With filming for major television and film projects resuming post-pandemic, it seems the future for Alberta and its part in movie magic is just as bright as ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on many things, including the film industry. With proper protocols now in place and most film sets requiring full vaccination for all its crew, the slump of production seems to be on the upswing, and Alberta is involved in the return.
This upswing includes the filming of television shows such as HBO’s The Last of Us starring Pedro Pascal, which has been filming all across Alberta, including in Calgary.
This filming comes hot off the trails of the newest iteration of the Ghostbusters franchise, which filmed with stars such as Finn Wolfhardt, among others, in the spring and summer of 2019. In the 2000s, there were few blockbuster films shot in Alberta, with the most notable being Brokeback Mountain, which was filmed in the summer of 2004, and Inception in November 2009.
However, after the success of Interstellar, which was filmed in Alberta in the summer of 2014, the film industry finally took note of our fair province.
Following Interstellar, the Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed over 11 months in both 2015 and 2016. The Revenant was the movie that won him his long-awaited first Oscar. Following this, Alberta then saw the filming of major movies such as Jumanji: Next Level, Togo, Let Her Go, Land, and of course, Ghostbusters: After Life; which were all filmed in Alberta in 2018 or 2019 respectively.
“It really seemed like things were picking up,” says Jelayna Hyggen, a Film graduate from SAIT who graduated in the spring of 2020. This sustained growth however, doesn’t always guarantee that everyone will be able to find a job, such as in Jelayna’s case.
“I think in some senses, at least in my experience, it can be harder to break in, and I don’t know if that because I didn’t try hard enough,” says Hyggen when speaking on the opportunities within the industry for women in Alberta.
Hyggen also notes that many of her female classmates also went on to find it a bit tricky. Because of this, Hyggen herself has chosen to go back to school in hopes of teaching film.
“I decided that I wanted to teach film school… we didn’t have any female instructors,” says Hyggen. While she also notes that her instructors were “Amazing,” and that she “Wouldn’t change any of [her] experience,” the perspective of a woman in the industry would have been appreciated and meaningful – a perspective Hyggen hopes to provide to students with someday.
Not all is lost for film, however, with many in Alberta finding work in the industry quickly following the pandemic, such as Branden Arbour who graduated from the same SAIT film class as Hyggen, and has worked on a few of the sets that have filmed in Alberta recently, including the HBO original series, The Last of Us.
“It was difficult during the pandemic to find work, but once things eased up, I was able to start finding some work,” says Arbour, but even so, he did still find it hard to break into the industry just as Hyggen had. While he may have found a way to work, it still may not be enough.
“You just have to accept that you’re probably not going to make a lot of money, if even enough to live off of,” says Arbour, noting that there is just not a lot of money in the Alberta film industry so far, but he says, with the recent renewed interest that production companies are having with our province there is still a potential for a bright future.
I’m hopeful for a lot of things – Braden Arbour
“I’m hopeful for a lot of things,” says Arbour when discussing the future of the Alberta Film industry. What he would like to see in Alberta in regard to the film industry. Among his biggest wishes are Indie films getting better funding and for more productions based in Canada to choose to use Alberta to film as well, noting that a lot of the filming done in Alberta is by bigger studios from the United States.
Both Hyggen and Arbour do note that they see a bright future for the film industry as long as there is support from the government. Arbour did note issues after the UCP was elected and put a cap on profits that could be made and money allocated to the film industry. This caused a small stagnation that has since seceded since this cap was later removed in 2020.
“I’m very hopeful for the future,” says Hyggen, a sentiment clearly shared by both her and arbour, but what’s truly required is the support from the people. Which is a note that both finished on. They both hope that more people start to see the value in the film industry and stories waiting to be told in Alberta the way they do.