HBO’s highly anticipated video game adaptation, The Last of Us, premiered internationally on Jan. 15. Shot in Calgary, the series is one of the highest-ever acclaimed TV series debuts, with a 99 per cent critic approval rating and 96 per cent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Viewers can catch glimpses of Calgary’s 4th Avenue flyover, twentieth century buildings along Stephen Ave, the Calgary International Airport tunnel, Mount Royal University and SAIT by tuning in on Crave.
The show features local film talent, production assistants and set designers while thousands of carpenters, City of Calgary employees, police and fire staff, Calgary Film Commission advisors and vendors also contributed behind the scenes. To celebrate the village it took to bring this production to life, in collaboration with HBO, the Calgary International Film Festival held a ‘Thank You Alberta’ screening of The Last of Us and industry panel discussion at the Jubilee Auditorium.
“I’ve never come across a city like Calgary that has been so accommodating for a film production. We wanted big, we wanted scale, and Calgary said – no problem,” said Rose Lam, Executive Producer, The Last of Us.
“Calgary offered the kind of access – for example, shutting down the 4th avenue flyover – that made us realize that HBO was here in partnership with the city and the province of Alberta. There could not be a community more supportive, more forward-looking at the big picture of the film industry.”
In 2021, the Government of Alberta removed the $10 million cap per project for the Film and Television Tax Credit. This incentive positioned Calgary as a competitive film jurisdiction and played a role in HBO’s selection of the city.
“The incentives offered allowed us to create art and over 2,000 jobs for Albertans. It takes the vision of the people here, in Calgary and Alberta, to design an economic system that works to attract productions,” said Jay Roewe, Senior Vice President of Production Planning and Incentives for HBO, HBO MAX, Warner Media.
Film, TV and commercial productions invested over $461 million in Calgary through 2022, a region which can account for over 80 per cent of Alberta’s film spend.
“The critically acclaimed success of the series demonstrates how the Calgary community can host film and TV productions of this scope and scale,” said Luke Azevedo, Calgary Film Commissioner and VP Creative Industries, Operations, Calgary Economic Development, in opening remarks.
“As the film and TV industry grows in Calgary, we are also seeing cluster development across the creative industries which creates opportunities for local businesses and Calgarians. Although thousands already work in or adjacent to the screen industries, the success of The Last of Us highlights how a career in film, TV, digital media and entertainment can be found here, in Calgary.”
Becoming a destination for creativity, innovation and livability is a priority in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. With Calgary's recent rank as the eighth best city to live and work as a MovieMaker in North America, the community is primed for a flurry of projects to come.
“I love this city, man,” said actor Gabriel Luna. “I’ll never forget when I flew into Calgary for the first time and saw those mountains. It took my breath away. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to spend five months here.”
Local post-secondary institutions are seizing the industry’s momentum with new programs for students such as Bow Valley College’s Diploma in Advanced Visual Effects, or SAIT’s diploma in Film and Video Production.
Over 3,200 creative industries post-secondary graduates from Mount Royal University, SAIT, the University of Calgary and Bow Valley College annually feed the talent pipeline, joining more than 24,000 people employed in the creative industries sector.
Calgary is in the spotlight as a destination for creators in 2023, with over 700,000 sq. ft. of retrofit and purpose-built studios space with the Calgary Film Centre, William F. White Studio and Rocky Mountain Film Studio.
For more information on Calgary’s film and television sector, visit our Creative Industries page.