Luke Azevedo talks about how the region became a hotbed of creativity – and what it needs to grow even larger

Luke Azevedo is commissioner of Film, TV & Creative Industries with Calgary Economic Development.

Luke Azevedo

How big is the creative services, film and TV industry in Calgary?

Azevedo: The province of Alberta did $255 million in film, television and commercial production activity in 2017-2018 and the majority of that production was done in Calgary and southern Alberta; 24,000 people worked in Calgary’s creative industries and earned $1.6 billion in labour income.

The creative sector’s direct gross domestic product impact equalled $2.1 billion. Labour productivity (GDP per worker) was $90,500.

Over 3,200 creative and film professionals graduate from post-secondary institutions annually in Alberta. We are the fourth largest production location in Canada, behind B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

How has it grown over the years?

Azevedo: We have seen growth throughout the years from $181 million in production volume in 2008-2009 to $255 million in 2018, which represents approximately three per cent of the total production volume in Canada last year, which reached a GDP of $12.8 billion.

Although we continue to grow we pale in comparison to B.C., $3.576 billion, Ontario, $2.892 billion, and Quebec, $1.824 billion.

Incentives in the province are cumbersome and not as globally competitive as the major production centres in the country. We are working with our new government to make us competitive nationally and internationally and dramatically increase our market share.

How important has the industry become as we diversify the Calgary economy?

Azevedo: Calgary’s creative industries are a vital contributor to the economy of the Calgary census metropolitan area and that of the overall province.

The impact of Calgary’s creative industries goes beyond its direct contribution, as it also supports the activity of other industries through supply chain linkages (indirect impact) and through the re-spending of wages by workers in both the creative and supply chain industries.

Adding the direct, indirect and induced effects together, the sector supported $3.8 billion in GDP and 43,900 full-year jobs in Alberta as a whole.

The creative industries also help to attract tourists. In 2016, tourists visiting Calgary spent just under $71 million on creative industries goods and services. Domestic travellers spent $50 million. This is equal to 3.1 per cent of their total spending. International travellers spent $21 million This is equal to 3.9 per cent of their total spending.

Of this total impact, $2.6 billion in GDP and 28,100 full-year jobs were in Calgary alone.

Film, TV and interactive digital media need many skill sets to be successful and grow, such as painters, carpenters, electricians, hair and makeup. This means we can assist some of the under-employed sectors with retraining for high-paying full-time work in the screen industries.

What are some of the best known films that have been shot in the Calgary area recently?

Azevedo: Most recently Jumanji 3 (unit shoot). Lost in Space (unit shoot), The Revenant, Interstellar, Inception, Bourne Legacy, Heartland (12 seasons), Fargo Seasons 1, 2, 3 and Tin Star Seasons 1, 2, Wynonna Earp Seasons 1,2,3, and many commercials like Chevy, Kleenex, Oreo, Jeep/Ram, Toyota, Ford, Coca-Cola, GM.

Alberta has over 100 years of history in film. There have been may award-winning productions including Brokeback Mountain, the Assassination of Jesse James, Legends of the Fall, The Edge and Unforgiven.

What are Calgary’s major selling points to attract more of this industry to the city?

Azevedo: Calgary is best known for the majestic, awe-inspiring scenery central to the imagery and imagination evoked by the frontier of the untamed West. Yet Calgary and area’s remarkably diverse geography of the Rocky Mountains, Badlands and prairies, along with its vibrant urban settings make it a very popular location for a vast range of productions.

From the deserts of Afghanistan, to the battlefields of feudal Japan to a trendy restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calgary and southern Alberta are chameleons able to play a wide spectrum of roles.

Our local talent and crews are world-class and second to none, which have enabled us to garner 26 Emmy, 10 Golden Globe and 11 Oscar wins over the last 15 years.

We also have the Calgary Film Centre, which houses 50,000 square feet of purpose-built sound stages with an additional 25,000 square feet of multi-purpose warehouse and workshop space complemented by the anchor tenant William F. White International, Canada’s largest provider of professional motion picture, TV, digital media and theatrical production equipment.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business

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