The 10 Best Places to Find Film Industry Jobs & the Cities That Give Hollywood a Run for its Money
Whenever somebody says that they want to be in the entertainment industry, the cliché advice that always follows to land such coveted film industry jobs is, “You need to move to L.A.!
Yes, I get it: it would seem the whole industry resides only in Hollywood. But, what if you can’t make it to Los Angeles? Perhaps you have children, a family that you can’t leave, or (even better – to some degree) a good paying job that you can’t afford to jump ship on. Maybe you just love cold weather, and the thought of sunny weather, clear blue skies, and some of the best beaches makes you puke…
Ok, hopefully that’s not the reason.
Your reasoning could also be super practical, like mine. I moved to L.A. in order to finish film school at Columbia College in 2013. However, after I graduated, I couldn’t afford to stay in L.A, once my school aid stopped. To make matters worse, my family back in Philadelphia was struggling financially. Why? Because they had helped me achieve my goal of getting a film degree. I felt obligated to move back home, so that’s what I did.
Now, one entire year later, the most surprising thing is that I have little to no regrets. I’ve actually found more work on the East Coast – in a matter of months – than I did in two years in la la land.
I’m not alone in this.
I have plenty of friends who have become big fish in smaller ponds as they’ve also successfully kept their entertainment careers thriving in markets outside of California.
Trust me, it is possible to get your foot into the door of Hollywood without making the big move to Los Angeles. And you can find out who’s staffing up in various cities by checking out listings for a multitude of film industry jobs / acting jobs on sites like: Indeed; ProductionHUB; Entertainmentcareers; SimplyHired; Jobs2Careers; Glassdoor; Stage32; Facebook Groups; Backstage; ActingCareersNow; AuditionsFree; TheSouthernCastingCall; etc.
I hope the above list inspires you to make some bold career moves (in every sense of the word) just like it motivated me. No matter where you live, the dream is closer than you think. Here are the top 10 cities for some of the best TV and film industry jobs and why Hollywood has gotten pretty comfy enough to call them a home away from home.
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THE 10 BEST PLACES TO LOOK FOR TV & FILM INDUSTRY JOBS:
Known For: Beautiful, tree-lined landscapes, gospel music, and of course, being the country music capital where just about every country music superstar from Blake Shelton to Carrie Underwood got their start.
Productions Shot Here: Tom Hanks’ iconic prison epic The Green Mile was filmed at the Old State prison building right outside of Nashville; Country Strong, a film about a fictional country music star portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow; the hit TV series Nashville, which some called the TV version of Country Strong; and the other famous project named Nashville, a 1970’s Robert Altman film classic.
Production Tax Incentives: Nashville has a very extensive tax incentive program that includes the following taken directly from the Tennessee Entertainment website:
1) Hotel Occupancy Tax – “After staying 30 continuous days at a hotel, production staff and crews may qualify for a rebate of all previously paid Hotel Occupancy Taxes. From then on out, you are no longer charged this tax.”
2) State Sales Tax – “After staying 90 continuous days at a hotel, production staff and crews will qualify for a rebate of all previously paid Occupancy Sales tax, and will no longer be charged this tax from there on out.”
3) Income Tax – “There are no state income taxes on wages in the state of Tennessee.”
Production Permits: There are no permitting fees in Tennessee. On top of that, productions have direct access to state-owned buildings, roads and parks and “most” of those properties allow you to film there for free.
Known For: Majestic mountains, plush forests, and awe-inspiring sunsets that spotlight a robust history of Native Americans who originally occupied the territory and Hispanic settlers who came generations later and added their culture to the landscape as well.
Productions Shot Here: New Mexico has a long history of film production dating back to the 1947 hit movie Sea of Grass starring Audrey Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In the 60s, Clint Eastwood filmed his iconic western The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly here too. In 2011, the blockbuster action franchise Thor was shot here and in 2015, cameras rolled on Benicio del Toro and Emily Blount who starred in the crime-thriller drama Sicario.
Production Tax Incentives: According to the New Mexico Film Office, here are a few of New Mexico’s awesome tax incentives:
1) Initial Tax Credit – “25% refundable tax credit on direct and post-production expenditures rendered in-state and subject to state taxation.”
