When Batman squares off against Superman in this spring’s forthcoming film, they won’t be fighting on a set in Hollywood. Zack Snyder’s film crew shot their Gotham City scenes in Detroit and their Metropolis scenes in Chicago, with Smallville scenes filmed elsewhere in Illinois, before wrapping up in Deming, New Mexico, which served as Wonder Woman’s home of Themyscira.
This reflects a trend that is seeing Hollywood’s dominance challenged by a proliferating number of filmmaking locations in other parts of America and outside the U.S. The number of film production jobs in California fell by 4,500 between 2005 and 2012 even though industry growth should have added 7,900 jobs, according to Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute’s California Center. Investment tax credits and cash rebates are luring filmmakers to other locations. Here are three of the top filmmaking spots in the U.S. outside Hollywood.
Austin topped MovieMaker’s list of the best cities to live and work as a filmmaker in 2015, as it has in multiple years past. Austin has become an independent film mecca since the mid-1980s, when “Slacker” director Richard Linklater founded the Austin Film Society and Roland Swenson organized the South by Southwest festival. The Austin Film Festival joined the scene in 1993, followed by numerous other film festivals now hosted by the capital of Texas.
Austin’s film community now includes the likes of Linklater, Terrence Malick, Robert Rodriguez, Mike Judge, Quentin Tarantino, and Andrew Bujalski, to name a few. Films and TV series shot in Austin include “Austin City Limits,” “From Dusk till Dawn,” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Austin’s film community receives support from a strong industry infrastructure, with facilities such as the 10,000-square-foot Austin Studios, an abundant supply of local crew for film projects, and strong tax incentives. Filmmakers looking for apartments in Austin will find themselves in a thriving creative community, which includes a vibrant music and art scene alongside the city’s film industry.
Then there’s Chicago, which came in third on MovieMaker’s 2015 list after Austin and Los Angeles. Chicago was the original center of the film industry, thanks to an alliance between filmmaking patent holder Thomas Edison and Chicago’s Essanay Studios and Selig Polyscope. Essanay launched the film career of silent star Charlie Chaplin before Chaplin and the film industry headed west, precipitating the decline of the city’s filmmaking prominence.
Chicago’s filmmaking revival began in 1980, when the city hosted “The Blues Brothers,” spotlighting the city’s music tradition and featuring spectacular car chase scenes through the Dixie Square Mall, Daley Plaza, and Milwaukee’s Bridge to Nowhere. The 1980s saw the continued growth of Chicago’s film industry with films such as “Risky Business,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Untouchables,” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Mayor Richard M. Daley gave the industry a further boost by establishing tax incentives in 2008, attracting films such as “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon” and TV shows such as “Empire.” In addition to its thriving film industry, Chicago boasts strong support for the arts, a legendary musical tradition, rich ethnic diversity, and the city’s famous Chicago-style hot dog and deep-dish pizza.
New York City
Finally there’s New York City, ranked fourth on MovieMaker’s list last year. Like Chicago, New York was a major film production center during the silent film era, hosting Vitagraph Studios until Warner Brothers bought the company out in 1925. After a lull during the early talkie era, production returned to the city in 1948 with the film noir thriller “The Naked City,” which spawned a TV series in 1958. The debut of the New York Film Festival in 1963 sparked an avant-garde scene that produced such filmmakers as Andy Warhol, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola.
New York’s independent film scene saw a revival in the 1980s with the debut of directors such as Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee. In 1990, James Schamus and Ted Hope founded Good Machine, which helped establish New York as a center for independent filmmaking. In recent years, New York has hosted independent films such as “A Most Violent Year” as well as big-budget productions such as “The Avengers” and TV shows such as “Boardwalk Empire.”