One of the most common questions I get from new actors is what state is the best for me to live in and get good work? Well, hold on tight because it’s not like it once was and the answer may surprise you!
When I first started out in my career, it was widely known that if you wanted to work as an actor in tv/film, you needed to live in L.A. or New York. Sure, there was local work on commercials, industrials, print work, and even some independent films, however, if you wanted to do SAG (Screen Actors Guild) work or to book a network TV show or studio film, you had to move to one of the BIG markets. Why? Because in person auditions was the only way to get seen! As little as 15 years ago, there was no such thing as video auditions and when they did start becoming available, it was only for certain circumstances. So yes, living in L.A. or NY was a must to get those bigger and better jobs.
Fast forward to today and things have changed quite a bit. Now, the norm is video auditions. I haven’t had a single in person audition in the entire year of 2022. What this has done is open up the door for EVERYONE. Technology has made it possible (and the awful pandemic) for the actor in small town, USA to submit a tape from their home, and that means it is no longer necessary to live in a certain state to audition or work like prior years.
Now, I want to be clear on this because I know a ton of questions are brewing in some actors’ heads. While you don’t need to live in L.A. or New York anymore to get the audition, it still benefits the actor to live in the state of the job they are auditioning for. Here’s why…
Years ago, states starting exploring the option of offering tax incentives to filmmakers for coming to their specific state to shoot. This brought MANY states so much money and work and was fantastic for the local economy. It still is.
” Louisiana was the first state to adopt state tax incentives for film and television production in 1992. In 2002, Louisiana expanded its program and the state’s film industry began to experience strong growth. Other states responded to Louisiana’s success. By 2009, 44 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., offered some form of film and television production incentives.” 1
The incentives worked and productions started flooding into other states where the production could make their film/series for considerably less money. This busted open new opportunities for actors in those states and the industry started to see a flood of people entering the industry. States like, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma have blown up with work and because of this, many people in the film and television business have moved to these states. I moved to New Mexico in June of this year for this very reason; bigger and better work. As they say, go where the work is!
I know you’re asking yourself, if everyone is taping now and you can literally submit anywhere, why did I move?
This is a great question and the answer is important. The incentives did a great thing; they allowed actors to be seen for roles that they probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be seen for otherwise. (across state lines). However, individual states starting to recognize that it benefited them more if they could hire as many as people as possible that actually LIVED in the state. Producers do not receive all the tax
incentives they are entitled to in order to fund their projects if the people they hire don’t reside in those states and pay taxes in those states.
In addition, producers do not have to pay for travel and room and board if an actor lives within a specified distance of the shooting location under some SAG contracts. This, along with the, oh so lovely pandemic, caused productions to hire at home as often as possible. This is called “local hire.” In fact, if you look for work on any of the acting sites, you’ll notice a ton of casting notices that say LOCAL HIRE ONLY right there in the breakdown. This is mainly because in addition to the production getting more money for hiring “within” as well as a nice level of comfort on the production side that the actor will actually show up. Now, this doesn’t mean they won’t hire outside of the state if they find someone that blows them away, BUT if they can find the right actor for the role right there at home, they most likely will.
If you are pursuing a career in acting, you’ll most likely want to think about living in one of these states. Let me stress again, it’s NOT required that you do this to get work, but if you are attempting to book bigger and better roles, it may be necessary.
If you are interested and curious about which states offer what, take a look at this article https://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/film-tax-incentives-back-in-the-spotlight.aspx. This link will give you a complete breakdown of each state and what they have available.