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

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7. Seattle, Washington

Rainy, brainy Seattle is making a comeback this year after slipping off our list in 2015. With nearly 3,000 local crew hires in 2015 and 2,000 local talent hires, more features and TV series are moving through the coffee capital of the world: like Syfy’s Z Nation, a unit on Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, and the long-awaited reboot of Twin Peaks.

Washington State’s financial incentive offers 30 percent cash back on local expenditure (up to 35 percent for some TV), with additional sales tax exemptions on assets like equipment rentals and housing. Seattle’s moviemaking community is directing grassroots efforts toward raising the $3.5 million statewide cap on film spends, as well.

It’s not all urban sidewalks and coffee in Seattle for some intrepid crews.

It’s not all urban sidewalks and coffee in Seattle for some intrepid crews. Courtesy of Craig Stewart Locations

Amazon and Microsoft (which the local moviemakers lovingly name “Seattle’s Artist Support System”) provide opportunities for short-form commercial and corporate work that can keep a moviemaker afloat between feature projects. They’re also interested in exploring VR, immersive storytelling and other forms of new media.

Seattle-based director and cinematographer Ben Kasulke observes that the tech boom has “opened a lot more doors to potential storytellers who are not specifically feature-film driven. There are more opportunities to be a director in a non-traditional sense.” The state’s film commission, Washington Filmworks, offers special incentives for new media through their Innovation Lab, and events like the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival showcase the intersection of tech and storytelling.

Something else we love? Female moviemakers find a more level playing field in Seattle. “It’s a very female-driven industry up there,” Seattle stalwart Lynn Shelton said at L.A.’s Film Independent Forum in October 2015. “Producers and directors who are women make up at least half of the force.”

If the great outdoors and legal recreational marijuana are your jam—and you don’t mind a relatively high cost of living—Seattle is the place to be.

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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..

    • 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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