SMALLER CITIES AND TOWNS
10. THE HUDSON VALLEY, NEW YORK TOWNS OF POUGHKEEPSIE, KINGSTON AND NEWBURGH
We rank cities, not regions —but there’s no denying the rise of the Hudson Valley, a collection of small cities and towns making a huge impact on the industry. Poughkeepskie has welcomed productions including NBCUniversal’s The Endgame, Apple’s Invasion and Severance, Showtime’s The First Lady and HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls. Severance has also shot in nearby Kingston, and so have Netflix’s Manifest, HBO’s Full Circle and The Undoing, as well as many more productions. Newburgh, meanwhile, has welcomed Rian Johnson’s Peacock show Poker Face, HBO’s The White House Plumbers, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. The region’s stately, reserved beauty and century-long embrace of arts and culture have made it highly desirable, especially for thoughtful prestige productions. Many New York City residents found the area to be a refuge as they fled tight quarters during lockdowns, which may explain why so much creativity has spilled out of the valley. And it benefits from New York’s 25% tax credit on below the line costs, and an additional 10% on below-the-line labor. Massive Clouds, in Kingston, is among the superb local boutique post houses.
9. ASHLAND, OREGON
The celebrated Oregon Shakespeare Festival has anchored a love of storytelling in the Ashland-Medford region since 1935, and has recently become a significant producer of film and media. The OSF-produced short film “You Go, Girl” premiered at Sundance in 2022, and the company has produced four multi-camera theater-on-film streaming presentations recently as it moved away from only live presentations. (All the world’s a stage, after all.) Southern Oregon’s PBS station SOPBS has also welcomed a new CEO, Phil Meyer, with a fresh emphasis on promoting local productions. Recent indies shot in the area include the feature Bad Fish, which Medford-based director Ray Nomoto Robinson shot with local crews. The Oregon Production Investment Fund offers qualifying film or TV productions that spend more than $1 million in the state a 25% cash rebate on goods and services, and a 26.5% cash rebate for payroll. Additional incentives are available for smaller-budget films. And if you like small towns, Ashland is the smallest on this list, with about 20,000 people. We probably don’t need to tell you that the hikes in Southern Oregon are spectacular.
8. KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
Kamloops is the hub of the quietly astonishing Thompson-Nicola region about 200 miles inland from Vancouver, which offers locations from badlands to desert to grasslands to snowy mountains to waterfalls to forests and ski resorts. But the biggest draw may be the 53.5% tax credit. It’s no surprise the region has attracted projects like Jurassic World Dominion. Recent Canadian productions include Bones of Crows, about a Cree woman who survives the Indian residential school system to become a code talker for the Canadian Air Force in World War II. Permitting is fairly easy, and the crew base is understandably growing fast. Terri Hadwin, the new Thompson-Nicola Film commissioner, also points out another benefit of the area’s swift ascent as a movie hub: “No film fatigue. People are excited to work with the film industry.”
7. LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO
Joining our list for the first time, New Mexico’s second-largest city adds to its cache as an essential center of film: It offers a low cost of living, up to 35% in tax credits, and captivating locations aplenty. It’s a hub for productions taking advantage of the hypnotic White Sands National Monument, and can double easily for Texas and Mexico — not a huge stretch, since El Paso and the border are both 40 miles away. But it can also stand in easily for Los Angeles and a wide range of other locations thanks to abundant palm trees, stunning mansions and adobe-style homes. Filmmakers also appreciate the ready availability of the vacant courthouse and prison. Recent films shot locally include The Locksmith with Ryan Phillippe, Kate Bosworth and Ving Rhames, and Bad Hombres with Thomas Jane, Luke Hemsworth, Nick Cassavetes and Tyrese Gibson. It promises easy and fast film permitting.
6. KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE
Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville is alluring and versatile enough to attract plenty of shows with the names of other cities in their titles. That’s a testament to its easy-going versatility and very experienced crew base. If you invest $200,000 or more in qualified spending per episode or project, you’re eligible for a cash rebate in the form of a 25% grant. There’s also a qualified production credit to offset up to 50% of franchise and excise tax liability. But enough tax stuff — can we talk about the beauty of eastern Tennessee? Among the most irresistible locations are Meads Quarry and Augusta Quarry, two exceedingly photogenic swimming holes and recreational areas. The Ijams Nature Center also offers a wide range of looks, from wetlands to rock formations to trails, and you can even watch movies under the stars there in the summer. Recent local productions include the survival drama Roof, as well as Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas. Speaking of our queen: When it’s time to unwind, Knoxville is less than an hour from Dollywood.
5. PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Angelenos loved Palm Springs already, prior to the pandemic, for its untamed desert, unbeatable pool scene, and history as a playground for everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley. But it became an industry mecca when everyone in isolation became increasingly desperate for open space and remembered the desert oasis just over a hundred miles away. Even the endless gossip around Don’t Worry Darling couldn’t distract from its breathtakingly beautiful shots of Palm Springs, captured in all its well-preserved Space Age wonder. (It looked pretty great in A Star is Born, too.) Film fanatics who flock each year to the Palm Springs International Film Festival may want to stay year-round, especially with Palm Springs Studios opening soon and expected to greatly expand film and TV production in the Coachella Valley far beyond the roughly $32 million the industry pulled in last year. The tax credits are potentially better than they are in Los Angeles — in addition to California’s 20 or 25% credit (the amount depends on the type of production), eligible projects shot outside the 30-Mile Studio Zone can earn up to 10% in additional credits.
Click here for the final Smaller Cities and Towns on our list…