Does it matter where I live if I want to be a filmmaker?

By Benjamin Craig, filmmaking.net


On the surface the answer to this question would seem to be that where you choose to base yourself isn't important. With a telephone and an Internet connection you are never that far away from anyone these days. But as always, the reality is more complex and probably can be summed up with that age-old, but somewhat unhelpful answer: it depends.

Inevitably, choosing to live in a location which has an active film industry will bring with it benefits and opportunities which just aren't available if you live somewhere which doesn't. Industry hubs bring with it things like access to crews, more equipment and facilities companies. A deeper pool of actors to choose from, and networking opportunities, to name a few. While it's not impossible to live in a place that doesn't have these things, it can make things quite a bit harder.

That said, lot of where you choose to live will depend on which bit of the film industry you want to work in. If you're a technician or someone else who relies on a contact network to find work, then you will almost certainly need to base yourself in an industry hub when you're starting out. However if you're a 'project instigator' (i.e. a producer or writer) then living in a hub can be less important so long as you are reasonably near to one. The reason is that the time you spend on shoots is a small fraction of the time you spend on a project as a whole. Writing can of course be done anywhere, and if you're producing, a large amount of your work outside of principal photography is done over the phone or via email so physical location is less important. It's likely that you'll need to attend meetings from time to time, but if you manage you diary well and do have access to an industry hub, then these can be done on visits - you don't actually need to live there.

Obviously once you're established and have a name for yourself it may be possible to live away from a hub because work will come via your contact network or people will seek you out. But as a new filmmaker you'll find it that much harder if you are too physically detached from the industry.

But before you begin packing your bags for Hollywood, remember that there are quite a few film industry hubs in other cities and locations across the globe. Where you base yourself has a much to do with the type of films you want to make as it does with the hub itself. And bear in mind that these days fewer and fewer films are actually shot in LA. The high-costs of shooting in California, combined with the strength of the local unions, plus a plethora of tax incentives offered around the world means that even the Studios largely make their films elsewhere. Other big hubs include New York, Vancouver, and London, but there is also plenty going on in placed like Sydney, Auckland, Paris, Berlin, and of course Mumbai. Indeed, it can often be easier to get a foothold in the industry in a hub other than LA.

For you personally, the question might ultimately be answered by things such as your ability to support yourself in a given location, your lifestyle expectations, immigration status, and how dedicated you are to forging a career in the industry.

Last updated 8-Dec-2014

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