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

17. Dallas, Texas

“When filming in Dallas, you actually get two cities in one: Dallas and Fort Worth, and they are very different from one another,” says Liz Cardenas, producer of 2017’s acclaimed A Ghost Story and the 2018 comedy Never Goin’ Back. “You also get several unique neighborhoods and communities within and just outside of the DFW Metroplex. In my experience, both film commissions were extremely helpful with locations, as well as our various production needs, Fort Worth on Never Goin’ Back and Dallas on A Ghost Story.”

Cardenas says that Texas being a right-to-work state is also beneficial for low-budget indie moviemaking and that Dallas is a very commercial city, so there is a surplus of friendly and skilled crew members who work regularly and maintain an open mind when it comes to choosing projects even if they are low-budget. “For instance, on A Ghost Story I literally went door to door in the neighborhood and surrounding area to try to find a place we could use for ‘holding’ and sure enough, a very kind woman let us use her home,” she recalls. “I also got the wrecked car Casey Affleck’s character is in for free and a towing company took it to the set and back to the salvage yard for free when we were done.”

Augustine Frizzell, director of Never Goin’ Back, echoes Cardenas’ sentiments, particularly on the Dallas-Fort Worth nexus. “The Fort Worth and Dallas Film commissions both stepped in and worked to help us find authentic and accessible locations,” Frizzell says. “We had an embarrassment of riches with regards to the hardworking, professional crew. Given the budget level and the look I was going for, there’s no way we could’ve shot my film anywhere else.” 

Cardenas adds that going the extra mile on Never Goin’ Back meant a business allowing them to shoot at their location for free or at a discount in exchange for “letting their kid be an extra in the movie.” 

Another group to watch in Dallas is the entertainment company Cinestate, which bought horror brand Fangoria in 2018 and is building a new movie brand with a reimagining of the Puppet Master franchise, among other things. They recently wrapped on horror feature Satanic Panic, with Blumhouse alum Chelsea Stardust directing. “In terms of bang for your buck, there’s no better place to make a movie than Dallas,” says Cinestate VP Amanda Presmyk. “We’re able to stretch every dollar to make a movie that looks beyond its budget because of our home-field advantage.” She adds that having a talented crew base went a long way to achieving their mutual goal: “Satanic Panic’s budget was under a million and it’s a perfect example of what we’re building with Cinestate/Fangoria. We want to satisfy audiences who crave entertaining, boundary-pushing movies and we believe awesome movies don’t have to cost a fortune.”

Star Maia Mitchell (C) and the crew of the Spirit Award-nominated indie Never Goin’ Back film on their Dallas-bound set. Courtesy of Liz Cardenas

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13 Comments

  1. Joseph Centofanti

    July 8, 2019 at 12:01 am

    I have been acting for 10 years in independent movies. I would love to go to Albuquerque. Currently live in Tucson.

    • Richard Schoenberger

      July 11, 2019 at 4:18 pm

      Joeseph, then do it! This industry does not favor the meek, you need to get on it! There will never be a “good time” to move, you have to decide what your priorities are, pack your stuff and get in the car. A super easy (and beautiful) drive from Tucson.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

    • Gabrielle

      June 20, 2019 at 8:32 am

      Hey J, I really appreciate this because I never would have thought to look in New Mexico. I will definitely start my search. I do love California, but maybe once I actually have connections I’ll then consider moving.

      Thanks again!
      Gabrielle

  5. Peter Matthews

    January 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

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

  6. 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’.

  7. 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?

  8. 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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