15. SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, this sprawling, affordable, and meticulously maintained city offers a perfect home base for exploring one of our most beautiful states. You’re in easy reach of locations that can double as Washington, D.C. or the Old West, all covered by the state’s 25% tax credit. If you’re up for a beautiful drive, check out the otherworldly Bonneville Salt Flats. And there’s no shortage of lovely suburbs and surrounding small towns. The longtime home of the High School Musical franchise has more recently welcomed films like Patricia Arquette’s Gonzo Girl, Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga and Jonathan Nolan’s Fallout. Utah draws plenty of filmmaker attention thanks to Sundance and Slamdance, based mainly in Park City. But they’d be wise to also attend the Sundance screenings down the mountain in Salt Lake City, or to come back in the fall for FilmQuest, in nearby Provo, to experience more of Utah outside the hustle of the festivals. The region has a tight-knit, supportive film community, with skilled, experienced professionals ready to work on DGA, SAG or non-union productions both behind and in front of the camera. For post, filmmakers often turn to Cosmic Pictures, which offers services from digital lab and editorial support to feature and episodic finishing and delivery, including color grading, VFX, and mastering.
14. BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Apple’s Lady in the Lake and the Paramount+ show Lioness are among the latest productions shot in Charm City, which lures film and TV projects aplenty with its proud film and TV track record, low cost of living, and refundable tax credits of 25% for films and 27% for series. The hometown of John Waters, Barry Levinson and David Simon offers a wide range of locations: the seductive seaport of Fells Point, the Gilded Age elegance of Mount Vernon, Antebellum historical sites, vibrant Federal row houses, and the modern-glass architecture of the Inner Harbor East. It has a creative, collaborative spirit and very close proximity to Washington, D.C., as well as very experienced crews and low permit fees. The crackerjack, detail-oriented Baltimore Film Office will work fast to get your needs met quickly. Local post facilities include audio specialists Clean Cuts.
13. BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Boston looks gorgeous on screen, as you can attest if you saw the big bridge fight scene in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (Yes, we know MIT is in Cambridge, across the bridge from Boston.) The Marvel super sequel was just one of many recent projects to come to the Bay State, which offers a 25% production credit, 25% payroll credit and sales tax-exemption. Other recent major productions include the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Luca Guadagnini’s Challengers. Boston also has a vibrant festival scene, and the Nantucket Film Festival, Provincetown International Film Festival and Salem Film Festival are all a short distance away. Its thriving film programs include Boston University and Emerson College, which counts the Everything Everywhere All at Once directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert among its graduates. (We had the pleasure of watching the film at the AMC theater near Boston Common, packed with Emerson students cheering on The Daniels.) Also, we suspect that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon launching a new production company won’t be bad for the Boston film scene. Called Artists Equity, it has $100 million in initial investment, and given their track record we expect at least some of its projects will be set around their hometown.
12. AUSTIN, TEXAS
We attended the Austin Film Festival last year and couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the place, from the outstanding screening venues to the perfect tacos and barbeque to the trail along Lady Bird Lake. Sure, it’s hot in the summer, and yes, there’s an influx of tech and Hollywood money that keeps driving up prices — but Austin is still doing an admirable job of staying weird. And it’s still a lot cheaper than New York City or Los Angeles, with a film culture that matches theirs in enthusiasm. Perhaps the best of all cities for a festival, it offers not just SXSW, the Austin Film Festival and Fantastic Fest, but more than 30 others. Also welcoming: the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, administered by the Texas Film Commission, a cash grant based on in-state spending by feature film, television and commercial projects that offers up to 22.5% back to qualifying productions. And no city on this list submitted such an impressive list of filmmaker residents, from Richard Linklater to Robert Rodriguez to Terrence Malick. Its film culture also includes the Austin Film Society, founded by Linklater in 1985, and the originaal Alamo Drafthouse Cinema that started it all.
11. CINCINNATI, OHIO
Cincinnati is making serious moves, hosting such productions as Shirley, the Regina King biopic of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders, starring Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Michael Shannon and Jodie Comer, and The Wise Guys, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert De Niro as two different gangsters. Cincinnati pulled in an estimated $200 million in industry spending last year, thanks in no small part to Ohio’s 30% refundable tax credit on eligible expenses. Film Cincinnati notes that as it attracts bigger and bigger productions, more and more film professionals are moving to town to get hired as locals. What they find is a diverse, friendly city that’s as American as it gets, with a lower-than-average cost of living. The popping film scene includes the wonderfully inclusive Over the Rhine Film Festival — which we recently rated one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World — as well as the film program at the University of Cincinnati. A little bit Midwestern, a little bit Southern, Cincinnati is close enough to Northern Kentucky to share an airport. So filmmakers can choose from a diverse range of locations across two states, and more local flavor than the city’s celebrated chili. (To put out the fire we recommend Graeter’s ice cream, just maybe the best we’ve ever had.)
Our list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker continues here…