14. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis will always be the home of the King (Elvis, that is), but it’s so much more. With a population approaching 700,000, the city hosted 119 client projects in 2017, resulting in a reported 983 jobs, and the number of network series ballooned from 24 to 42, including NBC’s hit show This is Us. In addition to the state’s cash back rate of 25 percent offered to productions that qualify, the city government is offering free office space, discounted police rates and free real estate usage. Another thing that’s free is the city’s infectious Southern vibrancy, available to all.
“Memphis can’t be beat in terms of personality, authenticity, novelty and pictorial appeal,” says John Beifuss, longtime reporter and film critic for The Commercial Appeal. “The diversity of its neighborhoods, commercial districts, green spaces—all this has been underutilized. The city and the Film Commission are eager to cooperate with filmmakers. It’s all here, it just needs someone to make use of it. There’s no reason a visionary or internationally embraced film on the scale of Moonlight or A Ghost Story couldn’t emerge from Memphis.”
One émigré from Hollywood working to make that next success happen is Tom Shadyac, former Hollywood director of Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty, and now South Memphis benefactor and driving force behind what will soon be a mini-movie studio in the heart of the city. Another famous Memphis local, Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer, recently returned to film a digital comedy program called “The You Look Like Show” at local Memphis artist hangout The P & H Café. Something keeps drawing local success stories back to Memphis, and it can’t be just the BBQ tofu nachos.