It’s no secret that most actors find themselves drawn to L.A. or NYC, but there are plenty of other great cities for actors in the United States—and even Canada. As the work expands to other regions across the continent, so do opportunities for actors in these smaller (but powerful) markets. Not feeling the big ponds of New York or Los Angeles? Here are 11 other cities where you can make your on-camera dreams come true.
“Better Call Saul” Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel
With New Mexico’s film, TV, and digital media industry spending $2.2 billion over the 2020–2023 fiscal years, the state is an excellent market for big- and small- screen talent. Albuquerque-based actors receive tons of local support from the New Mexico Film Office and other organizations, and schools like the ABQ Actors’ Studio train those new to the business alongside seasoned performers, making this one of the best cities for aspiring actors. Famous locally shot productions include “Oppenheimer,” “Ghosted,” “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” and “The Night Shift.”
“Atlanta” Credit: Guy D'Alema/FX
Georgia has the fastest-growing film industry in the nation, and Atlanta is at the heart of it. Massive incentives, expanding production studios, top-notch acting classes, and an international airport with easy access to California make Atlanta a major destination for actors. As the number of Atlanta-based independent and studio productions goes up each year, local actors are enjoying a plethora of work opportunities. The city’s such a hot spot that Tyler Perry opened his sprawling 330-acre studio there in 2019. It’s also where many major projects were filmed, including multiple “Hunger Games” films, “Stranger Things,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Walking Dead,” and, of course, “Atlanta.”
“Love and Death” Credit: Jake Giles Netter/HBO Max
Austin is increasingly one of the top cities for actors. Climate, scenery, access to professional crew, and financial perks draw productions—and actors—to Austin and the surrounding areas. Local talent was used in the Academy Award-nominated “Boyhood,” including the film’s Austinite star Ellar Coltrane. Other local film and TV productions include “American Crime,” “Love and Death,” “True Grit,” “Special,” and “Friday Night Lights.”
“CODA” Courtesy Apple TV+
New England hosts a light but steady stream of film, television, and commercial productions, primarily shot in and around Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Massachusetts tax incentives have had a positive effect on the local film community. Projects filmed in Boston include “Boston Strangler,” “Defending Jacob,” “Little Women,” “I Care a Lot,” and Oscar winner “CODA.”
“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” Courtesy Columbia Pictures
Due to its minimal permitting regulations and relatively low cost of living—and filming—North Carolina has a steady stream of films shot in the state that highlight its relevance and viability in the industry. In particular, Charlotte holds great potential as a small-scale film town, with productions including “American Animals,” “Sully,” “Homeland,” “Shallow Hal,” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
“The Bear” Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX
It’s called the “third coast” for a reason; Chicago is a great city for actors of all backgrounds and is chock-full of theater, improv, film, TV, and commercial opportunities. Big-budget filmmakers have flocked to the Windy City for projects like “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” Interested in television? The wealth of locally shot TV shows include “The Bear,” “Station Eleven,” “Chicago Fire,” “Empire,” and “Shameless.”
“Bad Boys for Life” Courtesy Sony Pictures
The city where the heat is on has an established motion picture market and entertainment sales tax exemption that make it one of the best cities for film actors and producers. Iconic films “Scarface,” “The Birdcage,” “Goldfinger,” and Oscar winner “Moonlight” were shot in the Magic City, as were the TV shows “Dexter,” “Burn Notice,” “The Glades,” and “Miami Vice.” Miami is also a major commercial market, with many national ads and music videos shooting in the surrounding areas each month.
“Mayfair Witches” Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC
New Orleans is home to tons of talented film professionals, from filmmakers to professional crew to on-camera actors. Like many other booming film markets, Louisiana’s tax incentives, beautiful locations, and right-to-work labor laws make it an attractive destination for major networks and indies alike. Films shot in the city have received major acclaim; “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Django Unchained,” and “12 Years a Slave” were all filmed in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Locally shot TV series include the horror and supernatural productions “American Horror Story,” “The Originals,” “Mayfair Witches,” “We Have a Ghost,” and “Renfield”—so if you’re into the ghostly and spooky, NOLA might be the city for you.
“Portlandia” Credit: Augusta Quirk/IFC
Casting directors and actors are abuzz about Portland, and with good reason: A thriving theater scene, a vibrant local culture, and an expanding film and television industry have created fabulous opportunities for Oregonian actors. Films and TV shows including “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Wild,” “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” “Grimm,” and the hilarious, self-referential “Portlandia” were all filmed in and around the City of Roses.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Los Angeles isn’t the only California city where actors can advance their careers. San Francisco is home to multiple commercial and theatrical shoots each year, and has the added advantage of an active theater scene. The Scene in San Francisco rebate program incentivizes filmmakers with dollar-for-dollar refunds on taxes, and has successfully drawn an increasing number of productions to the city. Some of the TV shows and movies shot in the Bay Area are “Looking,” “Sense8,” “Silicon Valley,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” “Venom,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Big Eyes,” and “Godzilla.”
“Workin’ Moms” Courtesy CBC Television
Dubbed “Hollywood North” (alongside Vancouver), Toronto is a major hub of film and television production, with recent record-breaking spending for screen production. Local actors have many training opportunities at their fingertips with the Toronto Film School and the Toronto Academy of Acting, both of which have onscreen-focused programs. The very long list of local productions has included popular TV series like “Workin’ Moms,” “Reign,” “Hannibal,” and “Orphan Black,” as well as major motion pictures like “Crimson Peak,” “X-Men,” and “Suicide Squad.”
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