Which Cities Are Most Difficult to Shoot In?

When it comes to crafting the perfect screenplay, most writers aren’t thinking about feasibility. They’re wholly dedicated to their craft, weaving storylines and dialogue in with their setting. After all, a film’s setting should be viewed as a separate character that adds depth, context, and quality to the project. 

The greater that setting feels to the audience, the more memorable the project becomes. But this can create huge hurdles for production crews. Just consider James Cameron’s foray into the Avatar world—the filmmaker had to wait decades for technology to be advanced enough to help him create a believable and satisfying setting for his characters.

For the average production team, a film shoot in a city is relatively tame. Location scouts will comb through various neighborhoods to find the perfect shots, then a whole crew will prep that area for filming. Cities in states like Georgia and, increasingly, New Mexico are top choices for filmmakers looking to save a bit of money on their projects. Still, that doesn’t mean screenwriters are shying away from big-city storylines.

And when it comes to filming in the US, these cities are known for presenting unique challenges for filmmakers. Let’s start with Vegas and end where it all began: Hollywood.

Las Vegas: Red Tape & Fine Print

When people think of Vegas, they think of all-out entertainment—and probably a few big-name casinos. Despite the location’s association with gaming, most people today stick to online formats that let them explore different categories and titles, from roulette to blackjack to slots. Consistent players prefer online formats for convenience and added deals, as virtual casinos are more accessible—and this is true worldwide.

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But that doesn’t mean Vegas doesn’t enjoy a reputation as a hub for blackjack players from films like 21 and wayward partiers like the group from The Hangover. As such, producers will go above and beyond to film straight on the Strip or in the Aria. But, as we discussed above, Vegas is a popular hub for casino players… and that means filming on an actual casino floor requires a big paycheck and navigating tons of red tape.

Given the city’s association with gaming, top brands go all out to maintain the integrity of their establishments. That means it’s not quick or simple to reserve locations for filming—even if they’re technically filming outside a casino or even farther away from its doors.

New York City: Noise Pollution

Filmmakers who head to Vegas must beware of fine print and exhausting rules. But those who head to New York City will also face issues related to filming. While securing a location in New York City isn’t for scouts who are faint of heart, the true challenge comes once the director yells, ‘Action!’

That’s because New York City never sleeps, and residents are known for living life ‘out loud’. Filmmakers must contend with noise pollution from an endless series of sirens, music played from residences and cars, speeding vehicles of all stripes, and just about every other potential audio pollutant around.  

Chicago: Nosy Residents

Given the expenses and challenges of filming in places like New York City and Vegas, some filmmakers seek instead to shoot in cities like Chicago. With a relatively affordable outlook, Chicago is a great way to capture urban living… but filmmakers have to beware of something a bit more invasive than noise or red tape: the locals.

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Over the last decade, more and more film sets have become subject to curious onlookers—and, in some cases, even thieves. In Chicago, it seems that residents have started to realize just how popular the city is for film shoots. And, unlike residents in the Big Apple, Chicagoans won’t rush by a celebrity without batting an eye.

In fact, residents are known for their Midwestern manners… and nosy inquiries. In Vegas, producers have to woo casino authorities to land the perfect filming location. In New York, they have to find a spot that’s quiet enough for shooting. But in Chicago, they have to stave off crowds of onlookers and their endless questions.