Once again this winter, MM turns
its lens on major North American cities in a non-scientific but revealing
effort to assess their benefits to the independent moviemaker. • Although
we try to take all factors into consideration, including subjective
“quality of life” issues, no simple formula exists for tallying all
the variables that will satisfy everyone’s needs. You’ll see, for
example, that we still like the Pacific Northwest—but if you hate
rain, you still won’t. As much as possible we’ve factored in the obvious
intangibles and let moviemakers speak for themselves. • While
a determined, talented moviemaker could create watchable work in his
Bangor, Maine basement (no real indie moviemaker need be reminded
that where there’s a will, there’s a way), a few of our choices are
no-brainers. Others placed on the basis of small but fast-growing
scenes with surprisingly high levels of enthusiasm. All of them are
fostering productive work worth shouting about. So here is MM‘s
2003 list of the 10 Best Cities in North America for Independent Moviemakers—plus
a few honorable mentions. 

Vancouver’s English Bay epitomizes the
natural beauty that brings moviemakers to this Pacific rim powerhouse.

1. Vancouver, BC: a moviemaker’s

One reason for the recent tongue-in-cheek anti-Canadianism
of Hollywood fare like The South Park Movie might well be
sour grapes over Canada’s continuing dominance as a center of moviemaking.
The situation persists due to a variety of economic factors and
the indisputable quality of life in Vancouver and Toronto, the two
major moviemaking hubs to the north. Though every area has taken
a hit lately from the industry’s general stagnation (and Vancouver
is no exception), there’s still plenty to envy in Canada. Vancouver,
in particular, remains a moviemaker’s dream.

Pat Harrison, fresh from completing his latest feature, Sex, Drugs, Love, Marx, affirms this. “Vancouver is a totally
great place to be an indie.” Listening to Harrison, it’s easy to
believe. He and other Canadian moviemakers we spoke with radiated
contentment and a laid-back attitude unmatched anywhere else.

Harrison pointed out several advantages available
in this moviemaking powerhouse: there’s a huge base of facilities,
acting talent and crew and a steady stream of jobs, courtesy of
heavily subsidized Canadian productions (and American films lured
in by the killer exchange rate). The cost of living is relatively
low and the climate is temperate, with very little snow in the city.
But even the long rainy season offers advantages to the indie moviemaker,
since production slows from roughly November through March, freeing
up a large pool of equipment and crew at cut-rate prices. “You can
really rake in the resources if you suck up to the right people,”
says Harrison.

This “big, flaky city” boasts a strong arts community,
unbeatable natural beauty, hash bars, a nude beach, a mayor who
consults for Da Vinci’s Inquest (the CBC’s answer to Quincy),
a pro-arts government and a downtown with a “crazy edge.” There
are always plenty of movie stars and industry types hanging out,
but you can still shoot guerrilla style. And while the American
stranglehold on distribution hampers theatrical availability of
Canadian product, theaters like Tinseltown, which emphasize Canadian
films, and The Blinding Light microcinema, showcase indie and underground
work. The Vancouver Underground Film Festival also offers locals
a shot at the big screen.

“All these American productions shoot
here, trying to make it look like New York or Chicago. Torontonians
are laughing because we see the CN Tower,” says moviemaker
Ruba Nadda,
of the city’s skyline.

2) Toronto: diversity

Despite everything going on in Vancouver, the heart
of Canada’s film industry is still Toronto, where it was born. Like
Vancouver, Toronto is a very livable city, with a plethora
of divergent locations, great natural beauty, low cost of living,
a ton of world-class gear and facilities and more than enough work
to go around. The main reason we rank Toronto slightly behind Vancouver
is simple: Toronto is a more competitive market.

