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The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2018: Big Cities

The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2018: Big Cities

Annual Lists

On the Cusp

Miami, Florida

Was it the thrill of having 2017’s Oscar winner for Best Picture Moonlight as a Miami success story that spurred the city into being more generous with their tax incentive? Though the city’s local legislature still needs to better ride the wave that production has created, 2017’s newly introduced grant-rebate is a decent start, and provides $100,000 to productions that qualify, with a requirement of a $1 million spend in Miami-Dade. (At least 70 percent of the production must take place in Miami-Dade and minimum numbers of cast, crew and local vendors must also be employed to qualify.)

A number of high-profile projects with uncertain greenlight status are hovering over the vibrant, bilingual city and could land on the projection slate suddenly, among them Michael Bay’s trilogy-capper Bad Boys for Life and Deep City, a TV series about the Miami music scene to be co-produced by Oscar-winner T. Bone Burnett, the Matthew McConaughey comedy Beach Bum, and the graffiti artist drama Vandal.

Miami’s festival scene hosts a slew of neon-tinted bright spots as well, from Miami Film Festival to the American Black Film Festival to the ever-weird Borscht Film Festival, which has served as the Miami indie community’s answer to their lack of regional infrastructure.

Sawhorse Productions films an undisclosed web series in Miami-Dade County, which hired 60 local crew, 400 extras and spent $1,550,000 locally in 2017. Photograph courtesy of FilMiami.

Seattle, Washington

Perennially “on the cusp,” it seems, Seattle is finally creating new moviemaking opportunities on a scale not happening in any other market, and is now a bona fide hotbed, says the city’s Office of Film + Music Director Kate Becker, for the emerging VR/AR industry. A cluster of Seattle-based companies such as Pixvana, Zoo Break Productions and Electric Dream Factory, are driving development in this field, while University of Washington’s CoMotion Labs is bringing artists and VR companies together to plot the industry’s future. Becker also points to a year-over-year increase in film permits and notes the city’s strength in both traditional Hollywood and indie productions, which are prospering in sync due to a robust, talented crew base, and to Seattle’s natural beauty and livability.

Adding further to the city’s growing reputation for film excellence are numerous recent accomplishments by Seattle women in the industry, including director SJ Chiro’s film Lane 1974 receiving multiple festival nods and Beth Barrett being named as the first female Artistic Director of SIFF. In so many ways, Seattle is laying the groundwork for its future: its film incentive program (the state provides funding assistance for in-state spend of up to 30 percent for films and some episodic TV) was given a 10-year renewal in 2017, providing stability for another decade.

Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette goes before cameras in Seattle. Photograph by Chris Geidner.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio’s CineFestival, the longest-running Latino Film Festival in the U.S., celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. It’s a feather in the cap of one of Texas’s most vibrant, diverse, affordable cities, one where almost half the homes were still priced under $200,000 in October, 2017. It’s also one that offers an assortment of film schools, Latino cultural centers, public murals and art spaces, museums and historical landmarks, Spanish missions and other landmarks that will appeal to sightseers and location scouts alike. If that’s not enticement enough, San Antonio boasts the most attractive film incentive in the state; the local rebate, passed as part of a five-year plan in 2016, offers productions that qualify 7.5 percent. The city is so production-friendly, in fact, they allowed NBC’s American Ninja to close a major downtown thruway for 10 days in March, 2017. Now that is a committed film town for you.

Actors Pepe Serna and Jesse Borrego shoot a scene of The Margarita Man in San Antonio. Photograph courtesy of Drop Zone Films and Mutt Productions.

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A complete version of this two-part article appears in MovieMaker’s 25th Anniversary Winter 2018 issue. Featured image illustration by Lily Padula. 

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