Filmmakers praise Alberta’s artistic attributes; Directors reveal new projects at Calgary Film Centre event

By Stephen Ewart, Calgary Economic Development

Alberta’s appeal as a film destination was the theme of a recent directors’ panel discussion at the Calgary Film Centre, where critically acclaimed American director Joe Carnahan used the (sound) stage to reveal his plans to film three new projects in the province.

“We are really committed to it,” said Carnahan, the creative force behind movies like Narc and The A-Team and TV shows like the first season of Blacklist. “In looking at Calgary itself I thought, ‘what a great city, I’d shoot this city all the time.’”

The wide-ranging panel discussion was moderated by Warren P. Sonoda of the Directors’ Guild of Canada and included noted Canadian directors Eleanore Lindo (Heartland), Michael Peterson (Lloyd the Conqueror) and Sandi Somers (Ice Blue).

The hour-long conversation ranged in topics from the quality of crews and stunning vistas to working with horses, wolves and beavers and the community of creative artists in Calgary that contribute to the vibrancy of the film and TV sector. 

Carnahan summed up the panels’ praise of the Film Centre, “I’ve seen a lot of stages around. These are absolutely A-plus, plus stages. I was blown away. They’ve still got the new car smell.”  

The event included the presentation of the inaugural Project Lab grants to six emerging filmmakers from Alberta presented by Honorable Ricardo Miranda, Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism.

Winners in the production category were Gillian McKercher of Calgary (Circle of Steel), Dylan Pearce of Edmonton (Grandprix Cupcake) and Jeremy Podlog of Calgary (The Comic Strip).  Development grants were presented to Matt Watterworth (Jonesin’), North County Cinema (Vance Adams) and Alecia Krawchuk (New Nowhere).

Project Lab supports a concept-to-market experience for emerging Alberta filmmakers. The program is part of the Calgary Film Centre’s mandate to create an ecosystem to elevate the industry by bringing talented casts, crews and filmmakers together to drive creative thinking.

The panel members all noted the critical role government support plays in creative industries.

“The tax credit system in Canada was the single most important instrument that was put in place to stir this incredible renaissance in filmmaking,” Sonoda said. “Without it, we’d still have an industry here but we just wouldn’t have the thriving, innovative vital industry that we have.”

Industry studies have shown every dollar spent in film and TV production in Canada generates another $6 in spending.

Carnahan didn’t reveal details on the projects he will shoot in Alberta but told the nearly 150 people in the audience that he wants to make films in the $5 million - $10 million range to retain more creative control. The director has worked with A-list actors like Ray Liotta, Chris Pine and Liam Neeson but wants to help develop local talent and crews.

“I want as many Albertans, Calgarians as possible, he said. “The idea is not to come in here and just load it up with Hollywood or New York people. I want to shoot with the crews here.”