Producer Tracey Boulton explains, “Vancouver and
Toronto are both loaded with great talent and are very cosmopolitan
cites to make movies in. My first feature was made in Vancouver
and now, for my second feature, I will be shooting in Toronto. I
find the competition for low-budget independent filmmaking not as
fierce in Vancouver, since it is primarily a service industry. In
Toronto, although you have an incredible network of support, the
competition is much greater, so it’s harder to see a film realized.”

Boulton’s director on her second feature, Coldwater,
is Ruba Nadda. Nadda has lived “all over Canada,” but she definitely
prefers living and working here. “Toronto is the most multicultural
city in Canada,” she says. “It’s beautiful, easy to shoot here and
I love the locations and the people.”

Sasha Ormond and Greg LeGros in Lisa Hayes’
Toronto-shot, Goldirocks.

With the same great financial benefits available in
Vancouver, Toronto is an equally attractive destination for American
moviemakers, who routinely find ways to make this cosmopolitan environment
double as someplace else. Even the upcoming biopic Rudy,
profiling NYC’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, will be shot primarily
in Toronto. Nadda laughs, noting “All these American productions
shoot here, trying to make it look like New York or Chicago. Torontonians
are laughing because we see the CN Tower.”

Producer/director Lisa Hayes (Goldirocks)
finds several advantages to Toronto, as well. She lives and works
downtown, with three labs in walking distance from her TV day job,
and bicycles to shoots, often arriving ahead of her cast and crew.
As an indie, Hayes benefits from top-flight cast and crew who “make
a living on the big jobs, but find creative projects more fun. They
don’t seem to care about the pay, as long as they have proper equipment
and good assistants.”

3) New York: indie capital of the U.S.

while los angeles is home to hollywood, the movie
capital of the world, the Big Apple seems a far better environment
for those going the independent route. Both cities are full-service
film industry towns, but the NYC attitude beats the cutthroat competition
of Hollywood any day of the week. The atmosphere is mutually supportive
here, with a creative community that “is more likely to extend a
helping hand than a knife in the back.”

New York City’s famous skyline continues
to be immortalized on film by the hundreds of independent moviemakers
who shoot here each year.

Moviemaker Greg Pak explains, “New York is an amazing
place to work; there’s a critical mass of creative people around.”
Incredibly good actors and crew will work free, or on the cheap,
for projects that excite them. When Pak made his SinCine Audience
Award-winning infomercial spoof Asian Pride Porn, his crew
consisted of fellow members of NY’s Asian American Filmmakers Collaborative.
The film’s star, Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang,
was a local acquaintance. “Everyone involved in the project understood
independent filmmaking and was willing to work for little or nothing
because they believed in it. And there was a strong community of
filmmakers around to whom I could show cuts as

I edited the film.”

How has 9/11 affected the city’s film industry? According
to Julianne Cho in the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting,
the answer is “not much at all.” There, it’s business as usual,
and about three-fifths of that business each year involves independent
film production.

From the standpoint of individual moviemakers, the
answer is different. Moviemaker Mike Kang admitted, “My freelance
gigs were already on the decline after the dot-com implosion. But
9/11 really put a cap in it.” However, he says the dip in production
has allowed him to tackle his personal projects, like the collaborative
piece Board to Death.

Jake Kornbluth, a recent transplant from San Francisco,
had the premiere of his first feature, Haiku Tunnel, cancelled
on September 11th in the wake of the disaster. When the film officially
opened on September 14th, his family in NYC “walked through a ghost
town to the Angelika to see it.”

Pete Solett’s Raising Victor Vargas was shooting
at the time. He says the event has humbled the city for now, and
created an atmosphere of reflection. “When it was over, we were
all pleased to come back to work. We felt we were doing something
of value.” Pak began shooting Robot Stories on September
10th. Shooting stopped the next morning as ash began to blow over
the set. Despite “enormous stresses,” the production finished on
time and on budget. Pak notes that “the trauma clarified our reasons
for working on the project.” Ultimately, the experience “made me
love the actors and the city even more than I had before.”

