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.

Tribal: The show you should be watching

If you haven’t caught on to Tribal (Season 2 starts Thursday, APTN, 9 p.m.), then you should. It was one of my choices for best new series of 2020 and the two leads, Brian Markinson and Jessica Matten, were on my list for best performances on Canadian TV.

The under-the-radar and unfussy First Nations police procedural offers no big bombshells, but it’s a gripping, nuanced and twisted cop drama about many morally compromised characters. And a morally compromised community that represents all of us. You could say it’s about tensions between the Indigenous community and the white establishment but you could also say it’s a propulsive crime drama about police corruption, missing and murdered women, and a deranged killer who claims, “I freed those people, they’re all in a better place.”

Jessica Matten plays Chief Samantha (Sam) Woodburn. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

If the latter description sounds too conventional as a crime drama, it doesn’t match the dark texture of the storytelling and what lies beneath it. There isn’t a character here is who definitely positioned as good or bad; Tribal is about the history of its setting, the atmosphere and the societal mores that barely hold everything together.

In the first eight-episode season of Tribal (streaming on APTN Lumi) officer Samantha (Sam) Woodburn (Matten) was made interim chief of a tribal police force that is awkwardly integrated with the local urban force, and Sam was partnered with Chuck (Buke) Bukansky (Markinson), a prickly, bone-weary veteran detective with a lot of spiteful things to say about the tribal police force. Sam had her own aberrant habits. The two slowly made peace and are now more of a team.

What’s happened is that a tomb of Indigenous bodies has been discovered under the city’s water-filtration station, and while Sam and Buke try to piece together the puzzle of who was responsible and who knew that young women were disappearing, the urban side of the police force is trying to simply look good in the midst of a mess.

Stephen Huszar plays Detective Marcus Watkins. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

Police boss Connie (Garry Chalk) is highly aware of the scrutiny that comes with the gruesome discovery. His tactic is to set up a task force run by an outsider. Someone who can either solve the case or take the blame for mistakes. His reliably sleazy underling Mitch (Ryan Northcott) solves the problem with a cynical move, suggesting that a Black woman, Victoria Mann (Marci T. House), who has some experience with Indigenous issues, but little police experience, be appointed. It’s all about window-dressing and hiding from responsibility. The mordancy of the tactic is very plausible.

Meanwhile, Sam and Buke keep digging. They interview that jailed, deranged killer (John Cassini, who is superb here) and poke around looking into the death of one particular young woman known to have drug problems. What’s being built is a storyline about mistrust and manipulation, including the use of the media to tell one side of what is a highly complex, fraught story. As before, the series is admirable in its lack of melodrama and ornamentation; it just moves along quickly and includes storylines that involve restorative justice, healing lodges and railway blockades, but without stopping to point out ostentatiously that these are socially relevant issues. It just embraces them.

Teneil Whiskeyjack, left, plays Alice Wajunta and Ashley Callingbull plays Rachel Chilliwack. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

Tribal is created by showrunner and director Ron E. Scott (he also created Blackstone), who has said his aim is to offer “an entertaining, character-driven crime drama,” and he’s done that.

Made in and around Calgary, the series goes to shadowy corners and explores vulnerabilities, drawing the viewer in, making us complicit and creating an uneasy intimacy with the Indigenous perspective on contemporary issues that are part of the daily news agenda in Canada. And still, it’s a cop show with a furious pace.

Back in an early episode, Sam pointedly wondered aloud why there was no conversation happening with new partner Buke. Buke scoffed and said, “You’re a face, you’re an [expletive] and an Indian, you’re what they need right now. As soon as you screw up, you’re going right back to the reservation. How’s that for conversation?”

Tribal is one arresting, entertaining and terse conversation about a lot of vital issues, plus crime-solving. It’s a show you should be watching.