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Mayor Gondek, film commissioner head to California on trade mission

The message to Hollywood studio execs: Keep it rolling in Calgary.

That’s the idea behind a trade mission to California for Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Calgary film commissioner Luke Azevedo.  The pair will be in LA this week to meet with 80 film executives as they host a City of Calgary Film and Television Industry Night at Canada House.

Mayor Gondek will be leaving today for a whirlwind two day trip to speak at the meeting with executives and then meet with independent studios Thursday. She will also be attending a pre-Emmy Awards event celebrating Canadian talent.

“I think what we’re doing is we’re going down with an enhanced message and you never stop marketing the area in film and TV,” said Azevedo.

“There’s got to be a consistent engagement with the relationships that are existing, the creation of new relationships.

Azevedo said the message is much different this year than last. He said the incentives for film and TV are competitive. Quality of crews are strong, too.

“We’ve been able to work on projects that are of size and scope that are as big as any project that was going on in the planet, and we’ve excelled at those outcomes,” he said.

The mayor is there to let Hollywood know that Calgary is a film-friendly city. The City of Calgary supports further film development and we’re a sustainable location for film production.

She said studios are looking for authenticity in their films and Calgary delivers that. The mayor noted the film Prey provided opportunity for local Indigenous actors.

“We are in a province and a city that’s incredibly diverse and has a lot of talented people who can write, direct, produce and act,” Mayor Gondek said.

“That’s what I want them to come here and experience.”

Film infrastructure

The Mayor and Azevedo had just toured a new adaptive reuse of a building. It was previously used in the energy sector for manufacturing, the mayor said.

“The building owner, in his own terms, called it part of the energy transition. How are we using old spaces in new ways?” The mayor said. 

She said Calgary has people interested in converting old buildings, to go along with the purpose-built ones, like the Calgary Film Centre.

“When you compare the fact that you’ve got a contemporary facility against some of the aging infrastructure in places like LA, we’ve definitely got a competitive advantage,” the mayor said.

Not only does Alberta have the facilities, but it has the crews strength – and the locations studios desire.

“It’s important from that aspect, as well as we want to ensure that every jurisdiction in this province has some level of success coming out of this growth and out of this sector,” Azevedo said.

“The more that we bring in, the more landscapes, the more backdrops, more different looks that are going to be necessary.”

Economic impact of film

In 2019, the Alberta film industry brought in $250 million. In 2021, that number had nearly doubled. The Calgary Film Centre has been booked solid with productions. Big budget films like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Prey, Jumanji: The Next Level and the TV show Last of Us are among those filmed in Alberta.

Azevedo said it’s going to be difficult to duplicate the growth. He said the key is to take on high quality projects and deliver higher quality service to films.

“What we’re trying to do is to create this sustainable model that will allow us to grow incrementally and to be able to sustain the excellence in production that we become known for,” he said.

Azevedo said the so-called unicorn status of reaching $1 billion isn’t too far off in the future.

That’s what this trip is about: Steady growth. Azevedo said month after month, year after year they need to stay top of mind.

The success of the trip will not only be measure in GDP, said Mayor Gondek. It will be measured in the productions that are coming out of the city.

“If we become known, and our reputation grows, for being a place where you can actually get strong, diverse talent and put together and authentic build TV production, that would be amazing success,” the mayor said.