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Illustration by Megan Koch

Hollywood interested in Calgary’s filmmaking potential

By Megan Koch, November 25 2022

Calgarians from all over the city were aflutter with excitement since July 2021 until just recently while HBO’s new series The Last of Us was filming in downtown Calgary. Stars like Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were in town filming Canada’s most expensive television production ever while locals drove past the set and tried to take a look. It’s not the first time A-List actors have been in and around Calgary — films like Unforgiven starring and directed by Clint Eastwood and The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio have scenes shot in and around our diverse city. The Last of Us definitely won’t be the last time exciting moments like these will happen in Calgary, either.

In September 2022, Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek took a trade mission to Los Angeles with a clear goal in mind — keep the momentum of Calgary’s involvement in the production of movies and television going strong. She pitched to Hollywood executives and there was immediate interest. Even though it might have made it easier to let Hollywood have the green light on everything, Gondek was clear that the two most important factors are collaboration and conservation. Working together is what makes large-scale production possible, and land conservation is essential to save ranchlands around the area — something achievable with the economic help of filmmaking and television show production in Calgary. 

By March 2023, a fully-operational filming studio will be ready to welcome film creators and will be semi-operational by mid-November. The Rocky Mountain Film Studios (RMFS) consists of two buildings and will help boost Calgary’s already formidably diverse filming locations to a new level. Not only will the studios be great for filming, but RMFS will also be constructing spaces for post-production as well. In addition to the filming studios, the city itself, the Rocky Mountains, surrounding ranchlands, and a desert gives filmmakers easy access to an endless array of settings. Unlike Toronto and Vancouver, the country’s biggest filming hubs, Calgary is a central homebase to nearly any landscape a filmmaker could desire, which is why Calgary is slowly but surely climbing the ranks in terms of Canada’s popular filming locations. 

Another major focus that goes hand in hand with Calgary’s growing film hub status is to keep local talent in Calgary. Festivals like Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) and Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) are great opportunities for local filmmakers and talent to network and learn about the industry, and maybe find their own place within it. 

It’s important to keep the work in Calgary so Calgarians interested in film and television have the opportunity to do what they love, without moving out of the province. 

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