5. ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
The end of Better Call Saul might be the last we see of the Breaking Bad universe, but Albuquerque used its nearly 15-year relationship with the franchise as a foothold to establish New Mexico as one of the the most vital states for film, with an empire that expands to Santa Fe (less than an hour away from Albuquerque) and Las Cruces (about three hours south). Attracting major investment in recent years from companies like Netflix and NBCUniversal, Albuquerque has clocked sustained, steady growth for years to become a very viable alternative to Los Angeles (two hours away by plane) at a fraction of the expense: Albuquerque offers a tax credit of up to 35% and the cost of living is lower than the national average. You can raise a family here with less stress and a healthy work-life balance, and traffic is so mild that one can easily commute between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. But the best part of the region is that it still has room to grow, in terms of soundstages, post-production houses, and other job creators. One of its major assets is film commissioner Cyndy McCrossen, an expert in location and production services who has worked for Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Outer Range, among other projects, and can help you find the best sights in a region packed with stunning visuals. Albuquerque owns nearly 30,000 acres of open-space land including rocky foothills and pine forests, and filmmakers are also drawn to the area’s parks, pools, botanical garden and railyards — as well as the nearby Sandia, Manzano and Jemez mountains. Permits are easy and fast, and fees are flexible.
4. TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA
This booming film capital has hosted productions from almost every major studio and streamer in 2022, including Amazon’s The Boys, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia. Its eminence in the film world is on global display with the Toronto International Film Festival each fall, which celebrates not just the year’s shiniest awards-season contenders but also bold indie voices. (TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky deserves a special shoutout for his championing of the daring and avant garde.) It’s filled with outstanding film programs, including Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto Film School, and York University, and great filmmakers from Sarah Polley to David Cronenberg call it home. How film-friendly is it? Its film office vows to be the fastest in North America when it comes to issuing permits, handling them in as little as 48 hours. And the tax incentives are outstanding, including the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit of 21.5% on all qualifying production expenditures incurred in the province, and the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit of 35% of the eligible Ontario labor expenditures — with an enhanced credit rate of 40% on the first $240,000 of qualifying labor expenditures for first-time producers.
3. NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Laissez les bons temps rouler: If you shoot in New Orleans, your cast and crew will love you. One of the world’s most storied cities, it offers eclecticism, adventure and spirit no American city can match – but also appeals to pragmatists with a 25% base credit for in-state expenditures, and additional 15% for local labor. There is also a special tax credit for projects written by Louisiana writers. A New Orleans setting can make even a dull story watchable, and New Orleans has enough working crew — more than 1,800 union professionals – to handle up to 18 major productions. The New Orleans Film Festival anchors its commitment to rising filmmakers, and shooting in New Orleans (or anywhere in Louisiana) entitles you to take part in the Louisiana Film Prize, a one-of-a-kind competition in which filmmakers from across the state compete to win up to $50,000 for the best short film. That money will go far here, given New Orleans’ surprisingly reasonable cost of living. We used to list New Orleans among smaller cities and towns – it was No. 1 last year — but given the size of its big, beautiful, nearly 400,000-strong population, we decided to bump it up to compete among the big cities, where it more than holds its own. AMC’s revived Interview With a Vampire is a perfect display of its undying beauty.
2. VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
Vancouver’s charms are very familiar to the countless American film and TV productions that shoot almost everything there, and the appeal is only growing. Locations range from sleek modern streets and plazas to the cobblestones of Gastown to the sandy beaches of Kitsilano to the lush rain forest of Stanley Park — all within the city of Vancouver. The very film-friendly city offers steep discounts on permit fees, and the tax credits have changed lives: British Columbia offers a 35% credit for Canadian-owned businesses, as well as a 16% incentive available for post-production, and a screenwriting incentive of 35%. The benefits are almost, but not quite, as good for non-Canadians. Vancouver is a flourishing, creative, and inspiring city year-round, with very mild winters by Canadian standards.
1. ATLANTA, GEORGIA
The center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the anchor of Georgia’s more than $4 billion film industry last year — comes closest to rivaling New York or Los Angeles for film and TV opportunities. Just spend a few days in Atlanta and you’ll feel a powerful sense of things happening everywhere, and creative people thriving. It’s a little more expensive than the average U.S. city, but it’s a bargain considering its size and abundance of anything you could want: jobs, creative opportunities, great food, and culture. The 20% tax credit is boosted another 10% for productions that include the now-very-familiar Peach logo. Recent projects that shot in Atlanta and the surrounding region include Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, DC’s Black Adam, and the subject of our latest cover story, Warner Bros.’s Creed III. The permitting process is easy and efficient, and soundstages, equipment rental houses and post facilities abound. Atlanta is also home to the famed Atlanta Film Festival, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, BronzeLens Film Festival, Morehouse Human and Civil Rights Film Festival, and SCAD TVfest, among other festivals. SCAD is one of the anchors of its film culture: the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design is a colorful and joyous place where students learn everything from gloriously experimental animation to using a state-of-the-art Volume screen to nailing an elevator pitch. The city’s next generation of filmmakers is coming in hot. Atlanta has energy, passion and a constant sense of progress.
Our list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker continues here with Smaller Cities and Towns…