HBO series ‘The Last of Us’ providing huge revenue, employment boost as it films near Calgary this summer

The Calgary Film Centre is pictured in a file photo. Alberta’s film industry is projected to bring in $482 million this year. (CBC)

Alberta’s TV and film industry is projected to double this year with net production values of $995 million and an anticipated $482 million in spending to the province.

Wynonna Earp, Under the Banner of Heaven and a Fraggle Rock reboot are just some of the productions that have recently chosen to film in Alberta.

“We want those television series in particular to come into Alberta because television series is how you build out the industry. It’s year-over-year production. It’s not, kind of, that one, big hit movie,” Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, said.

Alberta’s Film and Television Tax Credit launched last January to offer eligible projects tax certificates of 22 or 30 per cent to help with the cost of production and labour.

The provincial government says the $482 million is coming from the 50 productions who have used it so far, and those projects will generate 9,000 jobs. That number is largely thanks to The Last of Us, an HBO series filming in the Calgary area this summer.

That series is the largest television production in Canadian history, representing more than $200 million in revenue for Alberta.

“The province’s enhanced film and television production incentive has also made it an especially attractive destination for HBO,” Jay Roewe, the company’s senior vice president of production and incentives, said.

HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation to shoot in Calgary area, starring Mandalorian, Game of Thrones actors
Industry estimates are that Alberta’s film and TV sector will double 2020 records this year, according to Keep Alberta Rolling, an industry-promoting non-profit.

“There’s kind of that critical mass moment that’s happening so that we can do more and train more people and and do bigger shows,” Brock Skretting, the head of advocacy for the group, said.

“The expansion of the tax credit so far this year has resulted in [growth in] the size of shows that even will look because it makes economic sense. So you look at companies like HBO, companies like Disney making larger series and those are those are the big employers and the big money spends that can really develop an industry.”

The tax program was brought in after the UCP government cut the former NDP government’s film credit from 30 per cent to 22 per cent. This spring the province removed the $10-million funding cap for projects. The budget has $50 million set aside this year to be granted.

Schweitzer says that money could balloon if the industry continues its exponential surge.

“As expenses expands and grows, we want to make sure we listen to industry and can work with them to make it a success long term,” he said.

Lights, camera, action in Alberta: Film industry readies for booming year
Alberta will be removing isolation and contact tracing requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 16. The minister says the province will support any health measures kept in place by individual studios, adding when he visits one next week he’ll be taking a rapid COVID test and wearing a mask.

“We want this industry to be successful and we’ll work with them with what they need to be comfortable with any other health parameters that they need.”

Schweitzer and Nate Horner, the associate minister of rural economic development, will be speaking about the industry at an announcement Tuesday.

Canada’s film industry is valued at around $3 billion, with Statistics Canada data showing that every $1 million in production spending in Alberta creates 13 jobs.