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Best US cities for work, besides LA and NY?


Cory Kaseman
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I'm very strongly considering relocating, thanks to a pretty marked lack of work, or at least of the paying kind.

I know I haven't got nearly as much time, experience, or money invested in my gear as a lot of guys, but I certainly have enough that the amount of work I'm getting and the amount of money I'm making for it are pretty much unacceptable.  I absolutely can't afford to pay even my basic monthly expenses and lately have been living almost exclusively off borrowed money.  I'm about to get slapped with a four-figure repair bill on my crapola truck and it's really got me steeled to find some better options.

Now I know that times are tough everywhere, especially in the entertainment industry, but I'm hoping to find a place that can at least offer me more steady work, even if it doesn't necessarily pay well enough to make me rich.  LA and NY are the two obvious choices, but I'm wondering if there are any others that offer a fair amount of work for sound mixers.

Now I don't care even a little bit whether these gigs are creative/narrative-based, film, video, industrial, commercial, run-and-gun or any of the various permutations thereof.  I don't care if I'm working on movies or instructional DVDs or employee orientation videos, just so long as I'm able to make money through the use of my one and only marketable skill, which is pointing microphones at things.  Yeah; I pretty much put all my eggs in one basket and now I'm paying the price for it.

So assuming that I can find anyone who might be willing to throw me a bone and risk adding one more potential competitor to their own work environment.... Can anyone give me some suggestions of more cities I could consider?

EDIT:  I live in Phoenix, by the way.

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I can tell you it isn't Hawaii... and I'm not saying that just because I fear competition.  Even NYC is a relatively small place.  I'd go to LA if your relocating simply because of work.

Los Angeles is expensive (although not as bad as Hawaii).  People seem to work a lot, but some people don't work at all.  I would only consider moving here if you already have clients you have worked for previously, and they are willing to hire you again over the person they usually use in Los Angeles.

Atlanta might have some industrials, and there is a lot of narrative stuff happening in Georgia.  That would be my pick.

Robert

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Perhaps moving to an area where you can be centered between higher paid job locations, or expanding your own boundaries (if possible) could yield more work.  This strategy has been working well for me lately, but it does have it's cons with lots of traveling.  As much as I hate the city I live in, I find myself in a unique area to be able to get work from San Diego to Sacramento (California that is).  Stay strong man, and try developing new talents that will help you survive these slow times with pointing microphones.

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I'd advise you to turn things around and look for places you'd like to live first, then see if there is any amount of work there (and if you have any connections there already--very important).  It will take some time and some luck to get established anywhere new, so it might as well be someplace you like.  LA has been the place in the US most associated with TV, feature and commercial filmmaking, if those things interest you then it might be good to take your lumps there.  But there is some level of production in every major population center, how about some recon trips? 

phil p

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If the big markets don't interest you, New Mexico is pumping. There are many cool places in New Mexico. Also, very hot ones.

Mr Perkins makes the best point IMO. You need to be in sync with where you live. This is a day playing biz. Not easy. Often hard. Never guaranteed.

I always suggest learning more than you know now about the field you are in. This is assuming you enjoy the craft as a whole. As a boom op, you are called upon to be a Zen Warrior, but the tech side of the craft is worth mastering. I believe you can never learn too much about film making. Making a living? Time will tell. For most, it is not over night or anything like that. Good luck.

CrewC

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eric

with full sail and 2 other colleges ( UCF and Valencia ) turning out soundfolk orlando is a marketplace that is crowded with mixers who will work for any rate. I say learn spanish and move to miami.

al

Think about Orlando, Florida or at least seriously investigate it. There seems to be fewer mixers in North Florida as everyone & his brother is in South Florida (Palm Beach and south to Miami).

Eric

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I live in a very small market Savannah Ga I am about 250 miles from Atlanta, 125 from Jacksonville FL and 125 from Charleston SC.  So I work all three places and everywhere in between. But I enjoy where I live and love my life. Savannah doesn't have that much stuff going on but I seem to make it work every year.  Try to make it work where you are at.

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I say this because it's true, and I know..... believe me....

  Get out of Phoenix any way you can if you plan on surviving there doing sound, or,  Prepare for long commutes to work... 

  I have been making the 6 hr. commute back and forth between Phoenix and L.A for over 20 years..... It's not fun, but Phoenix is my home and I love it there, but seldom EVER work there.... I was born and raised in L.A and will never go back... Dislike it there to say the least... It's just not for me anymore... LOVED growing up there though... Back then it was grand... Unless dragged kicking and screaming, I'm done with it...

