Big Cities (continued)

19. Kansas City

Boy Mom, directed by Collin Schiffli, filmed in Kansas City, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. 

This Missouri metropolis, close to the border of Kansas, jump-started its moviemaking business last May after a COVID shutdown with innovative safety protocols that other film offices in the country utilized to shape their own. Steph Shannon, the director of the Kansas City Film Office tells MovieMaker that film, television, and commercial productions the office assisted with generated about $11 million in 2021, and she expects business to keep rolling in.

“The supportive culture in Kansas City encourages creatives to work together in collaboration to see any size project through,” she says. “Our professional crews always impress out-of-town producers and directors. Kansas City has six talent agencies, several of which are SAG/AFTRA franchised agencies. Our civic leadership is highly supportive of the industry with a city-wide filming incentive, no permits to film, and meetings upon request.” Writer-director Sandra Martin grew up in the Kansas City area, and makes family-oriented movies (How to Train Your Husband, Finding Love in San Antonio, Renovation of the Heart) with her cinematographer husband Isaac Alongi to remain close to their deep Missouri roots. “Yes, we’ve been busy, in 2020 we shot three movies in Kansas City and in 2021 we shot one here,” Martin tells MovieMaker. “We have found it a great place to make movies, since we have a network of great crew, access to wonderful locations and of course it’s a plus being able to sleep in your own bed.”

“Kansas City offers a lot of different looks,” she adds. “We’ve shot Kansas City for Chicago, San Antonio, even Italy!”

Anyone considering making a move or a movie locally can check out those looks by watching Netflix’s Queer Eye, which set up shop downtown to shoot its third and fourth seasons. The hit reality show serves as a showcase of everything the area has to offer, including the friendly population. Producer Rob Eric loved his time in the area so much that after production wrapped, he told the KC Film Office: “I may move here and live here forever.”

18. Miami

best places to live and work as a moviemaker miami

Miami is a perennial selection on our Best Places to Live and work as a Moviemaker list. Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Film Commission

Seventeen film festivals. Eleven production facilities. Eleven equipment rental houses. Four film schools. Three independent movie theaters. Two film societies. All that and gorgeous scenery continue to lure dozens of productions year after year. Miami is a great place to be for filmmakers of all ages and professional experience.

“Miami-Dade has diverse locations (hills to waterfalls, anywhere USA to tropical landscapes), experienced crew, extensive talent base, and support/ancillary businesses that support content production,” Film & Entertainment commissioner Sandy Lighterman tells MovieMaker. Last year, productions generated approximately $120 million. Issa Rae (Insecure) shot her upcoming HBO Max comedy series Rap Sh*t locally, and Vince Vaughn is starring in the Apple TV+ detective drama series Bad Monkey. Both shot entirely in the area, so if successful, they should be back for the rest of their runs on television. Local crew will find no shortage of music video and commercial work, and it’s also a popular shooting destination for feature films.

Hollywood has a long history making movies set in the Magic City. Bad Boys, Scarface, Miami Vice, Any Given Sunday, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Best Picture winner Moonlight are just a few that come to mind, and there is no doubt that the industry will keep coming back.

17. San Diego

Craving California sunshine and good vibrations? San Diego is a more laid-back alternative to Los Angeles, and only a few hours away, making it very possible to capitalize on opportunities in both markets. “While our crew base may not be as large as L.A. or New York, there is a great deal of depth to the expertise within the region and that’s largely thanks to the San Diego region’s quality of living,” San Diego Film Office liaison Brandy Shimabukuro tells MovieMaker. “People choose to live and work here, and in some cases, commute to work in other destinations.” After a pandemic pause, feature film production returned to the area this year with the upcoming Netflix young adult romance Purple Hearts. A plethora of reality television shows shot in the area, as did Amazon Prime thriller series The Terminal List, starring Chris Pratt, Taylor Kitsch, and Constance Wu.

The city doesn’t offer any additional tax incentives on top of California’s 25 percent tax credit for qualifying film and television productions, but the city waives film permit processing and location fees.

16. San Francisco

Simu Lui Shang-Chi Ancient One Regrets

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings filmed in San Francisco, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Photo courtesy of Disney

The City by the Bay has hosted some of the biggest action blockbusters of the past year: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and The Matrix Resurrections. And Paul Rudd will return to the famous streets of San Francisco as Antman when the third installment of the Marvel hit returns to shoot this spring.

Unlike San Diego, San Francisco does offer additional incentives, in the form of the Scene in San Francisco Rebate Program, which rebates up to $600,000 per film or TV series for city expenditures, like hiring police officers and paying permit and street closure fees. A special program provides discounts on hotels, restaurants, some production equipment, entertainment, supplies, and even airfare.

Film San Francisco tells MovieMaker that 2021 was a busy year, with 233 productions shooting in the area, and it expects even more in 2022. Although the local industry is experiencing a hot streak, the temperature is much cooler than in L.A. or San Diego, which may be a plus or a minus for people, depending on their preferences.

A few other positive attractions: an unbeatable restaurant scene, a historically rich live music scene, and a whopping 48 film festivals, which means endless opportunities for local filmmakers to showcase their work and network with their peers.

