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

16. San Diego, California

Do you feel the need for speed? San Diego is back in the headlines, particularly its Miramar Marine base, once the location of the Navy’s TOPGUN training program. With Tom Cruise being spotted in San Diego through the fall as Top Gun: Maverick got underway, who could blame even local film officials for being excited? “It was very exciting to welcome Paramount back to San Diego for the sequel,” San Diego Film Liaison Brandy Shimabukuro tells MovieMaker. “Given what an icon the original is and its San Diego roots, it felt like a homecoming. Oftentimes, productions of this size are measured solely by economic impact—and with good reason—since a cast and crew of about 250 lived and worked in San Diego for nearly six weeks, but the reality is that hosting major productions like this isn’t just an economic boon, it helps bolster civic pride. We look forward to seeing our hometown on the silver screen in June 2020.”

Fighter jets or no, San Diego appears to be making strides to reassert itself as a player in the film production arena after budget cuts in 2013 went unaddressed for a couple of years. In 2015 mayor Kevin Faulconer hired a filming program manager, streamlined permitting and established online directories of local crew, but the building blocks of a deeply staffed and resourced Film Office are still falling into place. In July it was reported that a dormant 180,000 square-foot recycling facility in the city’s San Elijo Hills—45 minutes closer to L.A. than downtown—could be converted into a production facility, but what is needed is more coordination with local producers and local subsidies. A consultancy tasked by the site owners is reaching out to the city council.

Faulconer tells us that the official reestablishment of the Film Office in 2015 wasn’t just a statement to say they were open for business: “It was a message to the world that while San Diego may be the industry’s best-kept secret, it won’t be for long.” He also cites some of the cultural qualities that SD has to offer, from its history of promoting film, photography, and other arts to its binational location. “It’s a dynamic environment for anyone looking to tell their story,” he says.

Courtesy of San Diego Regional Film Commission

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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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