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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


6. Atlanta, Georgia

It has the smallest population of our 10 Big Cities, but size matters in Atlanta, which boasts one of the biggest film industries in the U.S. After all, a reported 77,900 jobs in Georgia have been created by the film industry to date—a large portion of which is centered in the state capital. In 2014, Atlanta was the site for the productions of Selma, Fast & Furious 7, Taken 3, Insurgent, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, as well as the television favorites The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and resident favorite The Walking Dead.

Selma, shot in Atlanta in 2014. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Selma, shot in Atlanta in 2014. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

A major reason behind the continuous influx of production is Georgia’s still-peachy tax incentives—a 20 percent base credit to productions spending a minimum of $500,000, and an additional 10 percent uplift for including the Georgia promotional logo in the credits.

“Because of all the production, we have a lot of support personnel and an infrastructure here,” said Atlanta-based camera operator Paul Varrieur (Girl Interrupted, Flags of our Fathers and the 2014 Atlanta shoots of Dumb and Dumber To and Bessie). Varrieur, who is also first national vice president of the International Cinematographers Guild, rattles off a list of major production complexes, like the freshly opened, 288-acre, six-stage Pinewood Atlanta Studios. “We have a studio and crew base, electric, grip, hair and make-up… each group has increased at least 25 to 30 percent in size.”

The recently opened Pinewood Atlanta. Courtesy of Pinewood Atlanta, LLC

The recently opened Pinewood Atlanta Studios. Courtesy of Pinewood Atlanta, LLC

The long-running, Academy-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival is a stately mainstay in the city’s film culture. Genre fans, however, flock yearly to Dragon*Con International Film Festival which boasts that it’s “the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music and film in the universe.” And for something completely different, nostalgic moviegoers can take in a feature at the Starlight Six Drive-In theater. How many cities still have a drive-in, let alone one with six screens?

That diversity of taste mirrors Atlanta’s progressive culture—the city has one of the highest LGBT populations per capita in the U.S. Add to that a cost of living that dips slightly below the national average, and Atlanta’s livability is hard to deny.

Back to moviemaking, though: The city doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. The University System of Georgia announced plans in late 2014 to develop a Georgia Film Academy to train students for below-the-line positions, waiving tuition. Now that’s workforce development for the future.

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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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