Creative Hub brings city world-class film studio

Calgary preparing to grow industry with Toronto Vancouver

In recent years it’s been hard to take Calgary seriously as a major destination for film production in Canada. In spite of world-class crews the city’s limited production facilities contributed to the city falling far behind Toronto Vancouver and Montreal in attracting major film productions.

But with development moving forward on the Alberta Creative Hub a film production studio with world-class sound stages and state-of-the-art digital production facilities Calgary could soon be seen as both a competitive option for shooting films north of the border and an industry leader in digital filmmaking.

While Alberta’s film and television industry has generated between $90 million and $150 million in economic activity over the past decade Toronto and Vancouver have been generating close to $1 billion.

Smaller players in the film industry such as Halifax and Winnipeg have built modern studio infrastructure while Calgary has had no permanent sound stages available for film and television producers. But that’s about to change.

“The Creative Hub is essential to building the industry” says Tom Cox a veteran film and television producer who works for Calgary-based production company seven24 films. “We’ve made do with makeshift establishments but we haven’t had a purpose-built studio around which could build the necessary infrastructure for film television digital production and post production.”

The $26-million studio is being built as a partnership between Calgary Economic Development and the Department of Culture and Community Spirit. The studio which is slated to open within the next 12 to 18 months will receive funding from all levels of government and the private sector.

A not-for-profit organization the less-than-creatively dubbed Alberta Creative Hub Organization has already been selected to oversee management of the facility and land has been purchased at Canada Olympic Park for the development.

The studio’s two sound stages one 30000 square feet and the other 20000 square feet will provide the city’s industry with the year-round studio space it’s been missing since the Currie Barracks closed in 2006.

“In Vancouver there’s probably 30 sound stages. In Toronto there’s one of the world’s biggest sound stages at the Pinewood studios” says Luke Azevedo the Calgary Economic Development’s commissioner of film television and creative industries. “The sound stages get us into a position where we can accommodate the infrastructure to not only continue what we’re doing but grow the industry.”

“The Creative Hub will not only have the soundstages but will allow for all the peripheral environments that are necessary for production” he says.

Those peripheral environments include editing rooms and technology labs that Lindsay Blacklett Alberta’s minister of culture and community spirit says will be integral to the film and television industry’s continued growth. Blacklett says the Creative Hub will focus on developing technology particularly 3-D.

“We’ve got a great history with 3-D digital technology and we think that’s a vital piece of infrastructure we can utilize to get us in a better position” he says. “We’re one-tenth of B.C. and Ontario but the digital world is upon us and we think that by doing that and scratching our niche we’re going to find a place where we’re not competing with everybody.”

“They’ll have to come to it eventually but hopefully by that point we’ll just have to worry about maintaining our market share and we’ll have a level of expertise that will be better than what they have to offer.”

The focus on forward-thinking technology is what Cox finds most attractive about the Creative Hub. He says this will distinguish the studio from similar facilities across the country.

The Creative Hub has already begun preparing crews to work in 3-D. In June it held Alberta: 3-D Ready a series of seminars designed to introduce 3-D technology to Albertans during the Banff World Television Conference in June.

“If we can be at the cutting edge of that 3-D work it will definitely make us more attractive as a place to create and mount productions” Cox says. “3-D is not the future anymore. It’s here and it’s going to become a commonplace means of telling stories. We need to be preparing crews for that.”