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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


5. San Francisco, California

One look from the hills out to the gorgeous bay and you can understand why people fall under San Francisco’s spell. The awe factor comes at a price—the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 2014 was a whopping $2,873. However, the city did recently pass legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018 ($12.25 per hour in May 2015, $13 per hour in July 2016, and one dollar every year until July 2018), so when you’re not shooting, you can get yourself a temp job at an artisanal bakery.

San Francisco-specific tax incentives include a cash rebate of up to $600,000 per film, documentary, TV episode or web series episode. And, in addition to California’s basic 20-percent credit, San Francisco shoots qualify for an extra five percent for shooting outside the 30-mile Los Angeles zone.

In addition, the San Francisco Film Commission supports the city’s First Source Hiring Program, connecting economically challenged workers to entry-level job openings on major productions that shoot in the city.

This year, five films that received support from the San Francisco Film Society’s Filmmaker 360 program will be screened at Sundance: Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous, Chloé Zhao’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Kris Swanberg’s Unexpected, Bill and Turner Ross’s Western, and Jenni Olson’s The Royal Road.

Advantageous, which premieres tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. Photograph by Richard Wong

Advantageous, which premieres tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. Photograph by Richard Wong

“Our mission is to have filmmakers have sustainable careers,” Filmmaker 360 director Michele Turnure-Salleo said. “The way we do that is through a combination of financial support through grants and a residency program called Filmhouse. You get a year-long residency fully loaded with free office space, program support, guest speakers, artist talks, and much more.”

This ultra-modern co-working environment has major creative benefits. Advantageous director Phang said, “Through the Filmhouse Residency I was able to meet passionate Bay Area crew members, house our project in offices cost-free for a very long time, and connect with people who helped us with casting and funding. We had a place for crew to meet as frequently as we needed, and to have productive test screenings with the other filmmakers in the space. Being around other filmmakers kept me energized, focused, and helped me develop my work in the context of other people’s lives and concerns, instead of in a vacuum.”

“The Society was also my fiscal sponsor,” The Royal Road’s Olson explained. “So when I applied for grants, I had the 501(c)(3) non-profit status so I could solicit donations from individuals that are tax deductible. That is invaluable. It’s a hub for filmmakers. I’ve lived here 20-some years, and the Film Society has really evolved.” Seems like San Francisco is gaining serious momentum as a moviemaking town.

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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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