Alberta ups film, TV investment with new grant program

The new Screen-Based Production Grant replaces the Alberta Production Grant.

Alberta picThe Alberta film and TV sector got a boost on Tuesday with news the province is introducing a new grant program that will make $45 million a year available to production companies working in the province.

Under the new Screen-Based Production Grant, which replaces the Alberta Production Grant, projects can now receive up to $7.5 million each, up from $5 million. The funding boost equates to an increase of around $15 million, with the previous model offering around $30 million annually. As with the Alberta Production Grant, the Screen-Based Production Grant will offer a cash grant of up to 30% of eligible production expenditures made in Alberta. The program officially launches on Oct. 25.

The new grant system is designed to cater both to larger foreign productions filming in Alberta, which over the years have included Fargo and The Revenant, as well as smaller local productions.

“When Alberta is showcased through film and television, it attracts tourists, job-seekers, investors and entrepreneurs. That’s why we designed a stable approach to growing the sector that better reflects today’s industry and our fiscal environment,” said Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism as he announced the new program.

As demand had increased in recent years, the previous grant program had became increasingly oversubscribed and regularly ran out of cash, said a spokesperson for Alberta Culture and Tourism, meaning the province sought a way to create a more stable fund. The new program will also introduce a new set of assessment criteria based on the number of jobs it creates, the total spend, the number of local workers it employs and whether the project will mean returning business for the province. The grant will also assess a number of other criteria, including its contribution to Albertan culture or history, as well as the community or regional impact.

The funding boost comes after the $28.2 million Calgary Film Centre opened its doors last year, increasing the province’s production capacity by three sound stages, totalling 50,000 square feet.

In an interview with Playback Daily in late 2016, Luke Azevedo, Film, Television and Creative Industries commissioner for the city of Calgary, said that competition from both Vancouver and Toronto had meant Calgary had endured a slow start to the year, but that things had picked up with the arrival of Fargo season three, Heartland season 10 (the Seven24 production is now shooting its 11th season) and British crime drama Tin Star.

“The opportunity to increase the production cap for larger-budget productions is important for attracting more business to Alberta,” Tom Cox, managing director, SEVEN24 Films. The prodco completed filming on season two of Wynonna Earp in Alberta earlier this year and is currently in production on the period drama Damnation, coproduced with Universal Cable Pictures (UCP), for USA Network.

Alberta also recently introduced the Interactive Digital Media Grant and the Post-Production, Visual Effects and Digital Animation Grant.