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The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities

The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities

Annual Lists

4. New York, New York

“Shooting in New York City is like being in the most exciting relationship of your life,” says Emma Tillinger Koskoff, producer of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman. “But it can only be successful with a huge support system. I’ve shot all over the world and I can tell you I always find that system here. New York crews are exemplary—talented, committed, hardworking, loyal, professional, and fun.” Koskoff also praises the Mayor’s Office for their ability to meet “unique challenges” as well as the NYPD’s Movie/TV Unit, which she says tends to go above and beyond to get the job done. She adds: “New York is a great city to shoot in, but it can be arduous and expensive. Then again, what part of moviemaking is easy and inexpensive?” 

Erica Lee, producer of the upcoming trilogy capper John Wick: Chapter 3, struck a similar note, asserting that even if there are cheaper and potentially less-challenging alternatives, the downside is that they aren’t New York. “We love shooting in New York,” she says. “We decided early on when we were prepping Wick 1 to shoot in New York City even though it was cheaper to shoot in many other places. The scope and scale that the city brings to a film is unquantifiable. You also get amazing crews and actors; it can be challenging at times, but the city has become a real character of the film, part of its DNA.”

Four entries into our list, a theme is emerging: expansion. At the Crain’s Entertainment Summit in October, NYC’s film czar Julie Menin said one of the city’s film-related priorities in 2018 has been to spread production more evenly across the boroughs, noting that city stages were already quite full and expected to be more so. (Roughly half of the 12,000 permits submitted to NYC annually are Manhattan location permits.) In August, the Mayor’s Office began accepting proposals from media tenants who want to fill space in a $136 million development project at the Bush Terminal complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; there’s expected to be workspace for some 1,500 film and TV professionals (or photographers, sound engineers or emerging media artists, depending on who grabs it). 

“There’s never been a better time to be an aspiring film or TV professional in New York City,” Menin tells MovieMaker. “The industry is booming and opportunities abound. The Mayor’s Office has rolled out workforce programs to help diverse New Yorkers gain the skills they need to work in the industry, from post-training and free Made in NY career panels, to our Writers’ Room program in partnership with the WGA East.” Menin also notes that the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) is working on addressing the gender gap in media with the creation of a $5 million Women’s Film, TV and Theatre Fund. So, what could the city be doing better? There’s still room for more infrastructure, according to The Irishman producer Jane Rosenthal: “We have the best and most diverse talent above and below the line, but the additional state of the art facilities would be a welcome addition to the current landscape,” she says. “Movies and TV is over a $9 billion industry to the city and employs more than 130,000 New Yorkers.” 

Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a couple of the unique offerings that put NYC at least in the running for every moviemaker pondering a move. An exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, featuring original drafts, illustrations, and rare books on loan from Potter publisher Scholastic as well as J.K. Rowling’s personal archives, is open at the New-York Historical Society until January 27, 2019. For those seeking a more visceral experience, this past summer the New York Aquarium, off the Coney Island boardwalk, opened its decade-in-the-making exhibit Ocean Wonders: Sharks! A year-round exhibition featuring 18 kinds of sharks and rays among 115 marine species, the aquatic menagerie is in a 57,000-square-foot pavilion that includes an immersive Canyon’s Edge viewing precipice as well as a coral reef tunnel where visitors are surrounded by sharks. Film industry folk may feel right at home.

Director Chad Stahelski (L) on the set of John Wick: Chapter 3 in New York, a city producer Erica Lee says is part of the film’s DNA. Photograph by Niko Tavernise, courtesy of Lionsgate

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  1. Avatar


    January 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Meh. If you want to work as a filmmaker – meaning getting paid for your work, and working consistently – you’re still better off in Los Angeles or New York. Or Atlanta, which has done great work in positioning itself as a hub where production professionals can work steadily.

    This is not to say that the other cities on the list don’t have thriving film scenes (as an ex Austinite with many friends in the Austin and San Antonio film communities, I am well aware that much talent and passion exists all over the country), but unless you want to make your income primarily from, say, car dealership commercials, you’re better off in ATL, NYC or LA.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with doing car dealership commercials, btw! The tone of the article suggests that we’re primarily talking about feature film and TV work, though)

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      January 17, 2019 at 1:59 am

      .Arrogant ass. Our crews are THE BEST and would kick ass over any orher city’s production team(s). What an idiot.

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        January 17, 2019 at 11:58 am

        Jon, you come off just as arrogant! Our crews are very good but many have left NM for NYC. Your war cry makes us look bad. Back off and let our work do the talking!

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        January 17, 2019 at 1:34 pm

        Jon, seems like you’re the arrogant ass. Bruce was only being truthful about the best production cities. At the end of the day, there’s plenty of talented crews in the states mentioned. What have you done that’s “so called” better than other crews? Grow up. The TX tax incentives suck and there’s really not any productions going on in the state. Only Robert Rodriguez movies, who is an awesome filmmaker. How about you move to where the action really is and prove yourself??? You’re immature ego is ridiculous.

