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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

memphis

7. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is a home for blues, the famous Sun Studio, Elvis Presley’s Graceland… and a distinct independent film culture all of its own. Between July 2013 and June 2014, Memphis saw 81 film commission-assisted projects, which shot a total of 299 shooting days and generated 626 production jobs in the city.

Instead of tax incentives, Memphis doles out a 25 percent preferred cash refund administered by the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission on qualified in-state spending. The office also offers free office space on Beale Street to qualified productions.

The city is home to Malco Theatres, Inc., a fourth-generation, family-owned business with two boutique theaters which regularly host art films, independent films, and premieres of local filmmakers’ work. (Moviemakers looking to four-wall their projects, take note: Malco offers a run at all of their 33 regional theaters.) And don’t forget about festivals like our perennial Coolest Film Festival nominee, Indie Memphis, which brings the barbecue-tinged flavor of its home in contact with world-class cinema.

Memphis and Shelby County Film Commissioner Linn Sitler is the longest consecutively serving film commissioner in the U.S., and she’s seen it all: from the boom of studio filming of John Grisham novels The Firm and The Client, the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire!, Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, to the city’s current era as a home for music videos and indies.

Jake Mahaffy's Free in Deed shoots in Memphis. Photograph by Nick Newberger

Jake Mahaffy’s Free in Deed shoots in Memphis. Photograph by Nick Newberger

Sitler said, “There’s no such thing as a little project. Because we don’t have the tax incentives, we’ve lost projects to Georgia, but we still get episodic TV, corporate films, documentaries. One of our first clients was an independent filmmaker—Jim Jarmusch, when he shot Mystery Train. We still get lots of independent filmmakers.”

It’s one thing to shoot in a bustling, busy moviemaking city, and another to shoot in an environment of comparative intimacy, where you can be sure that careful, dedicated attention will be showered upon your project. Sitler recalled the birth of digital filmmaking, and how it charged every member of the Memphis community. “When director Craig Brewer did The Poor & Hungry in 2000, everybody was so excited. Digital was available, and everybody in Memphis was a filmmaker.” That feeling, Sitler said, persists today.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  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! http://Www.austinwebfestival.com

  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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