Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker, 2021
For many in the film world, the cancellation of Austin’s SXSW was the moment of realization that COVID-19 was going to cause massive change. Since then, many who left Los Angeles and New York have chosen Austin as their new base. Austin was ready for the influx. The homebase of Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez has spent decades building up a reputation as a keeping-it-weird film mecca.
“There is plenty of community spirit to be found among filmmakers in the bigger cities — but then, all your filmmaker pals in New York and L.A. are devoting their full energies to trying to survive their own daily trials there,” says Austin-based moviemaker Andrew Bujalski, whose films include Support the Girls and Results. “Austin is the only place I’ve known where, when a project gets going, everyone seems to drop what they’re doing to come help.”
A list of recent projects makes clear how bustling the production community is: Rodriguez’s We Can Be Heroes with The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal, Linklater’s animated Apollo 10 1⁄2 with Jack Black, and TV shows including FX’s A Teacher and AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead.
Locations of all kinds can be found around the capital of the Lone Star State, from urban scenes to small towns, ranchland, lakes and just about anything else you can imagine. Permitting is easy, and local film sets take the pandemic seriously.
Texas has never been the most generous state in terms of tax incentives, but the Texas Film Commission makes up for that with the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program that provides cash grants that offer up to 22.5 percent back, depending on production spend. We don’t need to tell you the food is stellar, from queso to barbeque, and someday soon the legendary music scene will come roaring back to life, too.
Dallas is a place to make films and actually make a living in the industry, thanks to its super-collaborative community of filmmakers.
“It’s common for burgeoning filmmakers to work on each other’s films, which has created a true sense of community. Additionally, many filmmakers will work as crew and even talent on television projects of all types and sizes, as well as commercials, corporate films, music videos, etc., in between their own projects in order to gain valuable experience and make a living,” says Janis Burklund, director of the Dallas Film Commission.
The community extends to the many film festivals where moviemakers network and appreciate each other’s work. The Dallas International Film Festival, Oak Cliff Film Festival, Dallas VideoFest, EarthxFilm and Asian Film Festival of Dallas are among the best in the area.
Some of the major films that shot in Dallas recently include Kyle Rankin’s Run Hide Fight, starring Thomas Jane, and Justin P. Lange’s Guy Pearce exorcism film The Seventh Day.
The cost of living in the Big D is lower than the national average, according to Salary. com. International and domestic travel are easy thanks to a major airport in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the region has an admirable light rail system. Your off-set options include six professional sports teams, 20 entertainment districts and dozens of movie theaters, including Texas Theatre and Studio Movie Grill.
#22 San Antonio
The seventh-largest city in America is refreshingly direct about how much it wants your business. “San Antonio is real and ready. Real with authentic, unique and screen-worthy locations, a rich culture and history, and a welcoming film-friendly community that provides one-of-a- kind, budget-friendly experiences both on and off set,” says Krystal Jones, who is the marketing, film and music administrator for the Department of Arts and Culture.
San Antonio offers locations ranging from urban to rural to historic to modern. If you’re thinking of moving to the home of the Alamo, and taking advantage of the city’s budget-friendly creative spaces like The Parish, the Brownstone Studios and Alamo City Studios, the San Antonio Film Commission is ready to help—and considers itself an “extension of the production team,” Jones says.
The commission not only hands out grants to local moviemakers, but also directs them to other organizations that do, too, including the Luminaria Artist Foundation and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.
In 2020, the Department of Arts and Culture used federal relief dollars and money from the San Antonio CARES 4 Arts COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide grants of up to $5,000 for independent artists in the San Antonio area. For production companies, relief grants of up to $75,000 were provided through the Department of Economic Development. The efforts paid off: Productions including HBO Max’s Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 filmed in San Antonio post-COVID-19 closures.
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