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      October 9, 2019 at 8:59 am

      This is such a snobby ignorant comment. I’ll agree that New York has the best rates, it’s easy to move up, and there’s constant work. Los Angeles rates are lower and not worth the cost of living or traffic. New Orleans, Atlanta, and Albuquerque are great options if you want steady work, a lower cost of living, and a less stressful city overall. I came up through New Orleans and never worked on a car commercial. Baltimore was hot for a bit, but I think died down after House of Cards ended. I think the Atlanta and Albuquerque crews impressed me the most with the friendly personalities and work ethic to match.

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    Alex C.

    January 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Absolutely stunned that this compilation left out Cleveland, Ohio–where many comic book block busters have been made in recent years. Cleveland has a wonderful, hard-working Film Commission, and a significant tax credit. Plus there is a great talent base there, the people are friendly, and cost of living is relatively low. What more can you ask for?

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    Frank Casanova

    January 16, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Outside of the top 10 or 11 noted here, the rest are generally considered “locations”, not production centers. A city must have significant production infrastructure to be a production center. Most don’t have that. Moreover, the “deals” will still be made in Los Angeles and New York. Carnahan is just wishin’ and hopin’.

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    Peter Matthews

    January 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Very interesting. Did you only consider the Americas in this survey?

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    January 16, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    This is for Bruce…

    If you’re new or just entering this industry LA and NY are the last places you want to go… that is unless you want to either a) edit for a porn house or b) work at a red Lobster to survive while to wait your turn to get in behind a million others wanting to do the same thing. As for Altanta- good luck with that. How ya gonna network with people? It’s so sprawled out your chances of running into another industry person at a restaurant, bar or other social atmosphere is right up there with being struck by lightning. As for Texas, it’s not a film hub state. Ontario you say? Well, might as well be in Atlanta. Not only is New Mexico a thriving production hub, it’s a MAJOR incentive state, so much so Netflix outright purchased Albuquerque Studios just a few months ago. Aside from that few major studio executives want to travel to Atlanta. On the other hand Santa Fe is a luxury city, just 1.5 hr flight from LA, and major studio executives make excuses to visit and that leads me to networking. Santa Fe while being posh it really quaint. Literally every time I’ve visited, stayed at a hotel, visited a bar, or just grabbed a coffee I’ve met someone in the industry. Next, less competition… in New Mexico there is high demand for crew and not always enough crew available, making it easier for someone to break in. For those of us that have a strong personal network it doesn’t matter where you live because your network keeps you gainfully employed. So starve in LA and NY with a high cost of living, or start working, networking and learning in a place like New Mexico?

    • Avatar


      June 20, 2019 at 8:32 am

      Hey J, I really appreciate this because I never would have thought to look in New Mexico. I will definitely start my search. I do love California, but maybe once I actually have connections I’ll then consider moving.

      Thanks again!

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    Mike Thomas Leghorn

    January 17, 2019 at 6:31 am

    LOL Cinestate in Dallas – “Dallas has the most bang for the buck”
    However they only shoot their micro budget films in Dallas. Anything with a decent budget goes out of state to an incentive based area.

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    February 11, 2019 at 1:21 am

    So are we talking mostly production crew jobs for these cities? What about post-production? Seems like a lot of productions are still farming out the post work to post houses back in LA, including overnighting dailies back and forth via FedEx.

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    Joseph Centofanti

    July 8, 2019 at 12:01 am

    I have been acting for 10 years in independent movies. I would love to go to Albuquerque. Currently live in Tucson.

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      Richard Schoenberger

      July 11, 2019 at 4:18 pm

      Joeseph, then do it! This industry does not favor the meek, you need to get on it! There will never be a “good time” to move, you have to decide what your priorities are, pack your stuff and get in the car. A super easy (and beautiful) drive from Tucson.

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    August 6, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Twelve years ago I wanted to break into film, originally from New Mexico, at the time I was living in Las Vegas. (Side note – Not Las Vegas New Mexico where much of Longmire was filmed but Las Vegas Nevada, where the hookers have teeth and wear heels.)

    At the time I moved from Vegas LA to pursue film only to find out filming was becoming popular in my home state, thanks to Governor Richardson and other advocates. So I moved back where I was a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Networking was easier and immediately started working and haven’t stopped since. Recently a group of producers and I purchased a studio building and will shoot our first collective feature this fall.

    The New Mexico film community is also the most inclusive I have ever experienced. As a gay/trans Actor/Comedian, Producer my film family has helped foster my authentic self. I am thankful to have moved back and get in on the ground floor.

    With very little natural disasters, no gridlock traffic, beautiful locations, amazing food and film friendly people, New Mexico is the place to be and you’ll love free time in Santa Fe.

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    September 4, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I can personally say there is no work in Philadelphia. The very few films that film here use outside hires. Unless you want a job at a news station, I’d look elsewhere.

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