Calgary Film Centre awards grants to six emerging Alberta filmmakers through Project Lab program


A feminist satire about oil and gas workers, a kidnapping adventure and a dark comedy about the social-media revolution during Calgary’s 2008 oil boom are among the film projects that will receive funding and support from a new program overseen by the Calgary Film Centre,

Project Lab, funded by the Alberta government, awarded grants to six projects from emerging filmmakers in Calgary and Edmonton. The recipients were announced on Saturday at the film centre.

“We had 28 applications and they were all amazing applications, at a really high level,” says Erin O’Connor, general manager of the Calgary Film Centre. “We really worked hard at the guidelines and really pushed them towards having to present a cohesive idea and project summary and project budget. All of the projects were really well put together. Most of them had barely started in terms of incubation.”

Three grants will be given to three projects for development and three for production. The three development projects will use the grants to prepare for production, while the other three will use the grants to go into production.

The Calgary Film Centre developed the program and will administer it. No numbers were released about the funding,  but the program offers not only financial aid but also mentorship, equipment services and in-kind resources. The grants will fund up to 50 per cent of the project’s budget. Shooting scenes at the Calgary Film Centre is not a criteria for the projects, but will certainly be an option, O’Connor said.

“The film centre itself is not just looking to get big Hollywood films in, we are actually looking to be a real asset to the industry and to help grow and develop the industry in any way that we can,” O’Connor said.

The announcement came during a day of Alberta film-boosting at the centre. It was followed by a panel discussion about the benefits of shooting in the province, which included Calgary filmmakers Sandi Somers and Michael Peterson and veteran TV director Eleanore Lindo, who has helmed a number of episodes for CBC’s Alberta-shot family drama Heartland. It also included Joe Carnahan, an American director behind movies such as the A-Team and The Grey. He will produce a Netflix film called El Chicano that is scheduled to be shot in Alberta in the summer.

The recipients of the Project Lab production grants include Calgary filmmaker Gillian McKercher’s Circle of Steel, a “feminist dark comedy” about a female engineer who enters the workforce in a multinational oil company. McKercher will be mentored by Calgary filmmaker Gary Burns. Edmonton’s Dylan Pearce and Jeremy Podlog will also receive grants —  Pearce for the comedy Grandprix Cupcake and Podlog for The Comic Strip, a pilot for a potential documentary series set in the Edmonton comedy club.

Calgary filmmaker Matt Watterworth’s Jonesin’, an adventure about a small-town boy who gets wrapped up in kidnapping and shady business deals, will receive a development grant, as will the Calgary film collective North Country Cinema for Vance Adams, a dark comedy about the social-media revolution set in the 2008 oil-boom 2008; and Edmonton filmmaker Alicia Krawchuk for New Nowhere, a miniseries about the regulars at a diner in rural Alberta.