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Best Places, 2014: Top Big Cities: #1 Chicago

Best Places, 2014: Top Big Cities: #1 Chicago


It’s MovieMaker’s 2014 edition of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker! We’re counting down through our Top 10 Big Cities, Top 5 Small Cities, and Top 5 Towns—releasing one location a day for the entire month of January. The full list, published in MovieMaker‘s Winter 2014 issue, will be available on newsstands January 28.

Unlike previous years where locations were pitted against each other in a single pool, this year we separated the list into three distinct categories: Big Cities (pop. 500,000 and up), Small Cities (pop. 100,000 to 500,000), and Towns (pop. 100,000 and under). After months of research, interviews, and mathematical formulas, we boiled the rankings down to the essential elements. All locations were rated according to six criteria: Film Production in 2013 (shooting days, number of productions, dollars generated), Film Community and Culture (film schools, festivals, independent theaters, film organizations), Access to Equipment and Facilities, Tax Incentives, Cost of Living, and a General category that included lifestyle, weather, and transportation. Did your place of choice make the list? If not, maybe you should choose again if you’re serious about rooting yourself in a location that’s conducive to your career and life goals – or drop us a comment proposing a place we overlooked this year!


Top Big Cities

#1. Chicago, IL

It may be bitterly cold off the shores of Lake Michigan this time of year, but when it comes to moviemaking, Chicago is as red-hot as they get, setting a city record in 2012 with 235 projects filmed there and $184 million in budgetary spending. And the city is projected to have eclipsed that in 2013, with a host of titles like Jupiter Ascending, Divergent, Jack Ryan, The Vatican Tapes, Transformers 4, and A Conspiracy on Jekyll Island.


Chicago’s sandy beaches, city streets, parks, public art, and skyscrapers have all been captured on the big screen, from the North Shore to Union Station, the “L” to Wrigley Field, and Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). The city has the nation’s largest municipal harbor system, and its popular waterfront and nightlife are very familiar to Second City natives Jon Favreau, Michael Mann, and The Wachowskis. And it scored particularly high on Film Community and Culture, with the Music Box Theatre, Nightingale Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, and many other independent art houses regularly showing rarely seen film noir, avant-garde gems, microcinema, and relics of Hollywood’s Golden era in their original format.


The Illinois Film Production Credit has no sunset and currently consists of a 30 percent tax credit on a $100,000 spend for projects over 30 minutes, and a 30 percent credit on Illinois salaries up to $100,000 per worker. The stipulation is that production companies must promote diversity by creating a plan to hire a percentage of minorities on their crew. Doing so, moviemakers may receive an additional 15 percent tax credit on salaries of individuals earning at least $1,000 in wages and living in areas with 10.4 percent or higher unemployment rates—a win-win for moviemakers and Chicago locals alike. MM

For more information about filming in Chicago visit the Chicago Film Office.

This concludes our countdown of the Top Big Cities! Check back every day for the rest of January to see which small cities and towns are the best places to live and work as a moviemaker in 2014! Previous rankings:


10) San Francisco

9) Memphis

8) Portland

7) Philadelphia 

6) Boston 

5) Seattle

4) Los Angeles

3) Austin

2) New York 

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  1. Eric says:

    It’s painful to think that if I lived in Chicago I could be denied work because I’m white. Seriously, that thing about hiring “minorities” to get a tax credit is just plain wrong. Whatever happened to hiring because someone is QUALIFIED?

  2. David joohs says:

    first of all,there have so many people come from different country,for example,me .i come from UK.Not the every body can use English to leave the message ,they even can not read any words,but they can understand something from the pictures ,the original links or somewhere.if they want to know what’s you want to tell them know ,they need spend time to check the dictionary .so ,i think it’s too hard to leave a English comment here. .. . 😉 😉 😉


  3. Russ says:

    What about Toronto or Vancouver? Half of the NYC or Chicago scenes in movies are shot in Toronto. And as for big, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America behind only Mexico City, NYC and LA, in that order. We have a massive film industry, with hundreds of movies and television shows shot here every year.

    Just my thought. 🙂

  4. Wayne Kubacki says:

    The IL Film Tax Credit isn’t limited to projects 30 minutes or longer. The same 30% on business done with IL companies and the first $100,000 in wages to IL residents also applies to those under 30 minutes (including TV commercials) with a minimum spending threshold of only $50,000

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