Austin’s reputation as film city in the limelight is living up to the hype.
MovieMaker, a quarterly magazine and website based in Los Angeles, has just released its annual list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022. Austin stole the show as the top city in Texas, and was ranked No. 8 nationally.
Though the No. 8 ranking is impressive for Austin, it is a bit of a dip from the Capital City’s MovieMaker ranking of No. 6 on the 2020 list.
Texas is the best-represented state on the MovieMaker list, with four cities ranked as tops for moviemakers. Aside from Austin, Lone Star State locales making the list include:
- Dallas: No. 15, down from No. 13 in 2020
- San Antonio: No. 22, down from No. 20 in 2020
- Fort Worth: No. 25, and making the list for the first time ever
MovieMaker compiles its annual list based on a variety of factors, among them surveys, production spending, tax incentives, additional research, and personal visits.
Of course, as the publication notes, the ongoing pandemic has put a wrinkle in the usual production of most movie-industry projects.
“The COVID pandemic continues to rage on two years after the virus landed on American shores, and one of the few silver linings has been a revolution in telecommuting — giving us all more freedom than ever before to live and work where we want, how we want. The movie industry is no exception,” MovieMaker says. “Post-production coordinators are managing workflow between editors and animators from the comfort of their own homes, and the writers’ room may also be a bedroom. Production, however, can’t always be facilitated through Zoom calls. So, for on-set crew, producers, and directors, it remains essential to be close to someone yelling, ‘Action!’”
It makes sense that Austin would maintain its dominance on the MovieMaker list, as the Capital City boasts a spectacular range of film-industry festivals, organizations, and infrastructure.
MovieMaker specifically highlights the in-person return of the SXSW Film Festival this year, along with 35 other film fests in the Capital City, and the area’s many equipment rental houses, production facilities, and collaborative filmmaking community.
The publication also cites the Austin Film Commission as confirming that productions generated an estimated $250 million in local spending in 2021, despite that pesky pandemic, with a good portion of that coming from commercials made in Austin.
“Our local indie filmmakers, like most places, pay the bills and finance projects doing commercial work,” Austin Film Commission director Brian Gannon tells MovieMaker. “Thirty-five commercials for national brand campaigns were filmed in Austin, including Lowes, Chevy, Kia, Toyota, H-E-B, Xfinity, Indian Motorcycle, Samsung, and Dell.”
Then, of course, there’s the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program managed by the Austin-based Texas Film Commission, which has itself increased the number of projects being made in the Lone Star State since its inception in 2005. According to the TFC, between September 1, 2007 and August 31, 2021, that program has generated $1.74 billion in in-state spending, created 162,000 jobs, and produced a 510 percent return on investment.
In fact, the TFC even notes as an example that thanks to the incentive program, one animation company spent $1.5 million for a 302-day project in Austin, and offers similarly significant figures for project spends in Texas’ other major markets.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, claimed the No. 1 spot on the MovieMaker list for the fourth year. And on MovieMaker’s correlating list of the Best Small Cities and Towns to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022 — which included no Texas cities — New Orleans landed at No. 1 for the second year (though many would question the designation of the Crescent City as a “small” city or town).
The full rundown of the MovieMaker list for 2022 appears in the magazine’s new winter issue.