Austin reels in top Texas spot among best big cities to be a filmmaker
Good news for cinephiles and aspiring directors: Austin has landed a prestigious spot among the 25 best big cities to live and work as a moviemaker. Landing at No. 12 on MovieMaker Magazine's annual list, Austin joins four other Texas cities in the top 25: Dallas (No. 20), Houston (No. 21), San Antonio (No. 22), and Fort Worth (No. 25).
MovieMaker compiles its annual list based on surveys, production spending, tax incentives, additional research, and personal visits whenever possible — with the notable exclusions of Los Angeles and New York:
"We don’t believe people should have to be rich or well-connected to make movies," writes MovieMaker Editor Tim Molloy. "And we know plenty of people who moved to L.A. or New York with filmmaking dreams and ended up working industry-barely-adjacent jobs just to pay the bills. We think the best place to live is one you can afford — a place where you can be happy, inspired, and financially free to pursue your art."
These criteria are themes throughout the ranking: Atlanta, Georgia, took the top spot overall, followed by Vancouver, British Columbia (No. 2), and New Orleans, Louisiana (No. 3). The five Texas cities on the list all boast more affordability than Los Angeles or New York, and each one features a deeply supportive film community and various local incentives.
Austin topped all the Texas cities at No. 12, celebrated for its venues and surrounding cultural traditions. It received special honors for tacos and barbecue, along with its general proclivity for "staying weird" while beating the major coastal cities on affordability despite rising costs. The capital city also represented a fantastic playground for festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW), and many successful industry leaders over the years.
"Also welcoming: the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, administered by the Texas Film Commission, a cash grant based on in-state spending by feature film, television and commercial projects that offers up to 22.5 percent back to qualifying productions," writes Molloy. "And no city on this list submitted such an impressive list of filmmaker residents, from Richard Linklater to Robert Rodriguez to Terrence Malick. Its film culture also includes the Austin Film Society, founded by Linklater in 1985, and the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema that started it all."
In 2022, Linklater (Dazed and Confused) released an animated project, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood, set in Houston but which premiered in Austin at SXSW; Fear the Walking Dead, filmed in Austin, aired its Season 7 finale; and Queer Eye captured hearts all over the world via its cast of real-life Austin heroes.
Elsewhere in Texas:
Dallas earned the No. 20 spot for its easy access to both coasts, diversity, experienced crew base, easily obtainable permits, hotel deals, and more. Houston placed right behind Dallas at No. 21, with MovieMaker touting its diversity and low cost of living.
San Antonio came in at No. 22, selected for its plethora of permitting options, reinstatement of local film incentives, and growing educational opportunities such as the University of Texas at San Antonio’s new Bachelor of Fine Arts Film & Media Studies program.
And last but not least, the No. 25 ranking went to Fort Worth, where Taylor Sheridan's Yellowstone spinoff 1883: The Bass Reeves Story is currently shooting — and looking for talent.