Top 10 international cities to live in if you work in film

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We all dream of cruising down Rodeo Drive as we drive to the studio from our Beverly Hills Mansion, but with many cities now offering world class movie making facilities all around the world, the options for where to shoot your next project are on the increase. Locations Managers have the tough job of weighing up all the pros and cons for each city. For people who work in Film, there’s no need to be tied to one place. Here are 10 cities around the world with a vibrant film production scene that you should probably know more about.

10. Los Angeles

Once upon a time the lure of Hollywood called aspiring actors, screenwriters and filmmakers hoping to hit the big time to the city. For over a century, LA was the place to be for everyone in the film industry but do you know the practical reasons behind LaLa Land’s rise in popularity?

The first reason was the weather. The Californian sun provided perfect natural lighting and was a dream for studio heads and for filmmakers who mostly shot exteriors to get the most out of the low-cost lighting set up.

The second reason was a little more sneaky. Thomas Edison’s New Jersey based company had a patent on motion pictures that couldn’t be enforced in the ‘Wild West’. This prompted producers looking for a loophole in the law to make the move and take the bright lights of the East Coast with them to the city that was to become known as ‘Tinseltown’. By the 1920s, Paramount, Warner Bros, Columbia and many other well-known film studios had established themselves in Hollywood.

Over 100 years later, LA’s reputation as the world’s leading film hub comes down to the vast movie infrastructure in place in the city. Those studios grew and developed along with the service providers. Industry training and education around the city produced some of the world’s greatest talent. Millions of people hoping to make their mark on the industry flocked to the city to seek their fame and fortune. Some of them even found it!


9. New York

Before there was Hollywood, there was New York.

Since there was Hollywood, there has still been New York.

For most US movies, anything not made in LA is, for the most part, made in New York. The city has been the backdrop for uncountable Rom-Coms, Crime Dramas and Woody Allen comedies.

New York is also the home of some of the world’s leading Film Festivals like Tribeca and the New York Film Festival. It’s also the home of some of the world’s leading Film Schools at Columbia, NYU and New York Film Academy. With so much creativity in the city, it’s no surprise that New York remains one of the most important cities for Film Production in the world.


8. Berlin

Berlin is just a cool location for a film. Probably the coolest city in Europe, it inhales creatives. Among them, young and exciting filmmakers, writers, performers and artists focus on creating rather than on the commercial elements of filmmaking. It’s a haven for low budget and indie film production. Dreams of filmmakers are made even more attainable when you look at the many financing options available for visual media and film production.

The city’s famous Babelsberg Film Studios, now a theme park dedicated to film (and a good one), was once a powerhouse of European film production. This was where Fritz Lang shot ‘Metropolis’. This was where Marlene Dietrich began her film career.

Berlin’s artistic side was shown on film in Berlin: Symphony of a City (1927) and in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s epic Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), but the city’s film scene struggled through two wars and recovery was slow. The Berlinale was set up in 1951 and is now one of the leading film events in the world, but it took decades to build its reputation.

Now, Berlin is cool again. It is the city that gave us Run Lola Run (1998), Goodbye Lenin (2003) and The Lives of Others (2006). And if US productions are still on your mind, there’s always The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) which may have been filmed in Berlin but the German locations were used to double for Russian settings. Berlin was also transformed into Panem for The Hunger Games.

So if you’re looking for somewhere cool, it’s about time Berlin had another chance to be highlighted on the world stage.


Berlin's Tempelhof Airport as Panem

7. Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s recognisable cityscape has been used in some of the most memorable films ever made. The city’s indigenous film industry is legendary. Who can forget Enter the Dragon (1973), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Infernal Affairs (2002) or Kung Fu Hustle (2004)? And who hasn’t heard of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee?

Hong Kong has also attracted international productions and its most famous is cult classic, Blade Runner, followed closely by The Departed (2006). While Cantonese is the main language of films made in Hong Kong, those made for international audiences or as co-productions, are often made in English by English speaking crews. This makes it particularly attractive for action movies or action-based comedies (Cannonball Run or the Rush Hour films) looking to film in exotic locations.


6. Paris

The beauty and romance of Paris has been immortalised in countless movies.

French cinema has been known to have global appeal and had proven popular on the world stage. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001) famously captured the essence of Montmartre life. Three Colours: Blue made the swimming pool at the Rue de Pontoise famous while elevating Juliette Binoche from relative global obscurity. La Vie en Rose(2017) launched the international career of Marion Cotillard when it earned her the first ever Academy Award for a performance primarily in French.

It’s not just the French who have romanticised the city. International filmmakers have recognised the draw of Paris and brought their stories of the city to life, from Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 classic An American in Paris (1952) and The Pink Panther (1964) to Bertolluci’s The Dreamers (2003).

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) was not his first film about the city and followed his 1996 movie Everyone Says I Love You. Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset (2004) was possibly more of a love story about Paris than it was about the characters.

The list could go on, but the point is simple. Nothing says ‘Je t’aime’ like a Parisian backdrop.


