worth 25 percent of our PA-based expenses. You can push that to 30 percent if you fulfill additional [production facility and stage] requirements.” 

Tax credits in the home of the Liberty Bell are capped at $65 million, seen as insufficient by some who’d prefer it be expanded to $100 million to attract marquee films like 2018’s hit Creed II, which wasn’t considered a lock to shoot in Philly despite the city’s connection to the Rocky brand. The film ultimately received $16.7 million in credits in exchange for incurring a minimum production spend of 60 percent in Pennsylvania. Another recent studio film to shoot in Philly was M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy-capper Glass, which gained approval for just under $7 million in credits.

For The Honeymoon Phase Carroll recalled that the Film Office helped the shoot secure a drone for skyline footage as well as a police escort and permits for a crucial scene inside the One Liberty Place skyscraper. He notes that “as long as you’re not shooting on government property or blocking roads you don’t need a permit, which is huge for low-budget productions” and that indie projects can take advantage of sound stages within city limits, as well as engage with colleges like Temple and Drexel. Also, he adds that Philly is driving distance to picturesque locations: “Within two hours you can be in the Pocono Mountains or on the beaches of the Jersey Shore, and we have all four seasons beautifully represented.” 

R to L: Director Phillip G. Carroll Jr., DP Joe Staehly, co-producer Yanni Rozes, and actors Chloe Carroll, Jim Schubin, and Brenda Crawley shoot a scene from The Honeymoon Phase atop Philly’s One Liberty Place Tower. Photograph by Ben Samuels

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10 Comments

  1. BeepBop

    February 11, 2019 at 1:21 am

    So are we talking mostly production crew jobs for these cities? What about post-production? Seems like a lot of productions are still farming out the post work to post houses back in LA, including overnighting dailies back and forth via FedEx.

  2. Mike Thomas Leghorn

    January 17, 2019 at 6:31 am

    LOL Cinestate in Dallas – “Dallas has the most bang for the buck”
    However they only shoot their micro budget films in Dallas. Anything with a decent budget goes out of state to an incentive based area.

  3. j

    January 16, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    This is for Bruce…

    If you’re new or just entering this industry LA and NY are the last places you want to go… that is unless you want to either a) edit for a porn house or b) work at a red Lobster to survive while to wait your turn to get in behind a million others wanting to do the same thing. As for Altanta- good luck with that. How ya gonna network with people? It’s so sprawled out your chances of running into another industry person at a restaurant, bar or other social atmosphere is right up there with being struck by lightning. As for Texas, it’s not a film hub state. Ontario you say? Well, might as well be in Atlanta. Not only is New Mexico a thriving production hub, it’s a MAJOR incentive state, so much so Netflix outright purchased Albuquerque Studios just a few months ago. Aside from that few major studio executives want to travel to Atlanta. On the other hand Santa Fe is a luxury city, just 1.5 hr flight from LA, and major studio executives make excuses to visit and that leads me to networking. Santa Fe while being posh it really quaint. Literally every time I’ve visited, stayed at a hotel, visited a bar, or just grabbed a coffee I’ve met someone in the industry. Next, less competition… in New Mexico there is high demand for crew and not always enough crew available, making it easier for someone to break in. For those of us that have a strong personal network it doesn’t matter where you live because your network keeps you gainfully employed. So starve in LA and NY with a high cost of living, or start working, networking and learning in a place like New Mexico?

  4. Peter Matthews

    January 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Very interesting. Did you only consider the Americas in this survey?

  5. Frank Casanova

    January 16, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Outside of the top 10 or 11 noted here, the rest are generally considered “locations”, not production centers. A city must have significant production infrastructure to be a production center. Most don’t have that. Moreover, the “deals” will still be made in Los Angeles and New York. Carnahan is just wishin’ and hopin’.

  6. Alex C.

    January 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Absolutely stunned that this compilation left out Cleveland, Ohio–where many comic book block busters have been made in recent years. Cleveland has a wonderful, hard-working Film Commission, and a significant tax credit. Plus there is a great talent base there, the people are friendly, and cost of living is relatively low. What more can you ask for?

  7. Bruce

    January 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Meh. If you want to work as a filmmaker – meaning getting paid for your work, and working consistently – you’re still better off in Los Angeles or New York. Or Atlanta, which has done great work in positioning itself as a hub where production professionals can work steadily.

    This is not to say that the other cities on the list don’t have thriving film scenes (as an ex Austinite with many friends in the Austin and San Antonio film communities, I am well aware that much talent and passion exists all over the country), but unless you want to make your income primarily from, say, car dealership commercials, you’re better off in ATL, NYC or LA.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with doing car dealership commercials, btw! The tone of the article suggests that we’re primarily talking about feature film and TV work, though)

    • Jon

      January 17, 2019 at 1:59 am

      .Arrogant ass. Our crews are THE BEST and would kick ass over any orher city’s production team(s). What an idiot.

      • ANTI-SNARK

        January 17, 2019 at 11:58 am

        Jon, you come off just as arrogant! Our crews are very good but many have left NM for NYC. Your war cry makes us look bad. Back off and let our work do the talking!

      • Lamont

        January 17, 2019 at 1:34 pm

        Jon, seems like you’re the arrogant ass. Bruce was only being truthful about the best production cities. At the end of the day, there’s plenty of talented crews in the states mentioned. What have you done that’s “so called” better than other crews? Grow up. The TX tax incentives suck and there’s really not any productions going on in the state. Only Robert Rodriguez movies, who is an awesome filmmaker. How about you move to where the action really is and prove yourself??? You’re immature ego is ridiculous.

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