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EDITORIAL: Embracing more film productions worth exploring

The scenic sites of the Bow Valley bring millions of visitors each year to the communities of Banff and Canmore. Now valley residents can look forward to seeing some familiar areas on their screens with HBO filming The Last of Us on Main Street and the
November 18, 2021
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/www.lamontagneart.com.

The scenic sites of the Bow Valley bring millions of visitors each year to the communities of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise.

Now valley residents can look forward to seeing some familiar areas on their screens with HBO filming The Last of Us on Main Street and the Engine Bridge until the end of the month.

While some may grumble at the thought of Canmore being associated with the post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us, others see it as a continuation of the vibrant arts and entertainment scene that already exists.

But is the region ready to be part of the Hollywood North movement that has been growing in Alberta? Probably not quite to the extent of being a go-to for several productions a year, but it could add a new element to the area’s portfolio.

With the Town’s Tourism Task Force wrapping up its initial mandate, it is worth exploring whether or not becoming a filming hot spot is beneficial to the community.

Like it or not, the Bow Valley is one of the primary tourist destinations in Canada.

The roots of Canmore’s history can be traced to mining and railroads, but the mines have been closed for more than four decades and railroads are now no more than nuances for drivers who may get stopped trying to reach a destination.

The Bow Valley has seen its fair share of filming.

Last of the Dogmen, Brokeback Mountain, Legends of the Fall, Mystery Alaska, Snow Dogs, The Edge, Jumanji 3, Game of Thrones and The Revenant all had scenes filmed in the region.

There are also community stories that come from film shooting. Every longtime Canmore resident has probably heard or experienced a Russell Crowe story or two when was shooting Mystery Alaska, but there are also more positive.

After shooting Last of the Dogmen, director and writer Tab Murphy lived in Canmore and called it home for many years. Anthony Hopkins frequented The Grizzly Paw and was friendly with locals, while residents of the valley have often seen or had positive interactions with actors and film production staff.

The Outlook’s longtime cartoonist Patrick LaMontagne fondly remembers being a paid extra on Legends of the Fall in the First World War scenes, which involved wearing period military uniforms, being trained on First World War drills and firing Lee Enfield rifles.

For The Last of Us, local actors have also had their chance to be extras on the set. It has also provided a bit of excitement in what has been a dreary 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is likely more shooting will take place not only in the valley, but throughout the province.

Alberta’s Film and Television Tax Credit was boosted from roughly $30 million to $50 million this year by the province. It eliminated the cap a production could receive, with either a 22 or 30 per cent credit being received on eligible production and labour costs in what is a sweetheart deal for production companies.

Businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic and with Main Street being closed for a week, many will struggle again. While agreements were signed between businesses and HBO, the roughly $1,000 to $1,500 a day may not cover the revenue otherwise generated by those businesses.

The Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer has said “thousands of Albertans” will be employed during shooting of The Last of Us in Edmonton, Calgary, Canmore and several other locations. But it is yet to be seen how many received work, the type of pay they got and how much it helped or impacted local businesses.

If Bow Valley communities look at embracing the filming community, it is important to see how many locals were employed, the amount they received, whether or not businesses felt a direct or indirect impact and if there was any tourism-related benefit to the filming.

A debrief to be completed by Town of Canmore staff will aim to answer some of those questions on how the Town treats future film shoots.