15. Houston, Texas
Classic films shot in Houston over the years include Urban Cowboy, Reality Bites, Rushmore, and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Keeping that tradition alive will require invested young Houstonites, and local filmmaker Michelle Mower (The Preacher’s Sin) offers praise for organizations such as Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) and Women In Film and Television for nurturing Houston’s young talent and connecting them to the industry. She also calls attention to local venues where indie moviemakers can screen films and see the work of colleagues, such as the MFAH, Aurora Picture Show and 14 Pews. Mower has candid thoughts for the city’s decision-makers, as well:
“For mid-tiered filmmakers like myself, who’ve achieved some level of success, there are very few resources that incentivize us to stay and build careers,” she says. “Lack of a real industry infrastructure, tax incentives and access to local media limit what a filmmaker in Houston can achieve locally. If Houston wants a Linklater or a Rodriguez-level filmmaker to work here, they must invest in local talent and infrastructure and get Houston media to pay closer attention to our stories.”
Cost of living in the country’s aerospace capital remains cheap, with housing costs 37.4 percent below national average and living costs at 20.8 percent below average, and as one would expect from a large city, the cultural menu is limitless—over 100 languages are spoken by Houston’s residents. The city also offers in-kind incentives and program grants, with local incentives offered on a project-by-project basis. Texas offers cash grants for a percentage of a production’s expenditure in state, in Houston’s case between 7.5 and 22.5 percent.