The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2017

Big Cities: 6. Austin, Texas

Between SXSW, AFF, ATX and a slew of other acronyms (for the uninitiated, that’s South by Southwest, Austin Film Festival and, uh… ATX Television Festival), there’s no shortage of reasons to come to Austin on the festival circuit. The city itself is why you want to stay. The live music capital of the world, Austin hosts the famous Austin City Limits music fest every year. Add to that great bookstores, beer bars and (of course) barbeque, and it makes sense why the love gushes forth.

While Texas’s tax incentive budget took a bit of a hit recently, Austin’s vast support system, in the form of a strong cinema culture and an abundance of resources, hasn’t gone anywhere. The famous community spirit is alive and well in film organizations such as Austin Film Meet, Austin. Women. Film, and Dames in Film, not to mention the granddaddy of it all, Richard Linklater’s Austin Film Society, which hands out—amongst much other support—a yearly moviemaker grant.

Brandon Reich, a camera operator, editor and director of the short film “Prophecy of the Quill,” loves Austin’s “small-town vibe. Many small businesses are willing to let you use their establishment for little or no cost. That’s huge for indie moviemakers and their production value.” Reich, who works as an afterschool film teacher at Austin Film Society, points to a tapped-in feeling through the city: “Artists care about telling stories that are reflective of our time and the people here.”

A unicycle football scene Louisiana Kreutz’s romantic comedy Quaker Oaths, which both shot and had its world premiere in Austin. Photograph by E.J. Enriquez

Brian Gannon, director of the Austin Film Commission, adds that “the community is open, with filmmakers trading duties on each other’s works to make sure everyone can get their project off the ground.” Gannon cites indie video stores like Vulcan and I Luv Video for continuing to inspire and connect cinephiles around the city—as does the Austin-headquartered Alamo Drafthouse theater chain.

Seeing that the approximately $175 million-budgeted Alita: Battle Angel, produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, and directed by Robert Rodriguez, came to town in 2016, you might assume that that production cornered the 22.5 percent cash grant offered. Yet the city found room for a number of indie projects, such as Louisiana Kreutz’s feature Quaker Oaths, and a bunch of movies involving Master of None star and native Texan Noël Wells: F*cking People, directed by Theresa Bennett, Infinity Baby by Bob Byington and Mr. Roosevelt, which Wells wrote and directed herself.

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19 Comments

  1. RT

    September 1, 2017 at 10:52 am

    LOS ANGELES: You can make movies anywhere now. Unless you’ve just been offered a studio/TV directing gig, don’t fall into the LA trap. LA is like a casino. They tell you that if you just spend that extra money on a class, or on coverage, or on a pitch, or whatever, you’ll be close. The best advice I got while here in LA is to go and make films anywhere but here. It’s about the films you make, not where you live. Save your money and put it into your work. The cavalry in LA is NOT coming to help you. Everyone in LA has their own project and everyone wants something from someone else. You’re best to do your thing from wherever. Again, it’s about your film(s) not the parties and networking events you go to. The best place to network is at film festivals with your film. Unless you’re an actor and then yeah, you should be here in LA.

    • Marquese Clack

      September 1, 2017 at 11:50 pm

      Well said…

    • Cheri Mackey

      September 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

      Wow, I think that has been the best advice I have gotten anywhere.

    • David

      September 22, 2017 at 10:08 am

      What if you don’t have enough money to finance your own project? I’m not going to say there aren’t oppurtunities in Lexington,KY, but it seems like the finding a job in LA would be easier with so many production companies out west.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. angelo misterioso

    January 22, 2017 at 6:39 am

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

  5. 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.

    • michele

      October 29, 2017 at 12:10 am

      one of my favorite cities to visit but affordability is an issue.

  6. Kese

    January 20, 2017 at 12:20 pm

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

  7. AustinCleveland

    January 20, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Cleveland/Pittsburgh are both bigger than Austin… Hmm…

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

      • Adam Stanton

        August 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm

        Silly question, how bad is the Tax incentive in Colorado ? I looked at the Colorado Film Office and their incentives are at 20%. My guess is that it’s not great compared to 40% in Atlanta ?

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