The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2018: Big Cities

4. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago may have doubled for Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s first two Dark Knight films, but its own personality is hard to disguise even with Hollywood magic. Joe Chappelle, executive producer of NBC’s Chicago Fire, also filmed a thriller in the city this past summer called The Pages, with Jamie Lee Curtis, with a do-it-locally ethos: Chicago locals were set to account for 80 percent of speaking roles and 90 percent of the budget was to spend in-city, while Filmworkers Club, a Chicago post house, was contracted to handle VFX. Steve McQueen’s heist film Widows also laid down track in the city over summer, with Liam Neeson starring.

Chicago’s prestigious documentary house, Kartemquin Films, also had a big 2017, with two films selected for Sundance 2018. Director Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap tells the story of Liu reconnecting with two childhood friends in Rockford, Illinois, while America to Me is a ten-part series from director Steve James, focusing on a special Chicago high-school. James previously directed Kartemquin’s biggest hit, the basketball documentary Hoop Dreams that shone a light on two underprivileged kids with big dreams. “We believe in the necessity of diverse voices—racially, culturally and geographically,” says Betsy Steinberg, Executive Director of Kartemquin. In fact, Illinois is currently the only state with diversity hiring provisions attached to its incentive.

“Chicago’s film industry has evolved in recent years into one of the country’s buzziest production cities,” says Steinberg. “The production scene is tight-knit, supportive and generous towards newcomers, while the cost of living is reasonable compared to the coasts. The city’s film creatives are extremely talented, with important stories to tell, and we share a commitment to ensuring business remains viable here.” Maintaining that viability will be partially a question of maintaining the 30 percent tax credit for film and television producers, a program up for renewal in 2021. (Minimum spend for projects over 30 minutes is $100,000).

With all it offers, there’s little chance of Chicago not remaining a top draw. Director Nash Edgerton, who shot parts of the upcoming Charlize Theron-starring action film Gringo in the city in 2016, sang Chi-Town’s praises: “It was so great shooting parts of Gringo in Chicago, especially as a good portion of the film is set there,” he said. “I loved the wonderful architecture, in particular work by Mies van der Rohe. I also got to enjoy my first Chicago deep dish. The other exciting thing for me was having Alan Ruck in the movie: I just couldn’t in good conscience have a film set in Chicago without including someone from one of my favorite films, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The Edgerton brothers and crew on the set of Gringo in Chicago. Photograph by Don Gray.

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13 Comments

  1. Andy Astro

    January 27, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Since the Hunter TV series and the ’60s film It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was filmed in San Diego and that Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot was filmed across the harbor in Coronado, why isn’t San Diego @ the top of this list?? Not to mention Rachel Welch and the Barbie sisters are from San Diego. And whutz not to luv of the La Jolla & Torrey Pines part of San Diego?

  2. Gweilojoe

    January 20, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    I don’t quite get the criteria? How could Atlanta possibly be ahead of Vancouver? On every single measure there used Vancouver was ahead. Then throw in the fact that Vancouver is continuously ranked one of the top 3 cities in the world to live and Atlanta doesn’t make the top 50. So i am going to call BS on this list!

    • CSmith

      February 5, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      Gweilojoe, you obviously know nothing about the film industry, cause if you did you would know that many TV shows and movies have been shooting in ATL/Georgia for years now, including the Walking Dead.

  3. Justin Urface

    January 19, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Albuquerque, New Mexico better place to work in the film business than Boston or Toronto? Ugh. It’s an awful place to live.

    • A. Neelley

      January 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      don’t he a hater. jealous much of NM and the SW ??

  4. Brent Harris

    January 19, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Hi my name is Brent harris , I’ve done construction in Oklahoma since the early 80s, my dad owned a cabinet shop and i’ve worked in several homes all over Oklahoma, I have an idea for an Oklahoma based reality TV show, The whole time I was doing residential construction I left a very extensive trail of hidden objects and messages and hints that lead to other homes we did, I think it would be neat to go to two of the homes and have the homeowners compete to find things in their home that were left behind when the home was under construction, they could compete for money and prizes and what ever damage they do to their home will be fixed ,preferably with Oklahoma contractors, I hid plenty of things in these homes and most homes should lead to another home which start the whole process over again, I think it would make for a fun and entertaining show, if you have ideas on how to make this happen please contact me at 405-613-5426 tag.meback@yahoo.com

  5. Mavis

    January 19, 2018 at 9:53 am

    How far North Carolina has fallen. Before 2010 and the GOP takeover of our government, we were THIRD after CA and NY. Georgia’s Republicans had no problem with incentives and took the long-term approach. Too bad for the vendors, crew and talent that have been lost after a 30+ year legacy.

  6. William Morris

    January 18, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Philadelphia is a complete mess. There is no communication from the Film Office no one can ever find out anything about any production. The self created money laundering PAFIA boasts their dues money goes to hire a lobbyist for film tax credits. 1 person. They are pulling in almost 50 dollars a head from thousands of actors. The tax credits themselves are sold and pawned like a cheap hooker. Philadelphia gets nothing while Pittsburgh production’s use most of the credits. The casting company here hire non union actors for SAG union spots while SAG actors are not called in for these principle role auditions. We here in Philadelphia demand change and regulation of tax credits and changes in how casting operates. Union work is so sparse everyone has to travel to New York to work. The productions that do film here do not follow union rules and the SAG union spends more time filing claims against these productions to get actors money owed to them, instead of trying to promote more union work like they want to. Our council members in Harrisburg won’t answer calls or even return calls from Philadelphia. This city is in need of repair and change in the entertainment industry. Thank God we have M Night and Sly Stallone who still support Philadelphia.

  7. Pablo

    January 17, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    You definitely forgot about Mexico City. Over 120 movies produced in 2017 easily beats most of the cities on this list. Plus a lot of Hollywood Blockbusters and Netflix series shoot all around the year in Mexico City.

  8. Charles Edgeworth

    January 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

    I made a movie in Oklahoma. In 2015 we shot “Help! My mother is a chin!” In fifteen days . it received no mention at the Oscars despite it being shot in colour with two different cameras , a professional actress and a heartwarming narrative about the often ignored voices of people who are born as a chin. No arms to hug the needy, no feet scamper like a sprite through an enchanting forest. Nothing. Only chin.

    Am I expected to believe that the films lack of success is no fault of Oklahoma? Ha!

    Also, to the king stranger who pointed me to the medicine isle of walgreens Oklahoma. I owe you a tremendous debt. You’re kind intervention not only saved me from an embarrassing self-shitting scenario but it saved my trousers which are of tremendous sentimental value(due to me winning them at a carnival. I successfully guessed the weight of a large lady with a beard)

    • Brenda

      January 17, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Is this the onion?

  9. Kim Kelln

    January 16, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    You might want to add Calgary, Alberta to your list. Not as big as Vancouver or TO, but certainly lots of action, especially for TV – Fargo, Tin Star, Wynona Earp, Hearland, Hell on Wheels. Not to mention the Calgary Film Centre (https://www.calgaryfilmcentre.com/) with 50K square feet (4700 square meters) of sound stages. Plus equipment and crews.

  10. Tom Luca

    January 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Very interesting and a heated topic amongst states fighting for MPIs for their economy. Thank You for sharing, this needs to be seen in New Jersey.

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