Why You Don’t Have to Live in LA to Make Movies, and Why You May be Better Off Outside LA


So when I let people know I was moving from Southern California back home to South Carolina many assumed I wasn’t going to be involved in movies anymore, but in reality the opposite is true, I can do more and be more involved 3000 miles away from Hollywood than I ever could 30 minutes from it.  For a lot of people the same would be true and for me here are my reasons why:

  1. I cut my monthly costs in half – now I have a nice chunk of change to invest in equipment, education and others film projects I want to support which allows me to do more than I could eating that massive southern California monthly nut.
  2. There is still a cool factor to making movies here – in LA if you find a cool location and you contact the manager/owner there is a good chance well before you stumbled upon it a location management company did and they are going to want you to fork over some dough to shoot there. Locations are revenue sources there, understandably but out here and in most locations outside of LA there is a cool vibe to being involved in a movie and often that is all the compensation an owner needs to let you shoot there.
  3. If you can’ find it build it – I have a big home with a massive garage and a nice bit of land, and I can build entire sets here at a fraction of the cost because I have a lot of people who will lend a helping hand just to say they helped. In LA those people have crippling mortgages, car payments and taxes so they can’t as freely give of their time. When I moved back to this home which I have had for about 10 years I completely remodeled it around being able to shoot here and any sub contractor I mentioned I worked in film to was quick to volunteer to help on any projects again they see the reward as being able to say they worked on a movie, something that is far from a novelity in LA.
  4. Unique practical locations – I am surrounded by them, with some going back to the antebellum times. You can stumble across 200 year old graveyards, and then walk a bit more and cross train tracks which haven’t been in use for 50 years then find your way into an ice cream shop from the 1920s on your way to a stately building built during the reconstruction. Hell when I walk my dog I walk past an amazing wooded area that was here when people first got here.
  5. You might have an endless supply of props – if you are in a real old area like I am then you are surrounded by a never ending prop sale. Every week there are garage sales, flea markets and estate sales of building full of family heirloms to add character and visual interest to your sets. Some of my lighting equipment sits in a militarry footlocker from WWII that I bought for 5 bucks at an estate sale that came with a fishing box from the 1930s that I hold smalls in. Sitting behind my in my office are art deco scounces from the 1920s another estate sale find. Needless to say you can really get some amazing and interesting stuff while wandering around your neighborhood.
  6. What about cast and crew? Anywhere you are you are going to have local talent, people who work at the local tv station have crew experience, many went to school to be able to work on movies so getting the chance might be all they need, you have local theater groups some of which have additional training others would be happy to take any training to work on a film. Of course if you have the budget you can always fly in name talent because those names and faces you see on DVD boxes that sell the film they are use to travel, they spend a lot of their life on an airplane so it won’t matter to them if you are filming in LA or Minnesota. I can tell you just being here a little bit I have had people offer to come here on their own dime from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virgina, and North Carolina to work on a film so people who want to be involved will travel. In LA actors get endless chances to audition so every potential role has a lot less value becuase its one of 1000 they applied to, outsie LA you might be one of 10 so that plays to the advantage of the filmmaker as well.
  7. Private Funding Sources Like Local – ok I didn’t raise money for my first film, and may or may not for my next, but if I was going to I would totally pitch a local angle to the deep pockets who put a lot of effort in promoting the local area. Obviosly film investing is a lot more common in LA where film is a regular industry but imagine you live in a small suburb in New Jersey and you want to raise part of your budget you can make a list of the well off local people easily by reading blillboards and seeing who owns the local businesses then pitch them on two things first helping another small local business and two having their business featured in a movie that will be heavily promoted to the local community. You are giving them two rewards for investing with you before you even talk about ROI and remember that ROI will be higher because your money will go further in your town than LA so you will have a better project (that could mean better design, better production value, better cast or a combination of all). In LA you will be one of hundreds pitching their little indie film to the deep pockets in town, but outside LA you may be one of 5 who pitch them a film in their entire lifetime. I invest in others films if I see value and I would automatically see someone pitching a film in my town as value.

Since I covered all the good things about filmmaking outside LA what are some possible obstacles:

  1. Your local government – not all local governments are set up to handle filming requests so you may have to educate, walk them through the process and show them the benefits.
  2. Lack of Local Talent – ok this could happen but remember you can always fly talent in, just make sure that talent is worth it with a resume to back up their value and make sure they are good with doing table reads and rehearsals via video conference.
  3. The potential investors aren’t film investors – think of them as not film investors yet, they just haven’t been exposed to the opportinity and remember if you set it up right you are offering them two benefits before you even discuss possible financial ROI. When you do discuss financial ROI you can remind them shooting in your town is so much less than shooting in LA you essentially have double the budget for half the cost so profitablilty comes quicker and your unit investment cost is less so they have less exposure.
  4. But I am all alone – no you only think you are. There are people who want to work in film EVERYWHERE. Right now there is someone driving distance from you testing out their new MOVI Pro wishing they were using it on a film, there is someone packing up audio equipment to record their friend’s garage band wishing they could experience life on a film set. There are trained makeup artists testing their halloween looks months ahead of time wanting to see their work on a big screen. You just need to find these people, so post an ad on craigslist or start a meetup or hit the forums looking for local people and get to connecting and you will see you are not as alone as you think.

Well with all that said if there is anyone in the Charleston South Carolina area that would be interested in working on a film I have a real cool project I am doing this year, sort of a funny, smart, sexy and of course gory horror comedy anthology with a lot of parts and opportunites both in front of and behind the camera so feel free to hit me up here or DM me on twitter and let’s connect!

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