LOVE Arizona... to live, but the Film jobs in AZ are usually cheap ones, and the jobs I do work on there are usually for my clients when they come out....  It is not the place for film production, some there think so, but really now, not a production city.... They can't get their act together politically to get a proper incentive program going, and it is simply not film friendly there... 

  Do yourself a favor and move to higher ground....  As Crew says, New Mexico is a more happening spot....  L.A. is close by, and a relocation won't kill you...  You will be a small fish in a big pond, but there IS more food... 

Good luck Marco...

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Thanks for the advice everyone.  NM is definitely on my list, although I'd like to get away from the desert if possible.  I understand Albuquerque in particular has seen quite a rise in their film community after a few big indie success stories.

I was born and raised in the upper midwest so I've been strongly considering moving back to that part of the country.  Michigan is a definite possibility as I have a few industry connections up there.  As far as where I'd like to live, I think probably the Milwaukee area since I have some good friends in WI.  It's only about 6 hours from Detroit and Minneapolis, and about an hour 1/2 from Chicago.  I don't mind commuting so it seems like a possibility.

Georgia also seems like it could work.  I've never been to the south but from what I know of Georgia, it has boatloads of green trees.... I love woodland and trees in general, hunting and fishing and camping etc.  For anyone here who lives in or near Atlanta, what kind of vibe does it have?  Out west here, big cities feel like big cities... impersonal, claustrophobic, unwelcoming, but up in the midwest, like say Milwaukee or Minneapolis, big cities have more of a small-town feel to them, for the most part, where most folks you meet are actually on the nice side and treat each other with respect, and you don't have to drive too far to be "in the country".  I far prefer the latter, being raised in small-town america.

Really though, I think Milwaukee is at the top of my list just for personal reasons, and the fact that people have been suggesting Michigan makes me feel even more strongly that moving back to the midwest could be the thing to do.

And BobD, I know what you mean about Phoenix... Back when I was in school everyone was saying, "the Phoenix film scene is right on the verge of taking off!  Five or ten years from now we'll be the next Hollywood!" and now, about 8 years later, people are still saying the exact same thing.  I get the feeling they've been saying it for at least a couple decades at this point.  I had high hopes for my future here, even as little as a couple years ago, but lately I've just not seen anything worth staying for.  It's sad because there are a lot of really talented and creative people here, both crew/production side and talent, but no one ever seems to get their shit together well enough to put out good product and all the really good guys move one to LA when they realize it.  There are a handful of really talented, dedicated people doing their best to make the Phoenix scene better, but they're all doing it "for the love of film" and there really isn't any money involved.  That'd be great if I had a day job, but sound is my day job....

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I was born and raised in the upper midwest so I've been strongly considering moving back to that part of the country.  Michigan is a definite possibility as I have a few industry connections up there.  As far as where I'd like to live, I think probably the Milwaukee area since I have some good friends in WI.  It's only about 6 hours from Detroit and Minneapolis, and about an hour 1/2 from Chicago.  I don't mind commuting so it seems like a possibility.

Keep in mind that if you do that, you'll have to also rent a room or some sort of local place in Michigan for the time spent while you're working.  Your'e not going to want be doing weeks of 12-15 hour days bookended by 6 hours of driving each way -- you wouldn't even be able to go home, turn around and come right back, and make the call time on a 10 hour turnaround!

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Come to Louisiana.  Lots of L.A. and New York folks have already moved here.  What's one more?  Just finished a feature where half of the "locals" were transplants.  And that didn't include the mostly L.A. camera department.

There is a decent amount of feature work, but only about 6 or 8 months out of the year.  The rest of the year is too hot or too wet, and lots of productions don't want to shoot during hurricane season.  We get a bad rap for hurricanes, but really on the show I just finished it was 98degree heat, oppressive humidity, chiggers, spiders, poison ivy, fire ants, bees, west nile mosquitos, thunderstorms(with awesome lightning), mud and snakes that caused problems.  No hurricane threats for at least 2 or 3 more weeks.

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We get a bad rap for hurricanes, but really on the show I just finished it was 98degree heat, oppressive humidity, chiggers, spiders, poison ivy, fire ants, bees, west nile mosquitos, thunderstorms(with awesome lightning), mud and snakes that caused problems.  No hurricane threats for at least 2 or 3 more weeks.

Hey! New Orleans sounds exactly like my home town of Tampa, Florida -- otherwise known as the Lightning Capitol of the World. More people are hit by lightning in Tampa than anywhere else, or so I've been told.

Great story in the current issue of Time Magazine on the rebuilding of New Orleans. And Harry Shearer's new documentary about Katrina, The Big Uneasy, is getting stellar reviews.

The Big Uneasy

--Marc W.

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