MovieMaker Magazine ranks Calgary, Alberta as one of the best places to live and work in film

Before we begin our latest list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker: Some obvious background.

The COVID pandemic continues to rage on two years after the virus landed on American shores, and one of the few silver linings has been a revolution in telecommuting — giving us all more freedom than ever before to live and work where we want, how we want.

The movie industry is no exception. Post-production coordinators are managing workflow between editors and animators from the comfort of their own homes, and the writers’ room may also be a bedroom. Production, however, can’t always be facilitated through Zoom calls. So for on-set crew, producers, and directors, it remains essential to be close to someone yelling “Action!”

Fortunately, there is no shortage of production hubs springing up in cities, big and small, around North America. And a few — like Albuquerque and Atlanta — are even shaping up to rival MovieMaker Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker Hall of Famers Los Angeles and New York. Dozens of other municipalities are nipping at their heels with very attractive tax incentives and infrastructure development, luring more projects to previously overlooked areas.

Let’s dive into the evolving filmmaking landscape across the continent, starting with America’s iconic entertainment capitals. These are the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022.

10. Calgary

Last year, we declared that the future of this Canadian city looked bright when productions brought in $200 million, and we weren’t lying: that figure jumped to $500 million in 2021. HBO’s The Last of Us, an adaptation of the popular post-apocalyptic video game, shot in the region last fall with star Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), and Andrew Garfield was in the area as well to shoot the upcoming HBO series Under The Banner Of Heaven, executive produced by Jason Bateman, Dustin Lance Black, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. And the Predator offshoot Skulls shot in the area last spring.

Luke Azevedo, the film commissioner of the Calgary Economic Development office, tells MovieMaker that this film-friendly city “isn’t just a city to make a good living; It’s also a city to make a great life.” Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the easily accessible mountains and trails for weekend adventuring in an area known for 333 days of sunshine, as well as the rich culture in the city: It boasts six independent movie theaters, over a dozen museums, many live music venues, and a growing list of film festivals. “We offer an unparalleled variety of locations with the Rocky Mountains, Prairies and Badlands at the doorstep of a thriving, inclusive, and safe urban municipality,” adds Azevedo. He’s also jazzed about continuing to nurture “equity, diversity, and inclusion” within the city’s film scene through collaborations with the Calgary Black Film Festival and Being Black in Calgary, as well as Indigenous partners.

Ron E. Scott, the founder of independent production company Prairie Dog Film + Television, takes advantage of that scenery to shoot the police procedural Tribal. “Growing up in Alberta, I’m thankful to have Calgary close by as it offers many variations for high-production-value locations,” he tells MovieMaker. “With the drama series Tribal, our goal is to tell relevant, ripped-from-the-headlines Indigenous voiced stories that aren’t typically shown on-screen.”

He adds: “Calgary also offers an incredibly diverse landscape that makes it so storytellers have choices. You can go from a busy big city downtown to gorgeous mountain views or sprawling prairies within 30 minutes. Film and TV production has been booming in Alberta, and we are proud to be a Calgary company that facilitates all stages of production, including post-production for its shows in this province.”

54 Good Things That Happened in Calgary in 2021

Take a moment to look back on some of the positive local developments in Calgary this year.

Times have been tough since the beginning of the pandemic, but there are still incredible things happening in Calgary. This year, we took a moment at the end of each month to recap some of the most heartening events, accomplishments and initiatives going on around town.

Here’s a look back at 54 good things that happened in Calgary over the course of 2021.

Winners of the 47th Annual Rosie Awards Announced

The winners of the 47th annual Rosie Awards, awarded by the Alberta Media Production Industries Association for excellence in Alberta’s screen industries, include a healthy showing of Calgary companies. Several Calgary companies, including Prairie Dog Film + Television, A Parent Media Co. Inc. and Queer Code Collective, won in categories like best scripted series or mini-series,  best children’s program or series and best narrative game or interactive project. Check out the full list of winners here.

Blackstone creator Ron E. Scott filming First Nations crime drama Tribal in Calgary

There are worse dilemmas for a television creator.
But Ron E. Scott’s previous project, the Edmonton-shot TV drama Blackstone, was so dark and singular that it’s hard to imagine how he might top it with a followup. The series ran for five seasons on Showcase and APTN, offering an unflinching and often harrowing look at the corruption, addiction and violence that plagued a fictional Alberta First Nations reserve.

While it may be a stretch to suggest his new crime drama Tribal, which began filming last week on the Tsuu T’ina First Nation outside of Calgary, finds him lightening up, he will say that it has a different tone than his former series.

“It’s not in the same kind of vein as Blackstone,” says Scott, who is writer, producer and showrunner of the new series. “It’s a little more accessible, less confrontational, less aggressive in its narrative. That was how we shaped the show. At the same time, it does have a social relevance and definitely a commentary that is definitely interesting in our day and age.”

There is some other obvious overlap, including star and Blackstone alumni Jessica Matten. She plays Samantha Woodburn, interim chief of the Tribal Police Force. When the department of Federal Justice take control of the force, she finds herself tangled in political red tape and butting heads with a new partner, Chuck “Buke” Bukansky (played by Mad Men’s Brian Markinson), a seasoned detective from the Metro Police.

Scott, who is a member of the Metis Nation of Alberta, says the idea was to present a TV crime drama through a First Nations perspective. As with Blackstone, the stories will touch on racism, corruption and sexism and often centres on real crimes.

“I love to ground any show I do in reality,” he says. “They are inspired by true events. They’ll definitely have some relevant topics that some people recognize and some that they may not recognize or realize this is actually happening. For example, some of the pipeline issues. We also go after some of the native justice and go over healing lodges and how they relate to native justice and the criminal justice system.”

Eight episodes will be filmed on both the Tsuu T’ina First Nation and in various areas of Calgary. It is scheduled to air on APTN in the fall. Justin Rain, Garry Chalk, Adam MacDonald and Julian Black Antelope will also star. Calgary actress Michelle Thrush, who won a Gemini Award for her turn as troubled alcoholic Gail Stoney in Blackstone, plays Woodburn’s mother in Tribal. That character is world’s away from Gail Stoney.

“She is a very different kind of character,” Scott says. “She is very polished and refined, which is something that we haven’t always seen. There are other aspects of Indigenous people. There are successful Indigenous people, they don’t all live on reserves. Although that’s important to for our story purposes, that’s not Michelle’s character in this.”

Scott is the founder of Prairie Dog Film and Television, which is now based in Calgary. He says he hopes to produce more projects in town and “put people to work” while continuing to tell stories through an Indigenous lens.

“I think it’s critical,” he says. “I think Tribal has some characters who are real people operating in the real world. I don’t think we put them in a box. There’s compelling drama, entertaining drama set in an Indigenous world with an Indigenous voice. The lead character is a rock-solid hero type. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out. There will be an Indigenous voice on screen, at the same time it is still an entertaining show that strives to be true to the genre.”