In late May 2017, six emerging filmmakers from Alberta were awarded grant money to put towards projects that they can add to their upcoming successful career repertoires. The grants came through Alberta Culture and Tourism’s Project Lab which is a program to support development, production and distribution of compelling Alberta stories.
The grants were awarded at an event held at the Calgary Film Centre on May 27, 2017. Honorable Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism, was on hand to announce the winning filmmakers.
“Project Lab supports the talented filmmakers emerging in their province through financial, venue, mentorship, equipment services and in-kind resources,” said Miranda. “A critical element of the program involves engaging seasoned Alberta producers, storytellers and others who will use their skills to train and mentor the new generation of talent.”
The grants were broken into two categories: production and development.
The 2017 Production winners are:
· Gillian McKercher – Circle of Steel
· Dylan Pearce – Grandprix Cupcake
· Jeremy Podlog – The Comic Strip
The 2017 development winners are:
· Matt Watterworth – Jonesin’
· North Country Cinema – Vance Adams
· Alecia Krawchuk – New Nowhere
The winning projects are as diverse as the winners themselves:
Circle of Steel (Gillian McKercher, Calgary) – This feminist dark comedy tells a satirical story of workers in Alberta’s oil and gas industry. The story follows Wendy Lee, a young female engineer who enters the workforce in a multinational oil company.
Grandprix Cupcake (Dylan Pearce, Edmonton) – Two sisters with seemingly nothing in common must join together to save the family bakery. This female-driven comedy covers topics including sibling rivalry, economic stresses resulting from owning a business and the unbreakable bonds of family.
The Comic Strip (Jeremy Podlog, Edmonton) – The pilot for a potential documentary series set in the backdrop of the iconic Edmonton comedy club, The Comic Strip. A stylistic hybrid of Louis C.K.’s comedy-drama “Louie”; Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”; and Barry Levinson’s “Diner.”
Jonesin’ (Matt Watterworth, Calgary) – The adventure of inadvertent hero Deke Jones, a small town boy who discovers a dangerous new world in the big city. A feature film involving shady business deals, rival territories and a kidnapping resulting from a mistaken identity.
Vance Adams (North County Cinema, Calgary) – The adventures of an unlikely duo in search of new identities amidst the ascent of the social media revolution. Set in Calgary in 2008 in the peak of the oil boom, this dark comedy tells the story of a big-talking advertising director and his intern.
New Nowhere (Alicia Krawchuk, Edmonton) – A miniseries centered on the patrons of a seemingly mundane diner in rural Alberta. Each of the six episodes follows characters dealing with issues around isolation and mental health and the way people cope with these challenges, for better or worse.
Initiatives like this help to foster Alberta's growing creative ecosystem. Alberta has been identified by as an international film destination due to its world-class facilities, diverse landscapes and affordable production costs.
“One of the goals for Project Lab and Calgary Film Centre was to create an ecosystem which serves specific films but also works as a catalyst to elevate the entire industry by bringing talented casts, crews and filmmakers together to drive creative thinking," explained Luke Azevedo, the Commissioner of Film, Television & Creative Industries at Calgary Economic Development.
"The Calgary Film Centre was honoured to be a part of this great event. We are eager and excited to follow these talented filmmakers on their journeys to complete their projects."