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

7. Toronto, Ontario

Toronto’s film concerns these days are largely high-class, such as not enough stages and square footage to accommodate the demand for production. A major undertaking to revitalize the city’s Port Lands waterfront area that broke ground in early 2018 is tied to an acknowledged need for a bigger footprint for film studios. In early September plans were also unveiled for First Studio City, a 400,000-square-foot production facility in Markham, Ontario (the Greater Toronto area) that will cater to the tentpoles that’ve flocked to central Toronto and Vancouver in recent years. The facility is expected to cost $100 million by 2020 and part of its mandate will be to attract productions from Chinese and Bollywood markets, a sign of the times. Its central attraction will be a 70,000 square-foot stage that will dwarf the 46,500 square-foot stage at Pinewood Toronto Studios. 

Ontario’s 21.5 percent film and TV tax credit (and 18 percent animation/VFX credit) continue to be a draw to major players. Some “Hollywood North” products that filmed in Toronto in the fall included the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Jessica Chastain-starring horror bookend It: Chapter Two, and Neill Blomkamp’s disaster epic Greenland, starring Chris Evans. Even more is expected in 2019 when CBS Television Studios opens a new 260,000-square-foot production hub in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto. When it opens in summer 2019 it will be comprised of six sound stages, support and auxiliary facilities, and office space. CBS produces 63 series and will use the hub to ramp up TV production for broadcast, cable, and streaming. Disney is also making a push into streaming, and much like Amazon, Apple, Hulu, YouTube and Netflix, they all have eyes for Toronto.

Not to neglect the city’s thriving indie and documentary scene: Mathieu Pierre Dagonas, Executive Director of Documentary Organization of Canada, a non-profit representing Canadian documentarians, tells MovieMaker that documentaries are having a resurgence with Canadian audiences. “The high attendance at Hot Docs and TIFF point to the popularity of the genre,” he notes. “Documentaries are more important than ever in the era of ‘fake news’ as they shine a light on topics of public interest. Audiences want to be informed and to engage with the issues of their city.” He adds that Toronto is “the envy of other production centers in that we have a public funding model and public leaders who’ve shown strength in maintaining Toronto as a production destination. This comes in many forms, whether it’s our tax credits or elected officials going on international missions to promote our talent.

Additionally, some notable indie shoots in the Toronto area in recent months have included a remake of Toronto-born David Cronenberg’s Rabid, helmed by Canadian horror phenoms Jen and Sylvia Soska, and the Bonnie & Clyde-tinged romantic thriller Heavy, from director Jouri Smit. “We’ve had an excellent experience shooting in Toronto,” says Heavy producer David Atrakchi. “One of the challenges was finding our iconic locations to match New York and most importantly match our budget. We felt the city was very busy with bigger shows, leaving little room for an independent film to coexist, but nevertheless we overcame this challenge and managed, through our location manager, to pull phenomenal sets.”

Director Andy Muschietti and star Jessica Chastain wrap a bloody good time on the Toronto set of It: Chapter Two. Courtesy of Instagram

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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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