Calgary Economic Development believes the region is poised to expand the film and television industry and met with Rocky View County council this week to ask for assistance in making it possible.
Luke Azevedo, film, television and creative industries commissioner for Calgary Economic Development, told RVC council that now is a critical window to establish Alberta as a production hub in the post-COVID world, and that suitable rural settings remain important.
He didn't seek any monetary contribution, rather an alignment between the industry and Rocky View County and other jurisdictions to ensure pre-set standards aren't a moving target.
"They're always wondering what the next level's going to be, so for us, it's extremely important to set something that says when you're here, here's how you function."
"We're not asking for anything free, we're not asking for things to be different or pay less than anyone else does, we're asking to be able to work with you, and create an environment here that is going to be extremely attractive to continue to bring growth to this sector," Azevedo told the council.
He says studios are just getting back to work to produce content and believes they will be testing the waters in a number of locations to determine where the new production hubs will be located.
"If they do well, they become hubs, and that means you're then looking at a significant amount of production from each one of those studios, and it's long-term."
He says health safety has become the number one question asked by filmmakers when choosing locations.
Incentives offered here are competitive to a point, but globally are less attractive for larger productions, he admits. But that's not the only factor in choosing a location.
"What we do see is that all of the additional benefits that come with producing in Alberta have given us the opportunity to attract some of the major productions. Ghostbusters is a massive budget production, so was The Revenant, Interstellar, Inception, Fargo seasons 1,2, 3. These are productions that could have gone to other jurisdictions and gotten a better tax credit than what we have here to offer them."
He says the industry has been included in the Alberta government's plan for recovery and revitalization of the province's economy.
"Based on the fact that this is an industry that's growing, not diminishing, based on the fact that it's directed related and connected to the digital medium, gaming, and all interactive systems, we are now in a position here with our facilities, the quality of our crews, the knowledge-base that we have here and our abilities through our post-secondaries to generate more workers into the area. We're positioned well."
Alberta is the fourth-largest film and television jurisdiction, behind British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. It was a $300 million industry in 2019 and employed 5,600 people, said Azevedo. He believes that's a fraction of Alberta's potential.
Among the latest productions he pinpointed that have impacted the Cochrane area were season 1 and 2 of "Tin Star," and the upcoming feature film "Let Him Go," starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane.
You can find a list of other productions with a Cochrane connection here.
With a $144 million budget, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is the most recent large production to be shot in southern Alberta. While it didn't have a connection to Cochrane, it did to Rocky View County and other nearby jurisdictions.
There's a tourism spin to the film industry. Many seek out film locations, and with it's strong global following, Ghostbusters will provide Alberta plenty of exposure.
"Already there are people consistently asking us if they can get here now and see the locations where it was shot."