Mayor, local ranchers say trip to Hollywood sparked interest from film studios

September 15, 2022

A recent trade mission to Los Angeles is already generating callbacks from studios scouting Calgary as a potential filming location, according to Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

The mayor, along with representatives from Calgary’s film industry and Calgary Economic Development, travelled to L.A. last week to meet with studio executives over two days.

The trip included a City Of Calgary Film and Television Industry Night hosted by the Canadian consul general in L.A.

“I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised that on Day 2 of the trip we had two phone calls from people that we had met with the previous evening at the consul general’s house,” said Gondek.

“It was incredible to be down there with a lot of our farm and ranching families as well, so they could talk directly about what their sites have to offer.”

John Scott, the owner of John Scott Productions and Scott Ranch in Longview, was invited on the trip. He said the local contingent did a “sensational job” of selling the city and the province as a place to make movies.

“The mayor did an excellent job of speaking to the producers and executives from the different studios and welcoming them to Calgary, and there’s an awful lot of interest,” said Scott. “We’ll be very busy next year.”

He confirmed he’s had at least one callback since the trip, and he knows other ranches have heard back from studios as well.

He said studios were interested in much of what Calgary and Alberta has to offer, including several standing western sets that are available. Scott said that sort of existing infrastructure can help productions cut down on filming costs.

Scott said what’s needed now is a larger workforce, and he believes Albertans are more than ready to take on those new roles.

“There can be a great crossover transition from the oil business to the movie business,” said Scott. “The land man in the oil business can become a location man in the movie business.”

He said trades such as electricians are needed on movie sets, and administrators can become production co-ordinators.

“Some of it is high-level expertise, such as sound man and special effects, things like that. But, still, you need the people to come to the business so you can train them,” he said.

Scott has more than 50 years of experience in the movie industry and said last year was the strongest by far he had ever seen. He also gave credit to the provincial government for seeing the potential and coming on side.

“Last year, it employed just over 7,000 people and it will just expand now,” said Scott.

In 2021, the film industry resulted in more than $500 million in spending in the local economy, according to numbers from Calgary Economic Development.

Teresa Copithorne, owner and manager of CL Western Town and Backlot, was also on the trip. Her ranch was the backdrop for Lonesome Dove: The Series in the 1990s, and producers continue to use that set today for other projects.

Like Scott, she said she’s already had callbacks as a direct result of the trip and expects word will spread quickly through the industry. She joked that in the film industry, you can’t sneeze without every other industry player knowing.

“It just kind of has a ripple effect,” said Copithorne. “You know, the producers that are working for Sony, they know the ones from Hallmark or from MGM. So they all talk to each other.”

Gondek said she’s been getting good feedback as well and hearing that producers are already calling with requests.

“We were advised by Amazon and Netflix that they were incredibly impressed that we knew what they were looking for, that we had answers to all of their questions,” said the mayor.

She said it’s still too early to talk about the timing of upcoming projects, but said those announcements will come as soon as possible.

“There’s a big process that has to be followed by Calgary Economic Development with those different companies,” said Gondek. “So, hopefully, we’ll be able to tell you whatever we know as soon as we know it.”

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