5. Mumbai

Mumbai is the hub for Hindi cinema, or Bollywood, which produces more movies per year than Hollywood and is one of the largest and most profitable film industries in the world. Hindi cinema represents 43% of all of the films of India made in all Indian languages and Bollywood films are popular throughout South and East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Bollywood films that celebrate the city include Deewar (1975) and

In recent years, popularity of films hailing from Mumbai have had an increase in popularity among Western Audiences. This may have a lot to do with the success of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), an Indian/British co-production shot in the city.

So, if you’re a production professional looking for pastures new and your Hindi is up to scratch, opportunities await in Mumbai!


4. Toronto

Toronto has long been a favourite for filmmakers who opt to head north in an effort to slash budgets. While some films made here feature the city like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010), and Crash (1996), others use Toronto to double for US settings.

Toronto has a surprising list of movies on its list of success stories. These include Mean Girls (2004), The Virgin Suicides (1999) and American Psycho (2000).

In 2008, London’s famous Pinewood Studios set down roots across the pond. It was Toronto that they first chose to call home, making an important commitment to the future of the movie industry in Canada and marking a significant chapter in the city’s film development. The studio opened the doors for the largest-scale productions to cross the border and the city’s booming industry has since gone from strength to strength.


Suicide Squad in Toronto

3. Albuquerque

Breaking Bad was the production that catapulted the New Mexico landscape onto screens around the world, but Albuquerque’s film scene has been on the rise for quite some time. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was famously shot in Albuquerque and around the State of New Mexico as a nod to some of the great Westerns of film history that had roots in the state. Most notably, the movie was inspired by John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath (1940) which used New Mexican locations for filming.

Some of the most well-known films shot in and around Albuquerque include Silkwood (1983), No Country For Old Men (2007), Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and The Avengers (2012). Our favourite, though, is Frank, Lenny Abrahamson’s hilarious 2014 comedy which beautifully captures the landscape of some of the world’s most beautiful filming locations.

It’s the clever incentives put in place by the State that really bring productions to Albuquerque and have kept them coming back in recent years. From generous tax credits to financial incentives for training local crews, filming in New Mexico is an attractive prospect. It’s especially popular with low budget indie film producers. Add to all that the top class film schools in the region educating the next generation of filmmakers and you’re looking at a very bright and sustainable future for filmmaking in the state.

And you don’t have to miss out on any sunshine!


2. Atlanta

The Atlanta film industry generated $6b in the city’s economy last year. The state of Georgia has the 3rd largest film production industry in the US and it looks like things are set to continue. The state easily offers the best tax incentives in the US to attract productions and the film industry in Atlanta is known for having more of a ‘can do’ attitude than its glitzy, glossy rival cities. It also helps that a lot of Georgia locations are permit-free, cutting through red-tape for producers and locations teams.

Atlanta has a thriving filmmaking scene that has, in recent years, seen an influx of the brightest talents hoping to ‘make it’. Its production infrastructure has grown at a rate that surpasses even the golden days of Hollywood. With the 2014 addition opening of Pinewood Studios, a positively platinum future seems to be in the cards.

Atlanta has clearly marked its territory as TV Valhalla and is known for producing successful series’ The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries and Archer among others. It also counts multiple box office hits and critically acclaimed titles among its productions. Into the Wild (2007), The Divergent trilogy, Captain America Civil War (2016), The Accountant (2016) and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017) were all filmed in Atlanta and on location in Georgia.

Needless to say, it’s not just the weather that’s hot in Atlanta.


The Walking Dead

1. London

The top 3 was a real struggle. At the risk of appearing biased, we thought of tossing a coin to decide which city deserved first place, but London just kept creeping back into the top spot. Who doesn’t love London for filming?

It’s certainly earned its stripes. In very British style, London’s long and stable history as a filming location has been earned and solidified time after time throughout movie history. Maybe that’s why it’s called the Hollywood of Europe.

The city and its landmarks have been immortalised on celluloid more often than we could ever begin to imagine. Even if you’ve never visited London, you’ll know Westminster, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge at a glance. You’ve seen the Bond Movies!

Pinewood Studios and the Warner Bros Studios at Leavesden have contributed to the global success of London’s big budget productions and the highly skilled crews and film services in the city mean that not only do Hollywood producers and production companies often chose to leave LA to make their movies, but they leave the US in favour of all that London has to offer.

Some of London’s best known studio productions include the Bond movies, the Harry Potter franchise and the current DC Extended Universe movies; Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Wonder Woman (2017) and Justice League (2017). Disney even located their UK operations at Pinewood for the current generation of Star Wars movies and all of their spin-offs.

The city’s landscape has been celebrated (or destroyed!) in films like Alfie (1966), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Notting Hill (1999), Love Actually (2003), 28 Days Later (2002), V for Vendetta (2005), Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Match Point (2005)… Meaning that Woody Allen really knows how to make the most of a beautiful city.


28 Days Later

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