Alberta losing out on film production, union says

According to representatives with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), confusion surrounding the grant process in Alberta has led to uncertainty in the local film industry.

Film workers say delays of provincial grants has caused producers to look elsewhere

The Calgary Film Centre has 50,000 square feet with three purpose-built sound stages, but some say the city is losing out on productions. (CBC)

Calgary-based sound recordist Ron Osiowy couldn't have received the message any clearer.

Osiowy had been working on a project with a producer who had spoken about filming a big budget feature in the Calgary area.

"But now he's come up against this roadblock, where he can't get any answers from the government on the tax credit system or what's going on," Osiowy said. "So he's like, 'I'll just take it somewhere else.' That was his exact words."

It's a common refrain — delays related to Alberta production grants has film producers looking elsewhere. 

According to representatives with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), confusion surrounding the grant process has led to uncertainty in the local film industry.

"I've personally heard from five different producers — some local, but three of them are from out of Alberta — who've reached out," said Damian Petti with IATSE. "They've said, 'We can't get any movement on the grant and so we'd like you to help us.

"And if you can't help us, we'll take our project elsewhere."

FX's Fargo shot three seasons in the Calgary area before setting up for a fourth season in Chicago. While unrelated to the grant process, those in the film industry fear uncertainty could deter future similar productions from shooting in the area. (Chris Large/FX/AP)

Petti said the Kenney government promised to convert the Alberta Screen-based Production Grant into a tax credit, but that process hasn't taken place yet.

"So in essence, there's a freeze on approval of new grants under the screen production grant here in Alberta," Petti said.

"It has a tremendous destabilizing effect on the industry, in that this is a very portable industry and producers can choose to shoot wherever they want."

Danielle Murray, a spokesperson for Alberta's Minister of Culture, said the grant program was "severely mismanaged" by the former NDP government.

According to the spokesperson, the incoming government discovered $92 million had been committed to the industry, though the program had been capped at $45 million.

The province said all grant agreements previously approved are being fulfilled, and the government remains committed to transitioning to a film tax credit.

In the meantime, it's possible Alberta will lose out on other big budget productions.

"We weren't able to get any information in a timely manner," said Alicia Kafka, a Vancouver and Los Angeles-based producer who was looking at potentially producing a series of movies in Alberta starting next month.

"So now what's happening is, we're looking at different regions to shoot."

With files from Jennifer Lee


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?