The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2017

Big Cities: 7. Toronto, Ontario

“Ego and negative competition feel far less present in Toronto,” says moviemaker Gavin Michael Booth (The Scarehouse). “Everyone who’s moved here to pursue filmmaking wants to collaborate and understands that working together is going to help everyone, themselves included.”

Perhaps, then, if you’re looking to set up your own studio in Canada, Toronto is the place to be. Famously multicultural, it’s also clean and safe, with a foodie culture rarely rivaled. Like Vancouver, Toronto doubles as New York in so many movies that you’ll feel like you’re living in the Big Apple in many of its 140-plus neighborhoods.

Downsides? It gets cold in the winter, and the public transit system leaves much to be desired in the face of this level of urban sprawl. Even so, the city was a hub for moviemaking in 2016, boasting productions like Suicide Squad, Downsizing (starring Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon), Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, and TV series like Orphan Black and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Besides del Toro, who settled in the city years ago, Toronto is home to directors Ivan Reitman, Sarah Polley and David Cronenberg—pretty decent company.

Toronto forms the backdrop to Orphan Black, starring Tatiana Maslany. Courtesy of BBC America

Canada offers a federal labor-based 16-percent tax credit, which can be combined for a healthy sum with provincial credits including the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit (35 percent for eligible Ontario labor expenses), the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit (21.5 percent refundable for qualifying production expenses), and the Ontario Computer Animation & Special Effects (18 percent refundable for qualifying Ontario-based visual effects and animation labor expenses).

Top among the dozens of festivals here is the affair that the city is synonymous with in the biz: Toronto International Film Festival, 42 years old and going strong. Also noteworthy is Hot Docs, the largest documentary film festival in North America. Head to one of the nearly 2 million square feet of sound stages at your disposal, including Pinewood Toronto Studios (with its 46,000-square-foot Mega Stage), the six retrofitted stages at Cinespace, Revival 629, TRiBRO Studios and Showline Studios. Toronto is sure to provide the resources and support you need for years of moviemaking to come—eh?

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17 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.

  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.

  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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