A giant chunk of movies are filmed in New York and California. In fact, they dominate cinema so much that films based in other specific states tend to stand out. And patterns start to emerge when films take place in those specific states. For instance…
If the film is based in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas… the characters will almost certainly be “rugged”, and weather-worn. They’re liable to be wearing cowboy boots or some kind of flannel shirt. Jeans are a must. Women’s faces will be dirty, and they will have sharp features. They’ll be strong and overcome adversity.
Example: A River Runs Through It
If the film is based in Louisiana… voodoo will be involved. Cajuns will play a key role. Jazz and blues will be all over the soundtrack. Also, someone might be the devil.
Examples: Angel Heart, Skeleton Key
If the film is based in Missouri or Arkansas… the characters are going to have thick, over the top drawls. They probably aren’t going to be very bright, either. Meth might be involved. Someone will mention a rodeo. Whatever town they’re in will have a population of 20,000 people or less.
Examples: Winter’s Bone, Slingblade
If the film is based in Mississippi or Alabama… see Missouri and Arkansas. Additionally, the characters will be violently racist regardless of whether or not it’s a period piece. Also, at some point, you will hear the hum of cicadas and see an oppressively humid day. Nobody will be happy.
Examples: Mississippi Burning, To Kill a Mockingbird
If the film is based in Maryland… John Waters filmed it, and it’ll be based in Baltimore. Highjinx will ensue.
Example: Everything John Waters has ever made
If the film is based in Washington… if it’s in Seattle, the characters will be trying to find themselves. If it’s not based in Seattle, the characters will work in the lumber industry.
Examples: Singles, Dancer in the Dark
If the film is based in Iowa or Nebraska… the characters will have home-spun wisdom. They probably live on a farm. Like Mississippi and Alabama films, you’ll hear the hum of cicadas at some point but it’ll be while looking at a wide-angle shot of some corn. If you don’t see a tractor at some point in the movie, you should ask for your money back.
Example: Field of Dreams
If the film is based in Indiana… everything will be the exact same as films based in Iowa or Nebraska except you are 10 times more likely to see either college or high school basketball. You’re also likely to see baseball period pieces that were filmed where I did my internship when I worked in professional baseball (A League of their Own, Soul of the Game).
If the film is based in Wisconsin or Minnesota… the characters will have funny accents, and act quirky. Sometimes, it’s quirky and charming (Grumpy Old Men) but other times, it’s just quirky and odd (Fargo). There’s a 25% chance it will have been filmed by the Coen brothers.
Example: American Movie
If the film is based in Illinois... and it’s not taking place in Chicago, then it’s about Abe Lincoln or Michael Myers.
Example: Halloween, Abe Lincoln in Illinois
If the film is based in Texas or Tennessee… characters will hang out in honkytonk bars. Someone may be a country musician. An inordinate amount of people will wear cowboy hats, boots, and wear shirts that makes them look like rockabilly singers.
Example: Nashville, Blood Simple
If the film is based in Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire… it will take place during the fall. There’s also a high likelihood that the subject matter will be horror-related, often because Stephen King’s literature will be the source material. Locals will be leery of outsiders. The protagonists will live among nature, probably on a lake.
Examples: Stand by Me, On Golden Pond
If the film is based in Rhode Island… then it’s probably a Farrelly Brothers movie, because they seem to make the only movies ever based in Rhode Island.
Examples: Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary
If the film is based in Massachusetts… everyone will be Irish and drink a lot. You’ll see a Red Sox hat at some point, even if it’s based somewhere besides Boston. Characters will typically work inner-city manual labor type jobs, live a hard life, and drink a hard life. Other than actors who are originally from Massachusetts like Mark Wahlberg and Ben Affleck, the accents will be way off.
Examples: The Fighter, Mystic River
If the film is based in Nevada… then gambling and excessive living will be involved. There’s also a decent chance you’ll hear from the mafia.
Example: Casino, Leaving Las Vegas
If the film is based in Kentucky… it’s going to be about horses.
Examples: Dreamer, Secretariat
If the film is based in South Carolina… it’s going to be about either the Civil War or the Revolutionary War.
Examples: The Patriot, Glory
If the film is based in Virginia… the FBI or CIA will be involved. You’ll either see gratuitous shots of federal monuments, or smokey mountains.
Examples: Arlington Road, Silence of the Lambs
If the film is based in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or West Virginia… the characters are likely going to be blue-collar, drink generic or mass-produced beer, and work in factories. The women will be strong and the men- the extras, anyway- will have mustaches. The biggest exception are movies that revolve around the Amish, who aren’t reading this right now.
Examples: Tommy Boy
If the film is based in Kansas… unless it’s The Wizard of Oz, then it’s probably boring and I haven’t seen it.