The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2017

Big Cities: (Tie) 1. New York, New York

It’s been over 30 years since Annie Hall covered the kitchen in lobsters, and 20 years since George and Elaine didn’t get their soup, but New York’s time is far from over. Fortunately, despite high rents and stiff competition, it’s still a great place for a moviemaker to call home.

In fact, production in New York is on the rise. 2016 saw around 300 film productions in the city; some titles you’ll come across in the next 12 months include the Liam Neeson action-thriller The Commuter, Michael Showalter’s Sundance-premiering The Big Sick, S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Perry Lang’s An Interview with God. New York also strengthened its position as the TV industry’s arguable headquarters: There were 52 episodic series shot during the 2015-16 season (up from 46 series the year before), from Broad City to Difficult People to Mr. Robot.

All told, the production industry contributed $9 billion to the city’s economy in 2016, employing 130,000 workers. Notably, the state offers an excellent tax incentive (a 30 percent refundable state tax credit, with a 35 percent credit for certain post expenses), with potential bonuses for productions shot in NYC itself, and certain areas upstate.

New York is known for its grit, but the ruthless city has put together a selection of standout local services that support the moviemaking industry in innovative ways. One exciting recent initiative, launched in October 2016, is NYC Film Green, a program whereby productions voluntarily engage in sustainable practices including waste reduction, energy conservation and staff education. This groundbreaking government program is the first of its kind in the United States. There’s the Made in NY Writers Room program, a new partnership between the NYC Department of Small Business Services and WGA East, offering writers of diverse backgrounds a six-month fellowship with established local showrunners. Fall 2016 also saw the announcement by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment of a bevy of programs to combat gender inequality in entertainment, such as a $5 million grant fund for female-centered work, a screenwriting contest for female television writers and a report analyzing the gender inequity of directors in the film industry. Together with the established Made in NY program (which features PA training, media training, career panels and free advertising to projects that film the majority of their work in the five boroughs), these initiatives make the message clear: New York City truly values its moviemakers.

Director Adam Leon shot both his features, 2012’s Gimme the Loot and the upcoming Netflix release Tramps, in the city. “You get this incredible production value by just putting a camera in the middle of the city, where people are constantly moving,” he says. “They’re not stopping and looking at the camera—they’re just being in this active place.”

Grace Van Patten and Callum Turner in Adam Leon’s NYC-set Tramps. Courtesy of Netflix

The density of film schools—besides the biggies like NYU and Columbia, there’s the recently opened Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Brooklyn College, the city’s first public graduate school for cinema—means incoming talent and experienced movie crews. Your casting calls are sure to turn up gold, whether it be graduates from Juilliard, Broadway performers (or off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway), or the talent pool from comedy institutions like the Upright Citizens Brigade, the PIT and the Annoyance Theater.

You might have to live in a shoebox in Astoria, but hey, you won’t need a car. And if want to get any kind of food in the world at 3 a.m., you’ll be glad you’re there.

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13 Comments

  1. Larry Anderson

    January 26, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Excuse me but Cleveland Ohio is no where near a small City where do you guys get this misinformation from Greater Cleveland covers 5 counties while the heart of Greater Cleveland which is Cuyahoga County in which Cleveland city proper is the county seat covers roughly 457 SQ Miles and thats not even including the Lake Erie Shoreline

  2. w picket

    January 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Savannah is great, until you get a gun put to your head walking down the street by someone who wants the $20 you might have in your wallet. If you’re lucky enough to avoid that, you still have to deal with the drugged up homeless population that harass tourists on every block. I don’t see the movie industry staying long once another area promises the same tax incentives.

  3. angelo misterioso

    January 22, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Yes, Santa Fe IS wonderful.
    But saguaros? They don’t exist here.
    Otherwise, nice artwork.

  4. Ron Merk

    January 21, 2017 at 8:02 am

    I live and work in San Francisco as a filmmaker, film distributor and film preservationist. I was very surprised not to see San Francisco on the list of best places to live and work as a filmmaker in your 2017 survey. There are many filmmakers working here, thousands of them, and some of the best support from organizations, film festivals, and the City of SF. Add to that San Francisco, itself, is one of the most beautiful natural “backlots” in which to film, with great dining and entertainment, and it just doesn’t make sense that San Francisco did not make the list. We are a gigantic tech capital, too. Dolby’s new building is just one block from where I live, and I can literally see into the offices of Twitter from my apartment. It was very disappointing not to see our city on your list.

  5. Kese

    January 20, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    When clicking on the Albuquerque link it takes me to Memphis, TN instead…

  6. AustinCleveland

    January 20, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Cleveland/Pittsburgh are both bigger than Austin… Hmm…

  7. Don O'Keefe

    January 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    So, Pittsburgh is in the small cities and towns category and Albuquerque is in Big cities? Using the city proper population is a strange choice indeed… Don’t you realize that the political structures of city limits bias lists like this to west coast or sunbelt (newer) cities? Don’t you also realize that the same political structures have no effect on economic opportunities for filmmakers? Or do filmmakers usually just refuse to shoot anything if they have to cross a county line? Get real.

  8. Liam Wilmoth

    January 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    As always, a great compilation of places to be as a moviemaker. Nice to see some international coverage as well, like Toronto. As a former resident, I’ve known a handful of people who have had great experiences directing and on the set of films in the area. And all the best people come out of Canada, ey?

    Cheers from Ontario,
    Liam

  9. Alex Michaels

    January 19, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    I am so happy to see my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio here. When I started my company Prelude2Cinema, people always told me I couldn’t be a real filmmaker unless I moved to Hollywood. I am so glad that ideal is finally changing and you can make movies anywhere even in Cleveland.
    Alex Michaels

  10. Casey Moore

    January 19, 2017 at 8:32 am

    New Orleans has some great vendors who will work with indie filmmakers. We also have a lot of crew who have worked both the studio films and the low budget indie films (I am one of the people).

    Also, the credits didn’t take a blow. We simply have a cap now. The credits are still there, and smaller films can get their credits as well.

    We are also getting better with places to see movies.

  11. Dan Stoddart

    January 18, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Also, as the feature “The Mountain Between Us” discovered, the east Kootenay’s area is also a great spot with an international airport (Cranbrook) and endless camera friendly locations. Not to mention a few knowledgeable locals who can create great scenery!

  12. K Matsuoka

    January 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    A robust incentive providing solid work opportunites, a strong commitment by the local community in developing the next generation, a state funded creative development program pairing young filmmakers with Hollywood professionals, and an internationally recognized film festival alone should qualify Honolulu for the list, add the beaches, year round tropical climate, and the availability of diverse locations and population (see ‘Lost’ and ‘Hawaii Five-0’) and the Aloha State should easily be a contender for the top 10.

    • Marty Lindsey

      January 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Agreed! I’d love to shoot a film in Hawaii. Denver didn’t make the list because our incentive package is shite. However, there were 3 films from Colorado at Sundance this year.

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