Luke Azevedo on Calgary’s unique selling point

The city's Film, Television and Creative Industries commissioner on the lure of sprawling vistas and a new film centre, but the challenge of competing with Toronto and Vancouver for talent.

LA head shot Nov 2010As 2016 comes to a close, Playback is speaking with film commissioners across the country about their successes of the past year, and what their goals are for 2017. First, we chatted with Montreal commissioner Daniel Bissonnette. Next up, a discussion with Luke Azevedo, Film, Television and Creative Industries commissioner for the city of Calgary. Eleven film and TV series have filmed in Calgary so far this year, he said, including six foreign and seven domestic productions. 

What were some of the major successes of the past year? 

The biggest was the building of the Calgary Film Centre, which has purpose-built sound stages. Having purpose-built facilities really legitimizes a location as an area that has the capacity to fulfill the needs of the film and television industry. It’s an extremely important component to any jurisdiction.

With these resources and with our anchor tenant being William F. White, with the capacity that the quality of our crews and the talent bring to the table, I think we have all of the components necessary to facilitate the growth of this industry in a significant way in the next few years.

What were some of the notable productions that took place in Calgary this past year?  

Fargo season three; Tin Star, which is a series with [U.K.-based] Kudos Film and Television; Heartland back for its 10th season; these were some significant pieces; Wynonna Earp coming through and back for a season two. Also some pilots, as well as a lot of local production being done as well, some of the young up-and-comers producing projects that have gotten notoriety [such as John Kissack and Jayson Therrien's Everfall and A Miracle on Christmas Lake, and Matt Watterworth and Scott Westby's In Plainview]. So we’re happy with the way the year has ended up. It started off a little slow for us but it’s come back strong.

Why did the year start off slow? 

Because of the dollar and because of the initiatives happening in other locations across the world, there was a lot of competition for the projects that were out there. And Vancouver and Toronto being as busy as they were, obviously that cut into our crew base. There was a pull for crews across the country to go to those two jurisdictions [which] made it a little bit difficult for us initially as well.

In terms of growth, the Centre is a major part of your strategy going forward, but where do you see other opportunities?  

There are some initiatives in 2017 that our provincial government is putting forward that will help in the growth and development on the post-side of things, which I think is extremely important. Initiatives are being announced in January so things will become a little clearer [then], but are intended to grow diversity in the province in the film and television industry, along with digital and animation. [They've] been identified as areas that will have an opportunity to have some kind of incentivizing to grow.

Developing [those areas] so that we are a production location where they shoot for the vistas and the Film Centre and then at the same time enabling them to stay here longer term for post and visual effects and audio is a really big piece for us right now and we’re doing what we can to grow that area so they have the capacity to meet the demands of the film and television industry coming in. We’d like to have projects stay here longer and we’d like to be competing on all levels of production and post across the sector.

What would you say is Calgary’s unique selling point? 

The vistas and the quality of our crews and talent are second to none. We’ve shown over and over and over that the quality of the production that gets done in Alberta is world-class, award winning and that the quality of our people here make it very feasible to make Alberta the location of choice.

What is your major goal for 2017? 

We’d like to see growth in the production capacity, continue to have the film centre full of projects and to look at the opportunities that can be brought into expanding the amount of time that productions can stay in the province with our post and effects and audio production areas.

We’re out in the marketplace on a consistent basis and studios and independents are very aware of Alberta being a location for extremely high-end and well-put together projects. We hope that that continues to generate the growth in our area.

This conversation has been edited for clarity. 

Want to hear more about what’s happening in cities around Canada? Check out our entire film commissioner series.