San Antonio reels in impressive ranking among 25 best big cities to be a filmmaker
Good news for cinephiles and aspiring directors: For the fifth year in a row, Alamo City has landed a prestigious spot among the 25 best big cities to live and work as a moviemaker. Landing at No. 22 on MovieMaker Magazine's annual list, San Antonio joins four other Texas cities in the top 25: Austin (No. 12), Dallas (No. 20), Houston (No. 21), 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.
San Antonio came in fourth among Texas cities 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. Other factors include overall costs of living, production resources, friendliness, and authenticity.
"San Antonio has a rich film history, and besides being plugged-in, friendly, and affordable, it's almost astoundingly photogenic,” Molloy writes. “San Antonio's experienced, economical crews can and do handle every type of production, from indie films to commercials to unscripted shows and docs. It's a great place to get regular work while saving money to make your own films, drawing on the impressive talent all around."
In the past year alone, notable San Antonio-based productions have included full-length feature films (The Answer to My Prayer, Peregrinacion a San Antonio), television and streaming programs (American Ninja Warrior; My True Crime Story; and more), and commercials (Travel Texas; The Storied Secrets of San Antonio; Kroger; Tecovas; Toyota; and more).
“Earning this prestigious accolade five years in a row shows to the world what filmmakers who have been shooting in San Antonio since the 1920s already know, San Antonio’s is a top-tier city to make movies due to experiences both on and off set,” said Department of Arts & Culture Executive Director Krystal Jones in a release. “In 2022, the City of San Antonio made it clear that filmmaking is a priority with the reinstatement of our local film incentive. Since then, we have noticed the size and caliber of film productions inquiring about and coming to San Antonio continues to increase, resulting in San Antonio cast, crew, vendors and support services seeing a positive benefit economically.”
Elsewhere in Texas:
Austin unsurprisingly took the highest Texas spot at No. 12, scoring points beyond the obvious benefits of SXSW. MovieMaker praised smaller fests like the Austin Film Festival, as well as the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, and Austin's impressive list of filmmaker residents (Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, and Terrence Malick — to name a few).
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. 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.