Making a movie can be difficult. It’s infinitely more difficult if you don’t have an A-list actor attached. If you lack studio funding. And if you’ve had to mortgage everything you own just to raise the money. So when it comes time to actually filming, wouldn’t it be nice to shoot somewhere easy? We can’t all shut down a major city street, or afford a big sound stage somewhere, so we look elsewhere. Smaller cities across North America are offering very attractive incentives to film makers willing to look beyond the major cities. These are five amazing alternative cities for the film maker who craves aesthetic, but may not be able to afford the best just yet.
Savannah, Georgia – While Atlanta has started to become one of the major go-to filming locations, another city in Georgia has started to make serious waves when it comes to attracting film makers. Neighbourhoods that look like Brooklyn, and beaches like the Caribbean, Savannah continues to be the best kept secret. However, recently John Cusack, Olga Kurylenko, and William H. Macy have all filmed features in Savannah. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you take into account Georgia’s amazing tax credits (Savannah offers even more on top of that). It is a smaller community. With a population of only 147,000, Savannah is the smallest city on this list, so finding crews may be more difficult than in bigger cities. However Savannah can offer that small town hospitality you wouldn’t be afforded elsewhere.
Montreal, Quebec – Even if you don’t speak French, hear me out. Montreal is a relatively affordable major city option. All of the infrastructure is there and you don’t have to worry about a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th job just to pay the rent. Old Montreal has a European aesthetic rarely found in modern North American cities anymore. Then there’s the support of SODEC (Société de développement des entreprises culturelles) and Telefilm Canada in Quebec who have a mandate to support film makers, so there are lots of opportunities to get funding. There are also massive tax incentives, including 20% cash back for all expenses and 16% back on labor-based, computer-aided special effects and animation. Not to mention any Canadian wide tax credits. Montreal should definitely be on every film makers mind when looking for locations.
Austin, Texas – Mostly known as the live music capital of the world, the movie scene in Austin, Texas is stronger than people may realize. There are many film organizations that offer support to film makers, most notably Richard Linklater’s Austin Film Society. It’s the small town vibe and community spirit which helps Austin make this list. With so many small businesses, finding locations to use and film is much easier. SXSW, AFF, and ATX festivals all call the city home, and the strong cinema culture means Austin is always looking for the next big thing. Recently, James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez filmed their blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel in Austin. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for anyone.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Perhaps known best for its steel industry, Pittsburgh became sexy thanks to Jennifer Beals and Flashdance in 1983. And while the steel industry may be on the downswing, Pittsburgh film industry has moved from strength to strength. A large reason for this has been the work of the Pittsburgh Film Office. Set up initially due to a filming strike in New York, the PFO has transformed Pittsburgh into a very desirable filming location. Over $100 million was generated in 2015, and with more major film and television productions using Pittsburgh since then, that number
keeps rising. You can shoot anything in Pittsburhg, except perhaps a beach. Diversity in location remains one of its biggest features. There is both generous tax credits for productions that spend at least 60% of their budget in Pennsylvania and fee-free locations which offer state-owned property for little to no cost for films of any length. Pittsburgh may draw a lot of Hollywood features these days, but it will always be a working class town, for working class people, and working class film makers.
New Orleans, Louisiana – A city full of resilience. The Big Easy has become home to many of Hollywood found homes in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the tax incentives to film in New Orleans have gone down (that’s why it finds itself at the bottom of this list). However the city makes up for that with remarkable production value. There really isn’t anywhere else in North America with the look of New Orleans. That may pigeonhole it because you can’t really pass Bourbon Street as anywhere else, but then why would you want to. The access to resources for indie film makers in New Orleans is second to none. For young professionals, New Orleans offers exciting opportunities. Just far enough from all the traditional film markets, the competition for key roles on sets is limited. This allows younger and less experienced film makers the opportunity to rise within their field faster than those in Los Angeles or New York. A city full of resilience. The Big Easy has become home to many of Hollywood’s major motion pictures. In recent years, Academy Award winners like 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club found homes in New Orleans.