10. Memphis, Tennessee
“Memphis is funky,” says Emmy and Grammy-winning writer and moviemaker Robert Gordon (Johnny Cash’s America). “Its people are funky. You can get the L.A. feel in Nashville, but in Memphis anything you make will have an edge to it. It’s a down to Earth place generally, and pretense should be checked at the door. The crews are like the city: real, kind of gritty, don’t mind getting dirty, but they clean up nicely, too. Also, the Indie Memphis Film Festival is not to be missed. Nearly all of it happens within three blocks of screens, bars, and food; offbeat programming that nods to the region and has an international flavor.”
The edgy programming of The Indie Memphis Film Festival is also paired with curation and programming policies that reflect a social consciousness; the festival’s commitment to supporting black moviemakers was honored in 2018 with the introduction of the Black Creator’s Forum, a symposium of speaker panels and workshops with prominent black moviemakers, artists, and critics to engage on a variety of subjects. The two-day event culminated in a showcase in which moviemakers could pitch projects to attendees.
Gordon credits the run of Memphis-set John Grisham films in the 1990s as laying down an infrastructure that has prepared the city for crews of any size ever since, and notes, “A lot of the city still looks like the 1960s,” except for the cars. If that sounds like a romantic place to film your next project, know that producers are offered a 25 percent grant on local spend, including expenditures, and minimum spend is $200,000.
“Memphis is a great place to shoot,” Gordon continues. “As a location, you can find streets to match most any era, and most any condition. Also, the crews are skilled, eager and flexible. People I’ve worked with (on non-union shoots) are ready to do what’s needed, even if it means duties not normally assigned. They’re innovative and ready to try, and if you treat people right, they’ll go the extra mile, delivering you images you’d never have imagined. A friend of mine says, ‘Memphis is the town where nothing happens but the impossible always does.’”