2) Additional Tax Credit – “An additional 5% credit, for a total of 30%, may apply towards either (a) direct production expenditures for qualifying television series, or (b) payments to off-camera residents for services during production in New Mexico, if a production utilizes a qualifying production facility for a minimum of 10 or 15 days of principal photography.”
3) Budgetary Requirements – “There is no minimum budget or spend requirement to participate.”
Production Permits: Securing film permits in New Mexico for a privately owned property is relatively simple. Of course, there are fees and other restrictions attached. For instance, if you want to film on federal, state or tribal lands, the film permit must first go through Homeland Security, which could take up to a month to get clearance.
Canada (Vancouver / Toronto)
Known For: Spectacular and varying landscapes and city skylines that mirror numerous cities and states in the U.S.
Productions Shot Here: There have been too many films and TV shows to mention them all, but to give you an idea of the magnitude of projects filmed in Canada, check out these blockbuster films shot there and released all over the world, just this year: Suicide Squad, Sully, Star Trek Beyond, The Light Between Oceans, and Blair Witch, to name a few.
Production Tax Incentives: Here are some tax incentives available for those shooting in Canada (courtesy of Canada Film Capital):
1) Federal Program – “The refundable federal tax credit is equal to 16 % of the qualifying labor paid to Canadian residents during the making of a qualified production.”
2) Provincial Programs – “Depending on the Canadian province, foreign producers can access combined federal and provincial tax credits ranging from 32% to 70% of eligible labor, as well as tax incentives on local qualifying spend, ranging from 20% to 30%. Many provinces offer various bonuses.”
Production Permits: Securing a film permit in Canada is not as easy as 1-2-3 and comes with many special requirements and restrictions. It takes 48 hours to get a film permit approved, and if you’re planning to shoot in a residential neighborhood, the Permits for location filming will be coordinated through and issued by the Toronto Film, Television & Digital Media Office (TFTO). This office may require you to get signed, written approval from every home and business owner living in that area. Additionally, a security deposit may be required before any permits are issued and the deposit won’t be returned until all invoices, claims and charges have been taken care of.
Known For: Oil wells and oil billionaires; real cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys; and being the home of former President George W. Bush.
Productions Shot Here: The streets of Dallas were the perfect setting for the 1967 classic Bonnie & Clyde starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty and the iconic TV series Dallas that ran from 1978-1991. USA Network’s runaway summer hit, Queen of the South is also filmed here. Several other well-known film projects were shot here too, including: JFK, Batman & Robin, Any Given Sunday, and Rob Reiner’s soon to be released biopic, LBJ.
Production Tax Incentives: According to the Dallas Film Commission, the “Moving Image Industry Incentive Program” offers “qualifying” projects the following tax incentives:
1) Tiered Payments – “Payments of 5% to 17.5% of eligible Texas spending or 8% to 29.25% of eligible wages paid to Texas residents. This incentive program is in addition to Texas’s Sales Tax Exemptions.”
2) Underutilized Areas – “2.5% to 4.5% bonus if 25% of production is in an underutilized Dallas location.”
3) Incentive Amount – “There is no cap on incentive amount.”
Production Permits: No general filming permits are required under “normal” circumstances, but you must notify the Special Events office regarding any project you’re planning to shoot. However, a filming permit “is required” if your shoot is going to cause a traffic jam or block a street or sidewalk. You will also need to purchase a Certificate of Insurance as well as provide a written notice to everyone in the neighborhood where principal filming will take place.
Productions Shot Here: Pittsburgh has been a go-to production favorite for years, going back as far as 1898 when the very first film was shot there titled, Tancred Commandery, Pittsburg. Other classic film productions shot in the 1990’s include, Pretty Woman, Silence of the Lambs, and Groundhog Day. A few 21st Century favorites filmed there include: the critically-acclaimed Concussion starring Will Smith; South Paw with a knockout performance by Jake Gyllenhaal; and the Vin Diesel fantasy action film, The Last Witch Hunter.
