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

7. Boston, Massachusetts

Massachusetts’s film tax credit, equal to 25 percent of a feature’s local production and payroll (and no annual or project caps), has so successfully incentivized in-state moviemaking that it’s even caused some political controversy, with detractors asking for a salary cap to offset what they view as the state subsidizing movie star paydays. (Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Mexico already have such caps, it was argued.) The salary cap-introducing measure was dropped in July, though, and political squabbles didn’t dissuade looky-loos from catching a glimpse of Denzel Washington this past fall, in town to film Equalizer 2, or cast a pall on the filming of the latest X-Men saga, the horror-tinted New Mutants, which wrapped its Boston shoot in September. Speaking of horror, the Stephen King and J.J. Abrams series Castle Rock began filming in Lancaster, Massachusetts around the same time, part of a drive to “push-out” of Boston into surrounding rural areas, where there are lower costs. State figures indicate 23 film and TV productions came to Massachusetts in 2016, mostly to Boston and surrounding enclaves, while as of September of 2017 there were already 21, some filming in far-flung locales such as Orange, Clinton, and Ayer, as well as Lawrence, which hosted Ben Affleck’s Live by Night in 2015.

Screen Gems’ 2018 crime saga Proud Mary, starring Taraji P. Henson, also took to Lawrence earlier this year for part of its schedule. Proud Mary producer Paul Schiff offered praise for the commissioners who assisted the crew. “I’ve worked with lots of film commissions; some show up on your first day and take a picture and you never hear from them again, but in Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence, the film commission was pro-active. They helped solve problems with us which made for smooth pre-pro and production,” he says. Schiff also compared his experience of Boston in 2017 positively to his last work visit, filming Mona Lisa Smile in 2003. “This time around I found the crew pool deeper, competitive with New York or Hollywood, easily. I was impressed and pleased with the crew and the support, particularly compared to when I was there last. There was a sense of support for our picture, and a willingness to go the extra mile.”

Boston’s iconic State House is a prime New England locale for moviemakers making in-state productions. Photograph by Tim Grafft.

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16 Comments

  1. Rozy

    April 3, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    I live in Seattle and the city is mostly supportive to large-scale film projects. The tax incentives are not as good as other cities. WA state almost did away with their tax incentive program until filmmakers fought to keep it. There are many talented filmmakers and crew here but it’s not easy to make a living in film here (unless its corporate commercial work). Vancouver, BC seems like the better place to be.

  2. Bradely

    March 16, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Really interesting story. Los Angeles, California is my dream city. I am a blogger and pretty good with reviewing movies. From next year I will pursue my passion for writing and acting. Let’s see which city!

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

    • Bravewall

      March 26, 2018 at 10:17 am

      I work in the Van industry, and even I’ll concede the top spot to Atlanta… At least for now. Besides TWD, the most popular MCU movies are done there, and the Georgia peach is seen at the end of plenty other films. But another reason, as this list is about living and working, Atlanta is a much more affordable place to live. Vancouver is expensive, as is L.A. yes our business is booming and growing exponentially, but we are being gouged by living expenses. So for that reason more than any other Atlanta is where I would go to work, if I was American. But I’m quite happy here, just surviving.

  5. 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 ??

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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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