4) Austin: tight-knit

while the austin, Texas film community is still waiting
for its next big breakout talent to follow in the footsteps of Richard
Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, they know it’s only a matter of
time. Austin boasts a young, vibrant and ever-growing scene that
includes top-flight, big-budget film and indie work alike. The city
itself is a great place to live, incredibly rich in music and the
arts, and enviable in the richness and variety of its natural beauty.

DP Jim Eastburn on the Austin set of R.C.
Ohlson’s 11th & Congress.

L. Jay Duplass, whose recent works include Vince Del Rio and The Astronaut, explains that the Balcones Fault, which
runs right through the center of the city, divides the surrounding
landscape into fertile, flat farmlands to the east, and rolling,
rugged hills to the west. “There are so many different shooting
environments here within 40 minutes of the city,” he points out.
And the weather is great—except in the grueling heat of August.

David Zellner (Plastic Utopia, Frontier)
agrees. “Austin is a very easy place to live and do stuff with little
or no funds.” Zellner, who, like most locals, plans to stay and
work here long-term, adds that Austin’s film community is tight-knit,
and more than willing to share ideas, expertise and gear.

Robert Chris Ohlson, who recently completed the short I Love You, is already gearing up for his next project,

The Meat Market. Says Ohlson, “Since the cost of living is
lower than LA or NY, vendors will work with you on prices. If gear’s
not going out, you can get it at one-tenth of the cost.”

Ohlson sees a swell in sub-$100,000 projects, noting
that moviemakers are still finding ways to pay cast and crew, a
practice that promotes the whole moviemaking community. Add to that
a pool of freelance labor that can sustain four or five full productions
at a time—and a communications program at the University of Texas
that dumps hundreds of people into the moviemaking talent pool each
semester—and you’ve got a steady supply of experienced hands for
your next project.

The Austin Film Society makes their converted plane
hangar soundstage available to indie projects on a sliding scale
and, notes Duplass, there are plenty of top-notch digital production
facilities, as Austin got into digital technology very early in
the game. The bottom line, he says, is “Austin’s film community
is committed in a patient and mature way,” ensuring a healthy scene
for years to come.

5) Philadelphia: efficient, not jaded

The city of brotherly love is a bastion of East Coast
indie film, with one of the most vocal groups of moviemakers we’ve
encountered. Everyone we spoke with (far too many to list, unfortunately)
had nothing but praise for Philadelphia as a place to live, find
jobs in the industry and, most importantly, realize their own projects.

Philadelphia lays claim to one of the country’s
most enthusiastic indie communities.

Philly is a major urban center in its own right, rich
in history and architecture, but close to a dazzling array of naturally
beautiful settings. It offers almost all the benefits of NYC (which
is a mere two hours away) without the hassle and expense of living
there. The Greater Philadelphia Film Office is as efficient and
responsive as it gets, and they maintain the most useful, information-packed,
well-organized and user-friendly Website of its type that we’ve
seen. The city also owns not one, but two soundstages, available
to productions of all sizes, free of charge.

Several organizations and programs exist to get cameras
into the hands of a broad variety of people. There are college and
university programs, PIFVA (the Philadelphia Independent Film and
Video Association), Scribe Video Center, which promotes moviemaking
by people of color as well as low-income individuals and the elderly
and The Big Picture Alliance, a group of moviemakers, teachers and
business people who work with disadvantaged and minority inner-city
teens to make broadcast-quality films.

It’s not a jaded market, either. Producer Nick Stagliano
found both the teamsters and even SAG understanding of his budget,
for example. Sensitive locations have opened their doors to local
moviemakers like Natalie Paige Bentley, whose Youth of a Nation is shooting at a juvenile detention home, a middle school and a
high school. Director Kimi Takesue was given the pool of a luxury
apartment complex for a whole week for her Serpent Summer.
Director Rich Murray (Snipes) praised the city’s “crumbling
Victorian element” and “dark earth tones,” while Donna Dudick (The
Mommy Track
) has organized The Algonquin Film Festival to celebrate
works that encompass the surrounding rural areas. And, as moviemaking
team Adrienne Kenton and Gage Johnston reminded us, in unison, “Philly
is the city that loves you back!”

