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  • Mindy Raymond

MovieMaker 2022 Best Places to Live and Work

Texas has 4 cities in the Top 20! To see the full article click HERE

Taylor Sheridan’s 1883, filmed in Fort Worth, a newcomer to our Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker. Courtesy of Paramount+

Big Cities

25. Fort Worth

The fifth-largest city in Texas, with a population of 938,055, makes our list for the first time ever. Why now, you ask? Oscar-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan returned to his home state when he bought a ranch outside Fort Worth in 2020, and he brought a good chunk of the television industry with him. 1883, a spinoff of his hugely popular Paramount+ series Yellowstone, started filming in the Fort Worth area last August, and it’s a safe bet that it will keep filming locally for seasons to come, considering Yellowstone is currently cable’s most-watched show. Of course, that’s not all that’s happening in this city. Taylor Hardy, associate film commissioner, tells MovieMaker that commercials for clients including Toyota, NFL, Penske, and Wrangler shot in the area this past year, as well as the Michael Chiklis football drama The Senior.

Texas has seen the arrival of many new residents in these pandemic years, particularly former Californians who came for cheaper homes and taxes. There’s plenty to love about the area. Fort Worth has a fantastic live music scene, a thriving cultural district, and traditional Texas fun like year-round rodeo and the world’s largest honky-tonk. But according to Sheridan, what newcomers will really appreciate is their neighbors. “There’s a kindness in Texas that I find lacking in many other parts of the country,” Sheridan said in a 2020 interview with Cowboys & Indians Magazine. “Anywhere you go in Texas, there is a genuine concern for another person’s well-being. I just think it creates a structure of society that is very harmonious. I’ve got a lot of people that fly in to meet with me from California or New York or whatever, and the first thing they say to me is, ‘I can’t believe how friendly everybody is. Everybody’s friendly and everybody’s so happy. I don’t understand it.’ It’s like, well, they’re happy because they live in Texas and they’re friendly because they’re happy.”

Another reason to be happy: no income tax! But, on the flip side, that hinders the state’s ability to be as competitive as several other states in offering lucrative income tax credits on film and television productions. The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program offers between five and 22.5% cash back rebates, depending on the budget, for qualifying in-state expenditures. Filmmakers also benefit from up-front sales tax exemptions, refunds on fuel tax, and state occupancy tax on hotel rooms.

UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy Project filmed in San Antonio, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Courtesy of Screenville Films

22. San Antonio

Krystal Jones, the interim executive director of the San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture, tells MovieMaker that 177 permits were issued for productions locally in 2021, including for the next documentary from Oscar- nominated director David France (How to Survive a Plague), who is taking an inside look at the massive global race to research, develop, regulate and roll out COVID vaccines. Additionally, some scenes from Danny Boyle’s upcoming Pistol, a six-episode limited series about punk band Sex Pistols, was shot in this walkable city in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, with a celebrated culinary scene, a vibrant creative culture, and more than 300 years of history. “Where other cities might have a skyline or neighborhoods that change with the times, San Antonio is thoughtful with development, which results in a city filled with locations for every time period,” Jones says, adding that the seventh-largest city in the country has “a scene for every story, both urban and rural.”

Filmmakers can find work on a plethora of reality and documentary television shows shooting in the area, and then take advantage of more than 250 parks, libraries, and historic locations to shoot their own projects, because permits for city-owned properties are issued free of charge — part of the city’s Film Strategic Plan to ensure San Antonio is one of the most film-friendly cities in the country.

Jones noticed organizations hiring local filmmakers for livestream events after the pandemic shut down in-person gatherings, and is happy to report that organizations continue to utilize locals to document in-person events.

“At the same time, we noticed once again this year that the size and caliber of film productions inquiring about and coming to San Antonio continues to increase, resulting in San Antonio cast, crew and support services benefiting economically,” Jones tells MovieMaker. “What I look forward to is the blend of these two trends, content demand from local businesses and organizations as well as incoming productions — especially what this means for the San Antonio cast and crew that make film happen.”

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

15. Dallas

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.

Elizabeth Olsen in the new HBO Max show Love and Death, which filmed in Austin, one of our best places to live and work as a moviemaker. Courtesy of HBO Max

8. Austin

The SXSW Film Festival plans to return this year, which will no doubt give this film-friendly city a renewed sense of normalcy. There are also 35 other film festivals in the Texas capital, so opportunities for inspiration, networking, and showcasing your work are abundant, as is sunshine, warm weather, and great food. Also: jobs. The Austin Film Commission tells MovieMaker that productions generated an estimated $250 million in spending in 2021, thanks in part to the upcoming Robert Rodriguez thriller Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck, and the HBO limited crime series Love and Death, starring Elizabeth Olsen and created by David E. Kelley. Although the area regularly draws feature and television production, film commissioner Brian Gannon says commercials are a lifeline for local crew.

“Our local indie filmmakers, like most places, pay the bills and finance projects doing commercial work,” Gannon tells MovieMaker. “Thirty-five commercials for national brand campaigns were filmed in Austin, including Lowes, Chevy, Kia, Toyota, HEB, Xfinity, Indian Motorcycle, Samsung, and Dell.”

Indie filmmakers have access to 19 equipment rental houses, dozens of production facilities, and a collaborative community of professional filmmakers, who are known for trading duties on each other’s projects, which can take advantage of free filming in city parks and on state property.

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