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Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2015: Top 10 Big Cities

Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2015: Top 10 Big Cities

Winter 2015


1. Austin, Texas

Austin has topped our list more than once in the past, and its reign continues in 2015. Alive with film, music, and art of all kinds, and boasting a 4.2 percent unemployment rate as of September 2014, it features a continually expanding creative community with no signs of going bust on the horizon.

Independent cinema, as any Slacker fan can tell you, has deep roots in Austin. A constellation of American independent filmmakers famously call Austin home—Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Terrence Malick, Andrew Bujalski, David and Nathan Zellner, John Lee Hancock, Mike Judge, A.J. Edwards, and Yen Tan. Most days, it feels like everybody knows everybody—so grab a margarita and get mixing.

Richard Linklater shoots That's What I'm Talking About in Austin. Photograph by Van Redin

Richard Linklater shoots That’s What I’m Talking About in Austin. Photograph by Van Redin

Austin hosts two of our 2014 Coolest Film Festivals—South by Southwest and Austin Film Festival—and plenty more. There’s ATX Television Festival, Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, Polari Film Festival (formerly the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival), Capital City Black Film Festival, and the Austin Polish Film Festival… for starters.

The Austin Film Society, founded in 1985 by Linklater, oversees an annual grant program—though you may find competition stiff, with recent winners like Andrew Bujalski’s Sundance 2015-premiering Results. The society also runs Austin Studios, which features two soundstages. Other studios include Spiderwood Studios along the Colorado River, Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios (with digital and sound services in two different facilities) and a number of post facilities.

Projects big and small have shot in Austin of late, taking advantage of a fairly healthy Texas tax incentive program. These include Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children, TV series From Dusk Till Dawn, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, the low-budget feature My All American, as well as Results and Linklater’s upcoming That’s What I’m Talkin’ About. Also of note, PBS’s Austin City Limits is now entering its 40th season. Throw in commercials, corporate and web content production, and there’s plenty of opportunity to work and learn.

The set of My All-American, shot in Austin in 2014. Photograph by Van Redin

The set of My All American, shot in Austin in 2014. Photograph by Van Redin

Bryan Poyser, who co-wrote and directed the 2013 comedy Love & Air Sex and is in pre-production on his next Austin-based feature, moved from Connecticut to Austin 20 years ago and has no plans of leaving. The impetus was simple back then: “Austin seemed like a cool place to be,” Poyser said. “And it is. There’s a great community of filmmakers always ready to help each other out. A lot of my friends have acted in my movies, and I do the same for them.” MM


This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Winter 2015 issue, available on newsstands on January 30, 2015, and for digital download from iTunes on January 24, 2015. Illustrations and lettering by Nicole Miles.
Read our 2015 Top Five Towns list here, and our 2015 Top Five Small Cities list here. Read the 2014 edition of our Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker list here.
To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine, click here.





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  1. SomeGuyInSA says:

    “San Antonio … from its Southern sister Austin.”

    Did any one look at a map before they wrote this?

  2. Pfl says:

    San Franciscos minimum wage is not $15. More like $11.25?

    • Mark Sells says:

      Thanks for pointing that out to us, Pedro! You’re absolutely right. Currently, San Francisco’s minimum wage stands at $11.05 per hour. Back in November 2014, the city approved measures to bring that up to $15, but it will be a gradual increase over the next three years. $12.25 per hour in May 2015. $13 per hour in July 2016. And one dollar every year until July 2018 when it lands at $15. We’ve updated the article to reflect the change.

  3. GT says:

    Regarding Austin resident filmmakers you could also mention Jeff Nichols and David Gordon Green

  4. Rain says:

    dont forget about the first web fest in Texas!

  5. Martin says:

    Chicago? Are you serious? Because of a couple TV shows and a few movies? Please tell me where all the job postings are for film related jobs in Chicago? Because I can’t find them.

  6. Rip says:

    You might want to add “in the USA” to your title. There are cities and filmmakers outside the US after all. There are several Canadian Cities that could knock many of the US cities on this list down several notches.

  7. Nick says:

    I noticed Seattle has been left off the list this year. Have they dropped the ball or did they just miss out?

    Thinking of moving there this year….

    • Mark Sells says:

      Good eye, Nick. Yes, Seattle has routinely been in our Top 10 list over the years. As a matter of fact, it’s been in our Top 5 over the last three. But year to year, lots of things change from tax incentives to film production. Even though other cities may have upped their game and are on target to outperform Seattle in 2015, it’s still a terrific city for moviemaking. Not to mention, they have a pretty good team playing in the Super Bowl.

  8. Dastardly says:

    This article is a joke, the writer knows nothing about the film industry.

  9. Alan G Button says:

    I have a 117 page screenplay “Dance of the Firewalker” that needs serious attention by a producer/director. This fictional mystery takes place in Maine and has many twists and turns surrounded by ancient Native American beliefs. Anyone interested in pointing me in the right direction?

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