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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.


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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  1. Tom Luca says:

    Very interesting and a heated topic amongst states fighting for MPIs for their economy. Thank You for sharing, this needs to be seen in New Jersey.

  2. Kim Kelln says:

    You might want to add Calgary, Alberta to your list. Not as big as Vancouver or TO, but certainly lots of action, especially for TV – Fargo, Tin Star, Wynona Earp, Hearland, Hell on Wheels. Not to mention the Calgary Film Centre ( with 50K square feet (4700 square meters) of sound stages. Plus equipment and crews.

  3. Charles Edgeworth says:

    I made a movie in Oklahoma. In 2015 we shot “Help! My mother is a chin!” In fifteen days . it received no mention at the Oscars despite it being shot in colour with two different cameras , a professional actress and a heartwarming narrative about the often ignored voices of people who are born as a chin. No arms to hug the needy, no feet scamper like a sprite through an enchanting forest. Nothing. Only chin.

    Am I expected to believe that the films lack of success is no fault of Oklahoma? Ha!

    Also, to the king stranger who pointed me to the medicine isle of walgreens Oklahoma. I owe you a tremendous debt. You’re kind intervention not only saved me from an embarrassing self-shitting scenario but it saved my trousers which are of tremendous sentimental value(due to me winning them at a carnival. I successfully guessed the weight of a large lady with a beard)

  4. Pablo says:

    You definitely forgot about Mexico City. Over 120 movies produced in 2017 easily beats most of the cities on this list. Plus a lot of Hollywood Blockbusters and Netflix series shoot all around the year in Mexico City.

  5. William Morris says:

    Philadelphia is a complete mess. There is no communication from the Film Office no one can ever find out anything about any production. The self created money laundering PAFIA boasts their dues money goes to hire a lobbyist for film tax credits. 1 person. They are pulling in almost 50 dollars a head from thousands of actors. The tax credits themselves are sold and pawned like a cheap hooker. Philadelphia gets nothing while Pittsburgh production’s use most of the credits. The casting company here hire non union actors for SAG union spots while SAG actors are not called in for these principle role auditions. We here in Philadelphia demand change and regulation of tax credits and changes in how casting operates. Union work is so sparse everyone has to travel to New York to work. The productions that do film here do not follow union rules and the SAG union spends more time filing claims against these productions to get actors money owed to them, instead of trying to promote more union work like they want to. Our council members in Harrisburg won’t answer calls or even return calls from Philadelphia. This city is in need of repair and change in the entertainment industry. Thank God we have M Night and Sly Stallone who still support Philadelphia.

  6. Mavis says:

    How far North Carolina has fallen. Before 2010 and the GOP takeover of our government, we were THIRD after CA and NY. Georgia’s Republicans had no problem with incentives and took the long-term approach. Too bad for the vendors, crew and talent that have been lost after a 30+ year legacy.

  7. Brent Harris says:

    Hi my name is Brent harris , I’ve done construction in Oklahoma since the early 80s, my dad owned a cabinet shop and i’ve worked in several homes all over Oklahoma, I have an idea for an Oklahoma based reality TV show, The whole time I was doing residential construction I left a very extensive trail of hidden objects and messages and hints that lead to other homes we did, I think it would be neat to go to two of the homes and have the homeowners compete to find things in their home that were left behind when the home was under construction, they could compete for money and prizes and what ever damage they do to their home will be fixed ,preferably with Oklahoma contractors, I hid plenty of things in these homes and most homes should lead to another home which start the whole process over again, I think it would make for a fun and entertaining show, if you have ideas on how to make this happen please contact me at 405-613-5426 [email protected]

  8. Justin Urface says:

    Albuquerque, New Mexico better place to work in the film business than Boston or Toronto? Ugh. It’s an awful place to live.

  9. Gweilojoe says:

    I don’t quite get the criteria? How could Atlanta possibly be ahead of Vancouver? On every single measure there used Vancouver was ahead. Then throw in the fact that Vancouver is continuously ranked one of the top 3 cities in the world to live and Atlanta doesn’t make the top 50. So i am going to call BS on this list!

    • CSmith says:

      Gweilojoe, you obviously know nothing about the film industry, cause if you did you would know that many TV shows and movies have been shooting in ATL/Georgia for years now, including the Walking Dead.

    • Bravewall says:

      I work in the Van industry, and even I’ll concede the top spot to Atlanta… At least for now. Besides TWD, the most popular MCU movies are done there, and the Georgia peach is seen at the end of plenty other films. But another reason, as this list is about living and working, Atlanta is a much more affordable place to live. Vancouver is expensive, as is L.A. yes our business is booming and growing exponentially, but we are being gouged by living expenses. So for that reason more than any other Atlanta is where I would go to work, if I was American. But I’m quite happy here, just surviving.

  10. Andy Astro says:

    Since the Hunter TV series and the ’60s film It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was filmed in San Diego and that Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot was filmed across the harbor in Coronado, why isn’t San Diego @ the top of this list?? Not to mention Rachel Welch and the Barbie sisters are from San Diego. And whutz not to luv of the La Jolla & Torrey Pines part of San Diego?

  11. Bradely says:

    Really interesting story. Los Angeles, California is my dream city. I am a blogger and pretty good with reviewing movies. From next year I will pursue my passion for writing and acting. Let’s see which city!

  12. Rozy says:

    I live in Seattle and the city is mostly supportive to large-scale film projects. The tax incentives are not as good as other cities. WA state almost did away with their tax incentive program until filmmakers fought to keep it. There are many talented filmmakers and crew here but it’s not easy to make a living in film here (unless its corporate commercial work). Vancouver, BC seems like the better place to be.

  13. Does anyone know anything about film making in Buffalo, NY?

  14. alex says:

    and the title implies that the world has shrinked to the size of North America. Of course! What’s the point in living elsewhere?

    • Vladislaw says:

      And you know who reads their site? A global audience or a north american?

      • Heta says:

        Anyone who googles something along the lines of “best cities for movie production” will find this list. Including me, someone who’s never stepped foot on American soil.

  15. Houston is now the 3rd largest city in America, with the lowest cost of living of any major city in the USA. It is also the home of the 52nd Annual WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, the oldest Indie Film Festival in the whole wide world. WorldFest gave 1st honors to Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, John Lee Hancock, David Lynch, Randal Kleiser, Oliver Stone, John Lee Hancock and literally hundreds more. Every April WorldFest discovers the Spielberg’s and Ang Lee’s of tomorrow. This year the 52nd Worldfest is April 5th through the 14th, with more than 1,000 Intl filmmakers attending and premiering more than 200 films.

  16. Lizzy says:

    It’s be cool if you can updated this, Since now that a lot has changed this year.. I wonder will GA still remain number one for filmmakers?? Looks like some of the film studios might move out to find another state that is more friendlier to women rights…

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