Production Tax Incentives: A quick browse on the Pittsburgh Film Office makes it clear why filming in Pittsburgh is so enticing. The Pennsylvania Film Production Tax Credit Program offers a 25% Tax Credit to films that spend “at least 60% of their total production budget in the Commonwealth.” Additionally, “film companies are not charged a fee or other location costs for the use of state-owned property when filming a commercial motion picture of any length.”
Production Permits: The above website points out that if you’re shooting in the city of Pittsburgh, you must obtain a permit through the Traffic Division of the City of Pittsburgh.
Known For: Chicago Bulls & Bears, Wrigley Field, The Sears Tower, deep-dish pizza, and course, Oprah Winfrey.
Productions Shot Here: Chicago is a chameleon and its landscape and skyline can take on the look and feel of numerous other cities in the U.S. That makes it very appealing to a production company that wants to take advantage of filming outside of Los Angeles. Some of the well-known movies and unforgettable classics shot in Chicago are: The Blues Brothers, Risky Business, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Untouchables, Home Alone, Wayne’s World and Batman: The Dark Knight. More recent productions include FOX’s TV megahit Empire, Spike Lee’s controversial film Chiraq, and recently released drama, South Side With You about President Obama’s and First Lady Michelle Obama’s first date.
Production Tax Incentives: The state of Illinois offers a very competitive 30% Film Tax Credit. It is also the only U.S. State that has a “diversity provision” built into its tax credit.
Production Permits: The permit fees in Chicago vary from $250 all the way up the scale to $1,650. Prices are based on various factors from the type of project you’re shooting (i.e., film, industrial or TV) to the location of the shoot (i.e., city street, back alley, local bar, office building, residential area, etc.).
Known For: Mardi Gras, gumbo, New Orleans Saints, voo doo, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.
Productions Shot Here: Blockbuster films Jurassic World, 21 Jump Street, and The Butler were all shot in the Big Easy. TV shows, NCIS: New Orleans and Pitbulls & Parolees Season 6 were also filmed here. Lately, New Orleans has been referred to as “Hollywood South”. After hurricane Katrina, film production has been key to the recovery effort in the city. According to a 2014 NOLA.com report, the film industry brought more than a billion dollars to New Orleans in 2011. Two years after this, New Orleans outdid New York and L.A. for film production.
Production Tax Incentives: According to Film New Orleans, Louisiana’s “Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit” provides the following:
1) “A 30% transferable tax credit on total qualified in-state production expenditures, including resident and non-resident labor.”
2) “For productions using in-state labor, Louisiana offers an additional 10% payroll tax credit.” That’s up to a 40% tax credit, and if your budget is $1 million, your production will save around $400.000 in tax credits. You mix big productions in film and TV with generous tax rebates for productions, and you can see why NOLA is a hot spot for filming.
Production Permits: They have a very cool process for obtaining a film permit. The “Film New Orleans” office acts as a go-between for all film and video projects being shot in the city. The City of New Orleans offers a blanket, “free of charge” film certificate. This film certificate is a must-have in order to obtain all additional permits through other city agencies.
Known For: The Declaration of Independence, Liberty Bell, Philly Cheesesteaks, and sports teams: the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Productions Shot Here: Okay, maybe I’m biased because I live in Philadelphia and I have found good work here, but Philly is really on the rise when it comes to the industry. Some of my favorite movies shot here are; All 7 Rocky films in the franchise, including the most recent blockbuster, Creed; Tom Hanks’ Oscar turn in Philadelphia; Silver Linings Playbook; and Sixth Sense.
Production Tax Incentives: The Greater Philadelphia Film Office states that filmmakers can earn a 25% Tax Credit if they spend at least 60% of their total production budget in the Commonwealth. Applications should be filed at least 90 days prior to the start date of principal photography.
Production Permits: It is also very cheap to shoot in Philadelphia as most locations can be secured for free or for a fraction of the cost in L.A. or N.Y. Filmmakers have the option to utilize Philadelphia owned property for location filming fee-free if the property is available for the requested shoot dates. Philadelphia also offers productions use of the Navy Yard Soundstages, the only municipally-owned sound stage in the country. However, productions are responsible for any costs incurred and liability insurance coverage.
