Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Big Cities

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10. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is consistently ranked in the top 10 cheapest cities in the country. Considering Memphis’ culture and history, what bang for your buck! And not just music and BBQ; we’re talking film history too: Homegrown regional theater chain Malco Theatres, which offers self-distribution deals for indies, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015. At Malco’s Summer Drive-In, the only remaining drive-in theatre in the region, Jimmy Tashie, Mike McCarthy and Matt Martin, co-owners of the hip independent video store Black Lodge Video, hold the Time Warp series of classic and genre screenings.

Memphis was repped on the 2015 international circuit by the award-winning drama Free in Deed, set in the city’s storefront churches. Writer-director Jake Mahaffy was persuaded to move the project to Memphis in 2014 after original plans to shoot in Detroit, and the film ended up involving many from the small, tight-knit local indie scene.

Free in Deed. Courtesy of AFI Fest

Free in Deed won the Orizzonti Award at the 2015 Venice International Film Festival. Courtesy of AFI Fest

Tennessee offers no tax credit incentives at the moment, but it offers 25 percent cash back to qualified productions for in-state expenditures. There’s life in this city yet: In spring 2015 a small contingent of Memphis and Shelby County legislators and local power brokers, coordinated by powerhouse film commissioner Linn Sitler secured $4 million in state film incentives for Memphis and Shelby Country-specific projects. That’s a pretty good start.

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On the Cusp

Dallas, Texas

More than 500 projects were shot in Dallas in 2015, with more shows, both scripted and unscripted, on the books for 2016. The city continues to grow, with 8.8 million people and an unemployment rate of only 4.1 percent… and there’s no personal or corporate income tax. Gadi Elkon, entertainment editor of the Selig Film News, brags about his “amazing city,” highlighting everything from the renowned Nasher Sculpture Center to production facilities at Mercury Studios. Dallas is a city on the rise.

Portland, Oregon

Its substantial film culture is what we love most about Portland, with an impressive 17 independent cinemas (including possibly the most vibrant in the country, The Hollywood Theatre), 14 festivals, and indie bigwigs such as Gus van Sant and Todd Haynes calling the city home. Production facilities and tax incentives are solid, but need to improve to offset Portland’s rising cost of living and land the city back in our top 10. Nevertheless, productions like NBC’s Grimm and, TNT’s The Librarians, and, of course, IFC’s Portlandia boost the profile of this misty creative mecca. MM

This article appears in MovieMaker’s Winter 2016 issue. Illustrations by Jon Boam. Featured image from Chicago-shot The Headhunter’s Calling.

Click here for our Best Small Cities and Towns 2016 list. Read last year’s lists here: Big Cities, Small Cities and Towns. Is there a place you think should be in the running for 2017? Tell us where and why in the comments.


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8 Comments

  1. Chris

    January 21, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Man… Shreveport snubbed again. Louisiana snubbed again. Chicago? Really? Dallas? Hardly. I’d love to see some real love for one of the nation’s biggest states for production where resources, talent, and infrastructure flourish: Louisiana. All that without mentioning the huge indigenous filmmaker incentives from the state, the world’s largest cash prize short film contest. Hundreds of short films shot here a year from all over the country. Low cost of living, downtown currently being revitalized, home of louisiana’s #1 ranked beers, right at the intersection of I-20 (connecting Dallas and Atlanta) with I-49, which will eventually be a straight shot to New Orleans. Take a look. Shreveport deserves to be on this list more than about half the places.

  2. Tom Lenard

    January 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I filmed this about 50 miles south of Albuquerque back in June of 1980. Crew based itself in Albuquerque. Hired a makeup person locally…His first name was Chip.. Casted Uncle Same in Georgia..rented film gear and Uncle Sam wardrobe in Atlanta and flew from there to Albuquerque. (Got caught in a major sand storm out in the desert..got no warning about such from NM Film Commission) Guess I was ahead of the curve eh…

    (Remember, at one time, it was truly thought that we were running out of oil..Oil Topping Point they called it)

    (Note: This was a reedit of the original film with a new temp track used to convey the public service message..project was not funded…Temp Track appplied was the incredible music of the incredible composer John Barry’s “Dances With Wolves” Wolf Theme..

    https://vimeo.com/14162036

    • Tom Lenard

      January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      Done…..

      Meant to write “Uncle Sam”

  3. Michelle

    January 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Did Ant Man really employ that many “Georgians” or were many of them Californians who have moved here to work in the movies. I would be curious to know how many were actually Georgians.

    • Alice

      January 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Most of the crew was LA-based. And many also moved on to Captain America and likely to Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Ditto Furious 7, which spent $15 million just on hotels for the nonresident workers.

      On another note, X-Men Apocolypse filmed in Quebec, Canada…not Georgia. And Quantico only shot the pilot in Atlanta. The series moved to Montreal.

      • Rob

        January 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

        I don’t know where you’re getting your information from but it would be nice if you’d stop trying to sabotage our industry. As an atlanta local I can tell you that there are hundreds of locals working on these films and our union has grown by the hundreds each year that these films shoot here. Every single department has local workers in it, and we depend on these jobs to feed our families. Please stop the negative propaganda, it does nothing to help the locals that you pretend to care about.

        • Alice

          January 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm

          I am sorry if you think facts are sabotaging “your” industry. My facts about the Marvel films come from the set. The Furious 7 spending info comes from the MPAA in a press release.

          Sure, some projects have tons of locals. Some have almost 100% locals. And others have very few. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a fact.

      • Michelle

        January 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

        So that is just my point. I object to articles like this that make it look like the movie industry employed 3500 Georgia residents. I am not impressed that millions were spent on major hotel corporations. That does not put meals on Georgia resident’s tables or pay their bills. The industry needs to be employing residents. We have a lot of talented Georgia residents who belong to the local union who are being passed over for LA crews that the production brings in. They need to hire Georgian’s first then bring out of state workers in to cover the gap.

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