6) Chicago: film friendly, unspoiled

Chicago could be your kind of town: it offers big
city advantages in terms of crew, gear and facilities, with a small-town,
film-friendly mentality. Like Philadelphia, a large and very supportive
community of indie moviemakers is in place and working steadily.
Chicago has highly professional crews who are nonetheless “very
understanding on the money issue,” according to Alexandra Hodowany.
Courtesy of its vibrant theater scene, there is a large pool of
great actors whom she says are “very professional and not at all

Permitting is streamlined and Kathy Byrne and the
Chicago Film Office “work miracles.” When Hodowany was stood up
by a $3,000 fake rain service, she ended up spending $50 for some
firemen and a hose and got, she says, much better rain. Likewise,
when Noel Olken (Slave) needed to shoot at O’Hare right after
9/11, Kathy got his production right in (“they never even checked
our gear!”).

Chicago could be your kind of
town: it offers big city advantages in terms of crew, gear and
facilities, with a small-town, film-friendly mentality.

Chicago’s “a great place for people who want to be
heard,” says director Melinda Roenisch. “There’s a real interest
in authorship.” By contrast, getting a small project noticed in
LA, she said, is like breaching the Great Wall of China. In this
film-friendly town, she adds, “if what you need is cameras and the
like, you get it—and with a lot more support than most other places.”

One can get pro-caliber crews for smaller projects,
too. Davidson Cole’s director of photography, Pete Biagi (of Project
Greenlight/Stolen Summer fame), is now working with Robert
Altman, who is also employing Noel Olken in his “day job” capacity
as location manager.

Ultra-low budget moviemaker Rich Calenza says, “Nothing
gives you that urban look like Chicago or NY. You can’t fake it.”
The only problem he sees is the often harsh winter weather, which
can also cause continuity problems.

Director Chris McKay says, “Going to different events,
you see there’s a lot of good work going on here. We’re not Austin
yet, but we have tons of possibility.”

7) Los Angeles: the industry’s town

Dan Mirvish learned the ins and outs of an
LA shoot on Open House.

How, you may ask, did the moviemaking capital of the
world sink to #7 on our list? Simple. For an independent moviemaker,
there are far friendlier, easier places to make your movies. It’s
not that we don’t recommend LA; the gear and

facilities are all here, along with an incredibly deep crew base.
But it can take patience, ingenuity and a bit of industry game playing
to take advantage of what this city can offer.

“If you can find the right job banks, you’ll
get good people calling you to get experience,” says moviemaker
and Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish. But by the same
token, you can lose talent to bigger projects.

Another difference between LA and smaller markets
is the level of support you receive from official agencies. “The
Omaha Film Commission virtually produced my first film,” says Mirvish,
“while here in LA, the Entertainment Industry Development Commission
is under investigation by the DA’s office for offering kickbacks
to local politicians.”

LA is also fee-heavy—but don’t think you’ll necessarily
get by shooting guerrilla. “The cops,” Mirvish assured me, “know
what to look for.” Better to pay for the permits—if you can figure
out where to get them. “Municipalities and jurisdictions change
at a moment’s notice out here, so figuring out which agency to deal
with can be tough.” In San Marino, Mirvish was told his fee would
be $800. On the day of the shoot, the cops came anyway, and suddenly
the permit fee was $9,000—one-third of his entire budget. “They
said it was a shutdown; it felt more like a shakedown,” he laughs.
Moviemaker Kirk Harris says guerrilla shooting is not impossible,
just difficult. “But the more out of the way you are, the easier
it seems to be.”

