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Hollywood strikes will impact the Calgary film industry, says Azevedo

Calgary will take a film hit while Hollywood labour unrest continues, according to the city’s film commissioner.

On Thursday, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), the union representing tens of thousands of American film and TV actors, announced they would go on strike. They will join the thousands of TV and film writers that have been on strike for 70 days.

Calgary Film Commissioner Luke Azevedo said these work stoppages will impact productions that are done globally, including Calgary.

“When you’ve got the actors and the writers both on strike, that means that most of the productions – probably all of the productions – that’s coming out of the US that has any, any writers or actors that are from those unions, is not active anymore,” he told LiveWire Calgary.

“It’s going to create a production slowdown globally.”

Total film and TV production volume in Canada rose to a record $11.69 billion in 2021/22, according to the Motion Picture Association of Canada. One of the biggest contributions was from foreign production at $7.58 billion – a 25 per cent jump from the year prior.

Provincially, Alberta hit a record in foreign location services, valued at $441 million, jumping four-fold from $68 million in 2020/21, according to MPA Canada.

Azevedo said they do want to ensure that there’s equity for everyone participating in movie productions both here and abroad.

“We want everybody in the industry to have a place that they should have in the industry and then and then be taken care of in the appropriate way,” he said.

LWC reached out to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 212 in Calgary for their response to the strike news. No comment was provided. IATSE Canada was part of a joint press release sent out July 12.

“Hollywood must be a place where every worker, on screen and off, is treated according to the value their skills and talents command,” it read.

Ready for ‘Action!’ when the time comes

Azevedo has been meeting with Hollywood production executives during the Calgary Stampede week, doing location visits and having them experience some of what’s available here in Alberta.

That’s coming at a time when there’s a lot of momentum in Calgary – and Alberta’s – film scene, Azevedo said.   The much talked about HBO series Last of Us, which was shot in Calgary and Southern Alberta, garnered 24 Emmy nominations. That’s second behind the TV series Succession. 

The film Prey, shot on the Stoney Nakoda Nation, garnered six Emmy nominations.

Until more of the labour dust settles, Azevedo said they won’t know the exact impact on the Calgary and area film productions.

“The other thing that we got to remember is that this isn’t like turning on a light switch,” he said.

“The longer it goes, the tougher it’s going to be to engage. There are going to be productions that will potentially not be able to do the season if it goes too long, because of weather changes, actor availability, all of those things that come into play.

“This could have a long-range impact if it’s not something that can be resolved in a short period of time.”

In the meantime, Azevedo said there will be more room for Canadian productions. They can have increased access to facilities and crews to shoot their productions.

He also said that they need to take this time to prepare for when things do get back on track with film and television production. That means staying on top of what’s happening south of the border.

“We need to be in a position where we are doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that we are ready to put the gas down as soon as this comes out the other side,” Azevedo said.

Here’s more on the SAG strike from CNN.