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When Americans think of top cities for filmmaking, Los Angeles and New York are probably the first to come to mind. They are etched into film history, becoming characters themselves. However, those central cities are not the only places to be a practicing, and successful, filmmaker. Below, here are some major filmmakers who have created an integral part of their filmography outside of New York and L.A. and have cultivated vibrant film communities elsewhere.
The explosive cult-favorite, John Waters earned his start in Baltimore, Maryland and stayed there. Growing up in Lutherville, a Baltimore suburb, he moved to Manhattan to study at New York University, but left shortly afterwards and moved back to Baltimore. Upon his return, he made two shorts in Maryland, “Roman Candles” and “Eat Your Makeup,” and the features “Mondo Trasho” and “Multiple Maniacs.”
Following those films, Waters made what he calls the “Trash Trilogy,” which includes “Pink Flamingos,” “Female Trouble,” and “Desperate Living.” Making films primarily in Baltimore and its suburbs, Waters is known for his collaborations with his company called “The Dreamlanders.” The company of local actors includes Divine, Cookie Mueller, and Mink Stole, among others. Waters, who dons a signature penciled-in mustache, is internationally recognized as an icon known for his wildly inventive, camp work. His filmography bridges high and low art. Perhaps some of his oeuvre, with its penchant for camp, could have provided some inspiration for this year’s Met Gala attendees.
M. Night Shyamalan
Shyamalan introduced the phrase, “I see dead people,” into popular culture with his landmark film “The Sixth Sense.” But he also lives and works in Philadelphia, and the City of Brotherly Love is very much present throughout his filmography. Known for his characteristic dramatic twists, M. Night Shyamalan has directed films like “Wide Awake,” “Unbreakable,” “The Village,” “The Happening,” and “The Last Airbender.” Most recently, he directed “Split,” and“Glass,” a tying-together of the “Unbreakable” trilogy. His recent films in particular evoke Philadelphia as a central character, replete with terrifying hidden passageways in the cities’ Zoo.
The filmmaker known for his depictions of teenage ennui has been a part of the public imagination for decades. Just recently, fans have spoofed the controversial “Game of Thrones,” reimagining it as a John Hughes tribute. Known for films like “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and more, Hughes has set the majority of his films in the Chicago area. Specifically, in a fictional suburb called “Shermer, Illinois.” Hughes possessed a preternatural eye and ear for the upper middle class teenage experience. In addition, he propelled the careers of “Brat Pack” members including Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, and more.
Los Angeles and New York may have captured public imagination, but these major filmmakers centered their careers, and created vibrant film communities, in other American cities.