You can’t choose your family, but you can choose where to find your film family.

They’re the PAs you’ll be spending those long, languid afternoons with in cramped production offices, the ADs who’ll offer you an extra jacket on the wintery location, and the grips who’ll lend an ear after a grueling day on set. Your choice of a town or city in which to settle down in for a couple of years or a lifetime is a significant life decision, there’s just no getting around it. The good news is that our annual best places guide is a pretty decent starting point for moviemakers who are looking to narrow their choices as they research their next moviemaking and living destination.

Whether you’re a contented Southerner who’d like to get out of dodge but continue living and working below the Mason-Dixon line, or you’ve got your hot new passport in hand and are weighing the pleasures of life in Vancouver vs. Montreal, you’ll find reams of valuable, current intel within this feature article with which to assist you in making an informed, practical decision about your next locale. This intel includes candid commentary from local residents about the cities they love, and in some cases, would love to see improved. Months of research and survey feedback, interviews with film commissions and non-profits, dozens of phone calls with working indie and studio moviemakers have all contributed to our assessment and ranking of the best places in North America to live and make movies in 2018.

One caveat: quality of life is a tricky thing to quantify, let alone rank. In our ongoing effort to get it down to a science, though, here are some basic ingredients that go into our secret scoring sauce: a city’s film activity in the past 12 months (number of productions, shoot durations, economic activity generated), film infrastructure in place (number of film schools and VFX houses, film commissions and other non-profits, film festivals, screening venues, prominent locals), and broader criteria such as population size, ease of transportation, local and state tax credits (a big one, of course), and architectural and geographical distinctiveness—the latter of which came up more than you might think. (One contributor noted that his town was the kind of place to shoot a film noir.)  

Shall we begin?

(Scroll through part one of our full list for the top 15 big cities on the continent. Check out part two, for the top 5 small cities and towns in the U.S., here.)