Alberta is a land of rich diversity in landscape, people and cultures. That diversity is reflected in the creative output of the province, which includes thriving subsectors of film and television, digital media, interactive technologies, gaming, e-sports and animation.
Statistics from Alberta Partners for Arts and Culture show it’s a sector that provides $5.3 billion CAD to the Alberta economy on an annual basis, creates more than 50,000 jobs and contributes more than $3 billion annually in labour income.
Perhaps the best known of Alberta’s creative industries is film and TV, with such epic movies as Unforgiven, Interstellar and The Revenant filmed in the province. The provincial government estimates that approximately $482 million was spent by more than 50 productions in the province in 2022, generating some 9,000 jobs.
Alberta benefits from many competitive advantages, including a well-educated and trained workforce and some of the finest post-secondary institutions in the world. It is also home to many renowned authors, noteworthy galleries and museums and a lively music scene.
The success of Alberta’s creative industries will only grow with the province’s recent announcement that it will expand the film and TV tax credit, with up to $70 million in tax credits expected to be handed out to eligible productions in 2022. That amount will increase by $5 million for each of the next two years, totalling $225 million in a three-year period.
Value of grants awarded by the Alberta Foundation of the Arts in 2021-2022
Video game development companies in Alberta
Annual amount Alberta’s cultural industries contribute to the economy
Number of jobs created annually by the cultural industry in Alberta
Annual contribution from Alberta’s creative economy to the province’s labour income
Sources: Government of Alberta, Statistics Canada, Alberta Partners for Arts & Culture
Developing the Next Generation of Indigenous Storytellers
The Siksika Nation, east of Calgary, is harnessing the powerful storytelling of film and television with the Counting Coup Indigenous Film Academy at Old Sun Community College. Opened in summer 2022, Counting Coup is a progressive, state-of-the-art, holistic educational environment for intense creative work, where emerging and aspiring First Nations artists can get instruction from established filmmakers and learn the foundations of a professional film career.
Students learn everything from the basics of acting on camera to the fundamentals of stunts and wire-work. They also get an introduction to the craft skills behind filmmaking, like cinematography and lighting. Through the three-month program, students earn accreditation from the Directors Guild of Canada and certification from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents film and theatre production workers around the world.
All the Province Is A Stage
So many great films have been shot in Alberta, including Marilyn Monroe starring in 1954’s River of No Return; Brad Pitt in 1994’s Legends of the Fall; and Leonardo DiCaprio in 2015’s The Revenant. They come not only for the dramatic backdrops, from Rocky Mountain peaks to wide open, wind-swept plains, but also for the expertise and the assets that have built up in the province over the years. Those assets include wild-west locations with complete sets (many of which can be toured by visitors), experienced crews and state-of-the-art studio space.
To further promote the industry, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and a delegation from the film industry went to Los Angeles last September. “We were advised by Amazon and Netflix that they were incredibly impressed that we knew what they were looking for, that we had answers to all of their questions,” said Mayor Gondek on her return.
In early 2022, MovieMaker Magazine named Calgary 10th on its list of top cities in North America to live and work in the movie-making industry. It comes as no surprise, with the city home to award-winning talent and crews, access to world-renowned locations and a purpose-built film studio, the Calgary Film Centre, which has 50,000 square feet of purpose-built studios and 25,000 square feet of multipurpose warehouse and workshop spaces.
In creating the list, editors at MovieMaker considered such things as survey results, production spending, tax incentives, recent productions and personal visits. More than $500 million in production spending was recorded in the Calgary region in 2021, with Calgary Economic Development facilitating 123 projects and approving more than 500 filming permits. “We offer an unparalleled variety of locations with the Rocky Mountains, prairies and badlands at the doorstep of a thriving, inclusive, and safe urban municipality,” said Luke Azevedo, the film commissioner at Calgary Economic Development, to MovieMaker. “It isn’t just a city to make a good living; It’s also a city to make a great life.”