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

8. Austin, Texas

“We don’t have every piece of the puzzle solved” is how Austin Film Society’s Head of Film and Creative Media Holly Herrick put it to an interviewer in March, summing up Austin’s frustrating mix of a thriving indie film scene and a state that could be doing more, incentive-wise, to support it and attract big fish. Jason Cortlund, co-director (along with Julia Halperin) of the Austin-shot indie thriller Barracuda, offers some perspective: “In terms of film culture, Austin continues to grow as a city for film lovers and moviemakers; Austin Film Society’s development programs and their world-class AFS Cinema are at the heart of that,” he says. “But economically, it’s getting harder every year. State of Texas legislators did a political hit job on the incentive rebates a couple of years ago.”

Although the state provides (through its Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program) for marquee shows like AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, the incentive is down 75 percent from its peak a few years back and some productions are considering other options. “While small-to-mid sized local productions rarely benefitted directly from those limited funds, our regional actors and crew rely on TV and big features to make ends meet,” Cortlund says. “In the two and a half years since we shot Barracuda, a surprisingly large part of our crew moved away for work.” He adds that while he is developing a TV series that’s hopefully filmable in Texas, his next two features will be shot in New England and France.

Sara Seligman, co-writer and director of the forthcoming Austin-shot border thriller Coyote Lake, said that shooting in Bastrop, just outside Austin, meant a dollar that stretched further than expected, somewhat balancing out the incentive issue: “Although we didn’t have access to the tax incentives we were able to save by shooting in Texas, which was amazing because the town [of Bastrop] itself has so much character!” Brian Gannon, director of the Austin Film Commission, also attested to the local color and mentioned Austin’s increasingly storied film history, populated by moviemakers like Richard Linklater and Tobe Hooper who’ve lived and worked in Austin while making movies.

“This continues today,” he said. “Austin’s a great city with strong storytellers living here and crafting independent works that are distinctive and powerful. It’s a welcoming community that’s continuously evolving, with arthouse films being made side by side with Hollywood films, TV series, and commercials. We’ve also worked hard to be sure the state incentives stay competitive so we can keep productions here.” He also noted that Austin’s reputation as an indie haven continues to justify itself, with more than 30 niche film festivals celebrating new work and arthouse theaters like AFS and the Violet Crown Cinema dedicated to exhibiting those films.

A scene from Sister Aimee, Marie Schlingmann and Samantha Buck’s Austin-shot feature premiering at Sundance 2019. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.