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Alberta yells ‘Action’ in film industry

By Admin User on April 20, 2022

Throughout the past century, Alberta has housed hundreds of film productions. The mountains, the seasons, and the epic countryside are only a few elements that continue to attract film productions. A new government incentive – a $70 million tax credit for the film industry without budget caps – encourages filmmakers worldwide to film in Alberta over other provinces. 

“To get into the game, you need a competitive incentive. All jurisdictions that are serious about attracting film and television have a jurisdictional incentive. And when you think about our partners/competitors in other provinces like B.C. and Ontario and Quebec, major thriving industries, you’ll have provincial incentives,” said Mark Ham, the Alberta Film Commissioner.  

The tax credit is a means to attract more projects and boost the Alberta economy.

“The government of Alberta has a stated goal of growing the cultural industries, including film, by $1.5 billion by 2029. So we see film and television as a staple of that goal,” said Ham.

Alberta’s film industry catered between 50 to 60 productions with budgets ranging from $1 million to upwards of $10 million this past fiscal year. In earlier years, production rates ranged from roughly 20 to 30 projects.

“That, of course, was limited to the number of larger budget projects we could do. Under previous incentives, it would be maybe three or four projects that were above the five to $6 million mark with the rest being really under a million, or between one and $3 million in terms of the total spend,”  said Jeslene Quinn, director of policy and stakeholder relations for the Alberta government.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, filmed in Fort MacLeod in 2019, is a prime example of the government’s initiative. While that same year, Let Him Go brought roughly $12 million to the province. Television series’ are also making headway in Alberta. The 2016 Amazon series Tin Star, filmed in High River, generated over $33 million, while CBC’s Heartland continues to generate income and make Canadian history. 

Heartland doesn’t get enough credit for what it’s done for film and television over here, right, like we’re going on season 15 – just a great example of consistent work year over year for crew and talent,” said Ham. 

Southern Alberta isn’t the only place seeing the film action. Edmonton is also reaping the industry’s benefits.  

“For example, The Last of Us, an HBO show that came in the fall that shut down parts of downtown. When they come, they spend a ton of money. So our local businesses get paid, whether it’s food, hotels or even just some businesses get paid to be shut down – there’s money that comes in from outside of Alberta and is spent on our local businesses and people,” said Tom Viinikka, the CEO of Edmonton Screen Industries.  

“I think there’s four factors to be successful in this industry and it’s incentives, it’s crew, it’s infrastructure, like studios, and then it’s location,” said Ham.

“Fort Edmonton Park, it’s a pretty valuable period location, as well as the river valley. Ten minutes from downtown, you can be in a place where you don’t even know you’re in a city,” said Viinikka.

“We have a bigger architecture and bigger cultural things, bigger buildings, bigger downtown, big freeways, all those types of things we have. But we’re not so big that we’re super congested and difficult to get around.”


Edmonton resources like the Film Alberta Studios, FAVA, and Edmonton Screen Industries Office create accessibility for the industry. 

“We want investments in infrastructure. We want to grow that studio space and the number of vendors providing equipment, camera rentals and catering services and all those things that make production work,” said Ham. 

“There’s lots of great jobs that come from the film industry, particular creative jobs, which I think are super valuable. And the creativity is an important part of it. Creativity and culture are an important part of our life,” said Viinikka.  

Grant services like the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and opportunities through Keep Alberta Rolling aim to promote local contributions.

“That’s where a lot of people build their skill sets and then can go on to crew these other pieces. That’s where a lot of the consistent work comes so that you can fill gaps between these bigger shows,” said Ham.

Edmonton recently wrapped on an Indian Bollywood project with expectations of another to be shot here again. There’s also hope that HBO’s The Last of Us will return to film in Edmonton.

“We’re optimistic to see that some of those series that did work recently in Alberta come back because they like their experience so much for a return engagement,” said Ham. 

Productions underway throughout Alberta

  • My Life With The Walter Boys, a new Netflix series, is filming in Cochrane.
  • HBO’s The Last of Us continues to film in Calgary.
  • High School, based on the coming-of-age memoir by musicians Tegan and Sara Quin is filming in Calgary.
  • Grande Prairie will host an undisclosed production in May.

Under the Banner of Heaven, an FX limited series filmed in Calgary is set to release on April 28, while season five of Fargo, also from FX, will film in Calgary this fall.

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