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an image of ellie huddled next to joe who has a rifle slung over his back with fungus climbing the wall behind them
HBO

Alberta: Where Our Wild West Beats Hollywood’s Best!

The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic sensation, clinches an Outstanding Locations award, showcasing Alberta's beauty to the world.

A good filming location can make all the difference. What would The Lord of The Rings be without New Zealand or Harry Potter without the magical halls of Christ Church College in Oxford, England?

However, filming locations are often overshadowed by other aspects of production like acting, narrative, and editing. The Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) awards changes that.

The LMGI highlights filming locations and their role in setting the tone, revealing character, and enhancing the storytelling narrative.

This year, at the 10th annual LMGI awards in California, Alberta’s film and television industry celebrated a historic win.

a bridge littered with abandoned cars with film crew dressed in black filming
The film set for The Last of Us at Calgary’s Memorial flyover bridge | Calgary | Reddit

The Last of Us, the largest project in Alberta’s film industry, clinched the Outstanding Locations in a Contemporary Television Series award.

HBO’s post-apocalyptic sensation beat popular contenders such as Succession and The Handmaid’s Tale, filmed in New York City and Toronto.

Toronto saw just under 1,500 productions and almost 8,000 production day bookings in 2021. But Alberta beat them out. Our beautiful province is now competing on the same stage as industry giants.

The Last of Us couldn’t have made it without the support and cooperation of communities across the province. In his acceptance speech, the supervising location manager for the series, Jason Nolan, expressed his gratitude.

“Whether it was a hundred businesses, asking them to close down for a week or more at a time, or entire cities when we closed down major arteries, I’d like to thank them all,” said Nolan.

The series was shot over a year and incorporated about 180 diverse locations in Alberta, including Calgary, Edmonton, and Waterton.

For example, Calgary’s Memorial flyover bridge was shut down to film the series’ characters Joel, Elle, and Tess walking side by side. Edmonton’s 108th Street was also shut down for another iconic shot of the trio.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. In March, filming for The Last of Us was shut down when a gunman was seen pointing a firearm at one of the series’ film sets in Olds.

Thankfully, the firearm was an airsoft imitation rifle, and the 19-year-old gunman claimed he was trying to get a better look at the film location with his scope.

The resulting delay ended up costing USD$54,000 in salary for actors and support crew. It was a massive hiccup that could have been avoided with binoculars!

The Alberta Film Commission, in partnership with Calgary Economic Development, also received an award for Outstanding Film Commission.

a crowd of people at a strike holding up signs
SAG-AFTRA and WGA members on strike in Hollywood

“Our collaboration allowed us to do something that had never been done in the province or, frankly, in Canada before, with one of the largest shows ever shot,” Mark Ham, Alberta Film Commissioner, told CTV News.

Luke Azevedo of Calgary Economic Development said, “It really does showcase the quality of the work that’s being done in Alberta and that we’re world-class.”

However, local film and TV production faces challenges as Hollywood’s actors and writers strike, demanding better pay for streaming platform projects and protection against artificial intelligence.

This has paused many American projects in Alberta, including Season 2 of Billy the Kid. The strike also muddies the water around upcoming productions like Netflix’s The Abandons, scheduled to be filmed in Calgary.

Azevedo hopes for a speedy and fair resolution to resume work in the province. But fret not; local and Canadian productions, including Season 17 of Heartland, are safe.

With no end to the strike in sight, Ham and Azevedo are set on promoting Alberta as a one-of-a-kind filming location. The Alberta government announced an investment of $355 million over three years to get the ball rolling.

Since 2020, the province has hosted 129 productions with a total production value of almost $2 billion. This has created around 9,000 direct and indirect jobs. We’ve earned the investment.

“That’s why an award like this is so helpful. It allows us to continue to market the jurisdiction so we’re ready to go when the strikes end, to welcome productions from all over the world to Alberta,” commented Ham.

The Outstanding Locations in a Contemporary Television Series award is a massive win for Alberta’s film industry. The Hollywood strike is a punch to the gut, but we have bounced back from worse.

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