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

Big Cities

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Big things have been afoot for the home of Los Pollos Hermanos since Gus Fring went to that big chicken restaurant in the sky. Albuquerque has gone from an attractive boutique city on the production map to a marquee player, attracting over 50 major productions in the last three years. It’s also recently played host to the highly-anticipated Nicole Kidman drama The Goldfinch (which was expected to hire 173 New Mexico crewmembers), as well as the next project from Drive auteur Nicolas Winding Refn, the Amazon series Too Old to Die Young, similarly expected to employ 100 local crewmembers.

Nothing, though, could be bigger than the October news that industry-changer Netflix has chosen ABQ as the spot for a production facility (after reportedly being enticed by over $14 million in development funding) that could drop a billion into the local economy over a decade. Netflix original Godless and pick-up Longmire already call New Mexico home, and the Netflix news was big enough to overshadow a mixed bag of data released a month earlier. The numbers showed a modest, cyclical slowdown in spending (a fall from $506 million in fiscal year 2017 to $234 million in 2018’s budget year), which New Mexico film officials attributed to growing pains and claimed was offset by a healthy number of indie productions, including 38 in the million-dollar range.

The Sabrina Carpenter-starring road movie The Short History of the Long Road, began production in April. Director Ani Simon-Kennedy (Days of Gray) offered praise for the state’s unique natural architecture and the work ethic of ABQ crews. “The crew we had was unparalleled,” Simon-Kennedy says. “The level of heart they poured into our low-budget feature went above and beyond. Everyone was resourceful and reliable; New Mexico was the perfect setting for our road trip movie since you can get such varied landscapes. We shot in the spring when the weather was cooperative, but it can get unpredictable—from gorgeous blue skies to crazy thunderstorms and back in an hour.” The Short History’s DP Cailin Yatsko concurs, stating that “as soon as you leave, you find yourself missing that beautiful New Mexico sky.” She also acknowledges the tremendous influx of talent, money, and industry pouring into ABQ: “Our biggest challenge was really the fact that ABQ crews are so busy—we were lucky our schedule worked out so that we got such an incredible team.”

For those who continue to primarily associate ABQ with its breakout Breaking Bad franchise, good news: The Emmy-nominated Better Call Saul, set in the flip-phone era, was renewed over the summer for a fifth season, while ABQ merchants continue to meet demand for all things Walt, Jesse, and Saul. Local fixture Rebel Donut still offers the Blue Sky donut with a (perfectly legal) sprinkling of blue rock candy, while RV tours of prominent locations of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul continue to ferry superfans to over two dozen ABQ locations that are now part of TV history.

The Short History of the Long Road crew sets up a shot in Albuquerque, NM. Photograph by Lauren Segal

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16 Comments

  1. Melani

    September 4, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I can personally say there is no work in Philadelphia. The very few films that film here use outside hires. Unless you want a job at a news station, I’d look elsewhere.

  2. CorVatta

    August 6, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Twelve years ago I wanted to break into film, originally from New Mexico, at the time I was living in Las Vegas. (Side note – Not Las Vegas New Mexico where much of Longmire was filmed but Las Vegas Nevada, where the hookers have teeth and wear heels.)

    At the time I moved from Vegas LA to pursue film only to find out filming was becoming popular in my home state, thanks to Governor Richardson and other advocates. So I moved back where I was a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Networking was easier and immediately started working and haven’t stopped since. Recently a group of producers and I purchased a studio building and will shoot our first collective feature this fall.

    The New Mexico film community is also the most inclusive I have ever experienced. As a gay/trans Actor/Comedian, Producer my film family has helped foster my authentic self. I am thankful to have moved back and get in on the ground floor.

    With very little natural disasters, no gridlock traffic, beautiful locations, amazing food and film friendly people, New Mexico is the place to be and you’ll love free time in Santa Fe.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. Peter Matthews

    January 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

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

  8. 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’.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

    • Anne

      October 9, 2019 at 8:59 am

      This is such a snobby ignorant comment. I’ll agree that New York has the best rates, it’s easy to move up, and there’s constant work. Los Angeles rates are lower and not worth the cost of living or traffic. New Orleans, Atlanta, and Albuquerque are great options if you want steady work, a lower cost of living, and a less stressful city overall. I came up through New Orleans and never worked on a car commercial. Baltimore was hot for a bit, but I think died down after House of Cards ended. I think the Atlanta and Albuquerque crews impressed me the most with the friendly personalities and work ethic to match.

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