In an attempt to simplify the process, and bring
moviemakers back to the place where it all began, the California
Film Commission has introduced two new incentive programs. The Film
California First program will reimburse certain film costs incurred
when filming on public land within the state. And the STAR partnership
will allow crews the opportunity to film at unused state properties
(such as health facilities or vacant office structures) at no charge—or
a nominal fee.

On the plus side in LA, name talent can be used without
travel expenses (those per diems can kill you). On the minus side,
a 20-mile location change can take two or three hours at rush hour.
Bottom line: LA could be the right place for you, but only if you’re
patient and resourceful—because sometimes you’re going to have an
uphill battle.

8) Las Vegas: untapped, no hassles

The playground of america is also a great place to
make films. While many a big-budget production has exploited its
famous resorts and casinos, there is plenty of independent activity
here, too. Though the film community is less unified here than in
some of the other cities on this list, there are plenty of factors
in place that should, over time, help the base of local independents
gel as a group.

Despite its opulence, Las Vegas is a great
place for low-budget moviemaking.

Producer Barry Green points out, “The Nevada Commission
on Economic Development has identified the film industry as their
number one highest priority for diversifying our economy, and the
film school at UNLV has seen its enrollment triple in the last few
years.” Producer Jeremy Settles notes, “Vegas is an awesome place
to be; we’re seeing more and more productions coming here to shoot,
and more indie writers and producers moving here to live.”

One Hollywood expatriate who saw the light years
ago is low-budget legend Ted V. Mikels. Mikels, who recently completed Mark of the Astrozombies, told us, “I love shooting in Vegas:
Permits are very easy to acquire and people everywhere are very
receptive to shooting on their property. It’s not a burden to film
here like it is in LA, where it’s exorbitant.”

Settles agrees, calling the local economy “ideal
for filmmaking. I try to use as much local talent as I can. Here
in Vegas, we’re building a small family. It’s an untapped market,
and since Nevada is a right-to-work state, I can use union and non-union
people as the situation demands.”

Las Vegas is great for no-budget and micro-budget
pictures, says Green. “We have some extremely talented crew here,
and they’re very flexible and easy to work with.” It’s easy to find
volunteer work, and many of the area’s diverse locations can be
had “for free, with no hassle.” What Vegas still lacks for larger
budgets, though, is a professional soundstage and local labs. “Dailies
are not really practical; you have to settle for ‘weeklies,'” says

9) Portland, OR: thriving, beautiful, cheap

As seattle’s scene exists somewhat in the shadow of
Vancouver’s, Portland, Oregon’s film scene lies in Seattle’s. But
don’t sell this Northwest city short! In fact, says Seattle transplant
Tony Fuentes, maker of “short shorts” and sponsor of both the PISS
Fest (Portland International Short Short Film Festival) and the
POW! Fest (Portland Women’s Film Festival), Portland offers “easier
networking and a more supportive environment; you don’t get lost
in the shuffle so quickly.”

Moviemaker Jaime Bancroft, whose short film Lost screened at the 2002 Northwest Film and Video Festival, agrees,
adding, “It is possible to live cheaply in Portland, so surviving
on your art is possible. It’s a unique lifestyle: potlucks and Pabst.
It’s not decadent, but you can be productive. What else are you
going to do in a place that rains six months out of the year?”

The ability to “survive on your art”
is a key to what makes the Portland, OR community so productive.

And rain it does, although, as Kenneth Luba of Golightly
Films points out, “That’s what makes it green.” Luba chose Portland’s
rain and 80 degree summers over California. “Portland is a great
place to live and work. The economy sucks, but we have a large film
community born out of quite a few Movies of the Week made from the
mid-’90s into 2000. We have great locations, some of the most diverse
on the whole west coast,” a range of looks he says brings companies
from all over to film in Oregon.

Jeff Winograd, currently working on the documentary What’s the Problem? told us, “Living in Portland is easy.
It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen, with a thriving
downtown and one of the country’s top 15 film-watching communities.”
So after you make your film, you’ll actually have people (other
than family) come out to see it.