Hometown Extras: There are many advantages to living in Philly while in the film industry, including close access to NYC and Washington, D.C., as both cities are just a drive on highway I-95 in either direction. This gives you the opportunity to look for work in three major metropolitan areas. There are also a plethora of independent producers in Philly looking to get productions off the ground, and they NEED people to work!
Known For: The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Garment District, great food, Manhattan and Harlem, and last but not least, the birth of hip hop.
Productions Shot Here: If you’re not going to be in L.A., New York is definitely the next best destination for the entertainment industry. Thousands of movies and television shows have been shot in the “City That Never Sleeps” since the early 1900s; including the first film released in 1908 entitled, The Thieving Hand. It was really hard whittling down a short list of stellar films shot in New York, but here are a few stand-outs: Taxi Driver, The Wiz, Hellboy, Cinderella Man, Fantastic Four, Hitch, Notorious, Captain America: The First Avenger, Ant Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the original as well as the new Ghostbusters, to name a few.
Production Tax Incentives: “The Governor’s Office of Motion Picture & Television Development” states filmmakers can receive a “30% fully refundable tax credit on qualified production and post-production expenses incurred during production/post production in New York State.” There’s also a “Post Production Credit” that offers filmmakers “30%-35% on qualified post-production expenses incurred in New York State. This program is for productions which are not eligible for the film production tax credit program.”
Production Permits: Here are the “Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s” steps to obtaining a film permit:
1) No Permit – “Productions using hand-held camera, camera on tripod, hand-held props and/or hand-held equipment, not asserting exclusive use of City property, not using prop weapons, prop vehicles, stunts, actors in police uniform and not requesting parking privileges for production vehicles do NOT need a permit. Standing on a City sidewalk, walkway of a City bridge or within a City park while using a hand-held camera and not otherwise asserting exclusive use of City property is NOT an activity that requires a permit.”
2) Optional Permit – “$300 non-refundable application fee does NOT apply. Productions using hand-held camera, camera on tripod, hand-held props and/or hand-held equipment, not asserting exclusive use of City property, not using prop weapons, prop vehicles, stunts, actors in police uniform and not requesting parking privileges for production vehicles can apply for an Optional Permit.” Insurance NOT required.
3) Required Permit – “$300 non-refundable application fee DOES apply. Productions with equipment packages, production vehicles requesting parking privileges (excluding personal cars, mini-vans, SUVs and pick-up trucks), asserting exclusive use of City property, prop weapons, prop vehicles, actors in police uniform or stunts on set must apply for a required permit. Insurance required.”
Known For: Birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coca-Cola headquarters, home of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, and Atlanta Hawks, CNN, historic colleges Morehouse and Spellman.
Productions Shot Here: Georgia’s film industry is booming! With huge tax incentives and a bunch of productions coming to town, Atlanta seems like the place to go if you can’t make it to L.A. Here are some of the major Hollywood films that were shot in the A-T-L: The Hunger Games Mockingjay – Parts 1 & 2; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; Selma; School Daze; The Boss; as well as the “ATL”. Also filming is the new FX television series starring & created by Donald Glover called, Atlanta.
Production Tax Incentives: Huge tax incentives are driving productions to the Peach State and you can see for yourself by clicking here. Georgia has one of best and most aggressive Tax Incentives in the country including:
1) “Film, television and digital entertainment tax credits of up to 30% create significant cost savings for companies producing feature films, television series, music videos, and commercial.”
2) “Georgia’s Entertainment Industry Investment Act” provides a 20% tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia, either in a single production or on multiple projects.”
3) “The state grants an additional 10% tax credit if the finished project includes a promotional logo provided by the state. If a company has little or no Georgia tax liability, it can transfer or sell its tax credits.”
The number one reason to consider a permanent move to the ATL though may be the low cost of living. Rent is insanely cheap in Atlanta, compared to L.A. and New York, so you can work your way up without selling your kidneys to pay your rent. Just sayin’…
All of the cities mentioned above represent the perfect opportunity for anyone looking to work their way up and learn the business. So, whether you’re a writer and director like myself in search of some of the best places for film industry jobs or you’re in the position of getting the most bang for your production-budget buck, these ten cities rival Hollywood, albeit definitely not the SoCal weather.