15. Dallas

best places to live and work as a moviemaker dallas

Killer Rivalry filmed in Dallas, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker

Like Fort Worth, this city’s film industry benefited from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan moving back to his native state. His next spinoff, 1883, shot select scenes locally in 2021, but that was just a small piece of the production pie that filmmakers get to share in this ultra-modern, sophisticated city known for a gleaming skyline and a mixture of architectural styles. Hulu teen drama series Cruel Summer shot locally, as did a bunch of reality television shows — like Netflix’s Love Is Blind — which can mean great day jobs for camera operators and other production crew members who are looking for reliable income as they moonlight on their own creative projects. “Dallas’ film industry is as large and diverse as the city itself. Dallas provides opportunities for filmmakers to make their projects in a wide variety of locations, as well as utilize experienced local crew, a large talent base, equipment, and vendors at a reasonable and affordable cost,” Dallas Film commissioner Janis Burklund tells MovieMaker. “Additionally, it’s common for burgeoning filmmakers to work on other people’s films, television projects of all types and sizes, as well as commercials, corporate films, and music videos in between their own projects to gain valuable experience.” Some other perks: Texas does not collect income tax (as we mentioned before); sports fans have their choice of professional teams in the city; the average temperature is 77 degrees; cost of living is -2.7% lower than the national average; and perhaps most importantly, homes are so much more affordable than they are in Los Angeles and New York.

14. Baltimore

HBO miniseries We Own This City filmed in Baltimore, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Photo by Paul Schiraldi/HBO

Another project by The Wire creator David Simon came to Baltimore in 2021: We Own This City chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green helmed all six episodes of the limited series, while Simon is a writer and executive producer. The Lee Daniels-produced FX drama The Spook Who Sat by the Door also just shot in Baltimore, contributing to the $125 million economic impact that film and television productions have made on the city.

Debbie Dorsey, director of the Baltimore Film Office, tells MovieMaker that the city, loaded with stunning architecture from every period of American history, offers “a bustling film community — from student films and small indies to national and regional commercials to large-budget studio series and everything in between.” She adds: “We have an established film industry with solid infrastructure and cooperative city agencies. Baltimore is home to a lively arts and music scene, which adds to the mix of creativity.”

And they call it Charm City for a reason: It’s a really beautiful port city with delicious crab and cool bars scattered around the many inviting neighborhoods. “I feel bad when I hear people ignorantly say, ‘Baltimore is such a mess. I’ve seen The Wire,’” Simon said in an interview with Baltimore Magazine. “Because, invariably, when I say, ‘Excuse me, do you think that’s all of Baltimore?’ They say, ‘Nah. That’s just the bad parts. That’s the drug war.’ It disappears as soon as you poke at it, but you’ve got to poke at it.”

13. Oklahoma City

The Kurt Warner biopic American Underdog filmed in Oklahoma City, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Photo by Mike Kubeisy

This flourishing moviemaking hub moves up two spots in our ranking this year because of the recent passage of the Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021, which increased the fiscal year cap on incentives from $8 million to $30 million and offers a cash rebate of 20 to 38% to encourage filming in Oklahoma.

Tava Maloy Sofsky, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, tells MovieMaker: “Oklahoma’s central location, diverse landscapes, and distinct eco-regions, camera-ready workforce, and low costs for living and business make it a formidable partner for the film and television industry.” The new legislature is already making an impact. Sofsky said projects utilizing the Oklahoma Film Incentive Program generated $170.4 million in direct, local expenditures. Projects shot in the state capital in the 2021 fiscal year include the upcoming biographical drama Reagan, starring Dennis Quaid, as well as God’s Not Dead: We the People, and American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story, starring Zachary Levi as the NFL quarterback. “Not only is our talent rising to the demand, but Oklahoma continues to prove that we’ve got everything you need for a major production,” local filmmaker Mickey Reece tells MovieMaker. “Don’t believe me, ask Scorsese. Most importantly, we have some amazing restaurants.”

He’s referring to Martin Scorsese’s next film, Killers of the Flower Moon, which was shot northeast of Oklahoma City in Osage County’s smaller production hub Tulsa. More on that in our “Small Cities and Towns” section, up ahead. Reece, meanwhile, is a prolific filmmaker in his own right, with 37 credits to his name. Watch his latest movie Agnes, a demonic possession story set in a convent, on VOD, and then keep an eye out for his next feature, Country Gold, later this year.

12. Cleveland

Cleveland continues to move up in our ranking because of increasing production activity in the area, thanks to the state’s $40 million commitment to a 30% rebate based on Ohio expenditures for projects that have a minimum $300,000 spend.

Oscar-nominated director Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) filmed his latest feature White Noise locally in 2021, utilizing the surrounding suburbs as well as the downtown area to bring Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel to life. Nick Jonas was also in town for another Jersey Boys adaptation, and the World War II submarine thriller Operation Seawolf, starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Grillo, also shot in town. According to the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, approximately $140 million was spent on film productions in the area last year, and an additional $25 million was spent on television productions. The industry will further flourish upon the completion of Cinema City, the vision of local filmmaker Marquette Williams, who is in the process of developing a 150,000-square-foot studio, with four sound stages, that will also double as a fertile training ground for below-the- line talent.

11. Cincinnati

Bones and All, starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, directed by Luca Guadagnino, shot in Cincinnati, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Photo by Katherine Barrier/Local12 News

This 200-year-old riverside city continues to enjoy a boom in productions utilizing the state’s inviting tax credit, as well as a wealth of locations that can double for plenty of other places. Director Todd Haynes used Cincinnati for New York City, for example, for his Oscar-nominated romantic period piece Carol.

In the last year, John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) shot his upcoming biopic about America’s first Black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, played by Oscar-winner Regina King, and Dune star Timothée Chalamet reunited with his Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino to shoot Bones and All. Guadagnino told Deadline it was “amazing” to work in the area, which he described as “beautiful and unseen.” Cinematographer Juanmi Azpiroz, who shot Hulu’s Frank Grillo action movie Boss Level, relocated from New York to live in the area, and he gives a glowing review.

“I found a team in Cincinnati — talented, good people. I work with them not because it’s easy but because they’re really, really good,” he told the Cincinnati film office. “People across the industry acknowledge the talent of these people. They’re also amazing people. You don’t find that everywhere, especially in this business. I couldn’t ask for more out of this community.”

Continue for our Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022

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