“Both city and state are really supportive,”
Fuentes says, noting the city’s recent resolution declaring the
importance of the film and video industry. The resolution directs
the parks department to waive up to $18,000 per year in permit and
usage fees for the film industry and the city’s office of transportation
to develop film-friendly policies as well.

It also commits the city to working with the Oregon Media Production
Association (OMPA) to establish one-stop permitting for the industry.

OMPA provides forums for discussion and networking
and lobbies the government on film and video related issues. Their
annual Oregon Media Production Directory, distributed through the
Oregon State Film & Video Office, is a comprehensive list of
producers, production companies, crew, talent and related vendors.

The Oregon Office of Film and Video “does a great
job of advertising for local companies,” Luba says, and the Northwest
Film Center provides training and affordable equipment, as well
as hosting events and administering cash awards for film and video
work via the Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship. Meanwhile, the AIVF
sponsors a very popular monthly Indie Salon at the Hollywood Theater
for screenings and networking, offering moviemakers and their works
further opportunities to find themselves an audience.

10) Richmond, VA: feel the momentum

As a city, Richmond, VA’s look varies
from Colonial to modern, as evidenced by the variety of films
shot here.

Halfway between washington, dc and Baltimore, MD,
is Richmond, VA, the state’s capital and a “big small town” which
producer Kim Davenport calls a “terrifically fertile place for indie
filmmakers.” This historic city of 200,000 is “culturally diverse,”
says Davenport, yet “somewhat insulated between the mountains on
one side and the ocean on the other,” creating an atmosphere that
has nurtured a fast-growing, mutually-supportive community of independent
moviemakers whose work is attracting national attention. “You can
feel the momentum here,” states Davenport.

Megan Holly, Kim’s director on The Snowflake Crusade,
agrees. “One cool thing about being away from filmmaking hubs like
NYC and LA is that filmmakers are under less pressure. It’s kind
of a blessing that it’s not a super hip place; there’s not that
frenetic compulsion to outdo each other. The community here is not
at all cutthroat.”

Director David Williams told us, “Basically, people
leave you alone to make your films, because they still figure you
aren’t making real films anyway.” At the same time, though, there’s
plenty of local support: “The Virginia Film Festival has been very
supportive of independent film, especially filmmakers in the state.
Quirky things can happen. Roger Ebert saw my second film, Thirteen,
there and gave it a great review, even though it had no distribution.”

Martin Jones and his partner Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap
from WKRP in Cincinnati fame) believe in the area; in 1997,
Reid founded New Millennium Studios, 20 minutes outside of Richmond
in the bedroom community of Petersburg. “Over 70 percent of the
state’s film crews live within 60 miles of our front gate,” notes

Appointed “the only truly independent vertically
integrated studio left in America,” New Millennium develops their
own scripts and finances, films and distributes their product all
in-house. “Hell,” says Jones, “the only thing we don’t do is make
film or process it!

We have a great lab in Richmond, Commonwealth, which
has been around since the ’60s. Our studio alone has processed more
than a million feet of 35mm and Super 16mm film during the past
five years! So we have dailies here, just like shooting in LA or
New York. That has been a strategic benefit for us.”

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the James River
Film Festival and the Flicker Fest, a hugely popular bi-monthly
series of short films sponsored by film teacher James Parrish. “James
is a tremendous force and motivator for indie film here,” claims
Davenport, “encouraging underground and experimental work and generating
awareness of the film scene in general.”

As a city, Richmond’s look varies from colonial (the
oldest building, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, was built in 1737)
to modern. Meanwhile, the city’s “Capital of the Confederacy” history,
blue-blood aristocracy, “gritty underbelly” and strong arts community
coexist in a mix Holly finds “exciting and real.” MM

Indianapolis: heartland

Tucked away in the heartland of America, Indianapolis
tends to be overlooked by folks on the coasts, which is odd; it’s
actually the twelfth largest city in America. As such, it’s always
had the right ingredients in terms of commercial production houses,
viable locations and a healthy arts scene to foster a moviemaking
community… it just took some time for that community to make
its presence known.

