By Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY — Largely thought purely an oil-and-gas town, Calgary is making strides to become the next Hollywood North with its brand-new film studio, dubbed the Calgary Film Centre, which opened its doors on May 19 to 50,000 sq. ft. of potential movie-making goodness. Many local developers and politicians are hoping that the studio will boost Alberta’s stuttering economy, to diversify and modernize the city’s industries, and to provide world-class resources to the large creative talent in Calgary. It’s likely to be a wise investment; in 2015, the film and TV industry added over $200 million to Alberta’s economy.
With so many recent large-scale productions happening in Alberta, such as 2014’s Interstellar, last year’s The Revenant and the award-winning TV series Fargo, the Calgary Economic Development, as well as Hollywood studios, are capitalizing on the financial benefits of shooting in Alberta, in addition to its stunning and varied scenery.
Although the new facility is still filling its positions and the city of Calgary is still working on its burgeoning media trade, the province’s film industry employs over 3,000 people and is responsible for about $150 million in production activity every year, according to Calgary Economic Development. There are also hundreds of skilled people working in film and TV; the crews in Alberta alone have reportedly received over 50 Academy Award nominations and 90 Emmy nominations.
The organizers behind the new studio are hoping that it will legitimize the city as a prime location for shooting, as well as attract productions that might otherwise shoot in Vancouver or L.A. Based on how things have progressed, they’re predicting a significant increase in film work over the next five years.
So far, there are reportedly six Hollywood film and TV projects that are looking into Calgary’s new studio for their shooting services. Still, the organizers of the studio stress the importance of local productions and how Calgarian filmmakers should take full advantage of it. They’ve stated their hopes that the studio will see a fair share of big budget productions, as well as local and regional work – something that many large studios in other cities might not necessarily consider or advertise.
Last month, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and film studio general manager Erin O’Connor visited the Milken Institute Forum in Los Angeles to enthusiastically pitch the studio to big-name industry executives. They claim that the edge they have over the other studios is the price and availability of its resources, which is a huge selling point for many film productions; most high-quality studios in film-centric cities are fully booked.
Alberta has been a destination for filmmakers for decades – mostly for Westerns – such as Unbroken and Brokeback Mountain, as well as less expected films such as 1978’s Superman and the cult classic Cool Runnings. With the addition of the new film studio, Calgary’s photographic possibilities won’t be restricted to flat prairies and ice-capped mountains. With modern filmmaking technology, practically anything is possible on a soundstage.
That said, the first production to shoot in the facility will be the Western-themed television show, Tin Star, starring Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Tim Roth of Reservoir Dogs fame.
Calgary and Alberta loves their Westerns, they just can’t get enough. Yet hopefully soon we’ll see the rise of science-fiction, fantasy and thrillers being shot in Calgary. Likewise, hopefully we’ll see an influx of creative people to the city, as well as opportunities for those who want to be involved on a film set, even just for the sheer thrill of it. I know I’d be pretty darn happy holding a boom mic for 15 hours a day.
Well, maybe 10.
Information on filming your next production at Calgary Film Centre can be found at calgaryfilmcentre.comAB, Alberta, alberta filmmaking, Calgary Film Centre