That’s exactly what’s been happening in Indy over
the last couple of years. If ever there were an opportunity to join
a growing film community in its early stages, this is it.

That’s what brought Javier Reyna from LA to Indy;
it was, he says, “virgin territory. In LA, I’d get funding, I’d
lose funding; I felt chewed up and spat out. It was hard to go through
that and make a living odd-jobbing in film and pay a mortgage, too.”
Once here, he founded his production house, the Digital Film Project.

Paul Pogue, who covers the film beat for the newsweekly Nuvo, called Reyna’s latest film, Legwork, “one of
the most polished, professional things I’ve seen done in Indianapolis.”

Of his own column, Pogue adds, “Before I got this
assignment, our paper ran one or two film pieces a year.” Now, his
column appears twice a month, covering a variety of screenings,
shoots, festivals and local film events.

Much of the excitement has built from the success
of Shari Lynn Himes’ award-winning short, A Song for Jade,
and the first Indianapolis Underground Film Festival, organized
by a loose-knit group of film school cohorts called The Film Commune.
“That festival was a flashpoint,” says Pogue, “as people realized
how much work was being done.”

With the local ABC affiliate, the Film Commune is
now running a 13-episode TV show on the local scene; Indy’s mayor
has appeared on it twice already to boost arts awareness. Shari
Lynn Himes runs The Screening Room, a showcase for independent work
from the film festival circuit, while The Key Cinema invites local
moviemakers to screen their works and take questions and answers
every month. And moviemakers like Garrett Crowe, Williamson Howe,
Richard Payne and Dan Hall are making feature films of high quality
with commercial success. Local audiences are steadily growing and,
as Hall notes, “Indy is incubating film into a viable source of
income for people.”

Seattle: on the verge

Though the indie scene in Seattle forever seems on
the verge of breaking out, it has indeed recently seen an explosion
of activity that reflects the sheer drive and motivation of the
moviemakers living there. Where Seattle once saw a steady outflow
of its moviemaking talent to places like Vancouver and LA, writer/producer/publicist
Kathleen McInnis says, “there are more and more of us who are choosing
to stay.”

That kind of commitment speaks volumes. Seattle has
rugged natural beauty, a strong pool of talent and facilities, a
variety of festivals and helpful state and city film offices. Outside
the city’s core, the cost of living is also reasonable. On the downside,
the Northwest economy has taken a major hit in recent years and
it can be hard to raise cash.

That hasn’t discouraged Seattle’s film scene. In
fact, when a cash-poor administration threatened to cut funding
for the local film offices, “support exploded and took everyone
by surprise,” McInnis recounts. Adds Lisanne Dutton, director of
IFP/Seattle, “the community response was so overwhelming that both
film offices were not only not dropped, they had their budgets

It only makes sense. Though Seattle still loses work
to nearby Vancouver, the city is landing an increasing number of
projects that stay stateside. Recent examples include The Ring, Stephen King’s Rose Red and its sequel, Ellen Rimbauer.
Even more exciting, Dutton notes, is that “for the first time, local
forces are realizing Seattle’s real strength is its homegrown films.”

This is truly a dynamic scene. Seattle’s moviemakers
are organizers, too: Documentarian John Jeffcoat, for example, has
served as VP of Wiggly World, which provides not only a screening
venue for local moviemakers, but seminars and sponsorship of local
work. Jeffcoat also served on the board of the Humanities Media
Center, an organization that promotes documentary film and has helped
create a strong community of documentary moviemakers. If you’re
a D.I.Y. type, Seattle’s visible, vocal film community could be
just the place to do it. MM