April 24, 2019 11:26 pm

Southern Alberta’s burgeoning film industry reels in new opportunities

With more funding opportunities and Hollywood recognition, local filmmakers are hoping to reel in a bigger audience as southern Alberta's film industry grows. Demi Knight reports.


The film business may not be the biggest industry in southern Alberta, but for Arjan Gill, a local director and producer, it’s a sector he said has seen growth in recent years.

“It’s a really tough process trying to get a film made, especially in southern Alberta,” Gill said. “The towns are really small here.

“But there is a film industry growing here and we’re really appreciative of that.”

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Gill, who is owner of Lethbridge-based company, Gill Productions, said working in film has been a long and complicated career path, but lately he’s found new ways to create success in the seemingly small industry.

“Over my five years, the thing that has helped me the most is probably meeting new people that aren’t necessarily from southern Alberta but from Calgary and from bigger cities that want to give opportunity to people in smaller towns because we have a unique story to tell,” Gill said. “We have a unique landscape and that really helps us a lot.”

READ MORE: Smalltown Albertans starstruck by Kevin Costner visit during movie filming

Coaldale’s Cottonwood Records is another local company hoping to put their work on the map, which they said has been getting easier thanks to more funding opportunities in Alberta.

“The Alberta Media Fund is a good one, as well as Telus Storyhive,” Clayton Varjassy with Cottonwood Records said. “And hopefully there’s other ones that follow suit. Bigger media companies are always on the lookout to see what these funding companies are doing.”

WATCH: Small town Albertans starstruck by Kevin Costner visit during movie filming

However, it isn’t just local production companies making their mark on southern Alberta’s film industry, but Hollywood, too, with small town settings like Fort Macleod remaining a popular spot for big name filmmakers over the years.

“We’ve actually had quite a few Hollywood movies shot here,” Kristie Edwards, Deputy Mayor for the town of Fort Macleod said. “Interstellar, Passchendaele, there’s been quite a few films that have come. Brokeback Mountain filmed here as well.”

READ MORE: Town of Fort Macleod holds casting call for Hollywood film

But for Gill, his ambitions go beyond Hollywood recognition. Instead, he hopes to one day bring stories inspired by southern Albertans to the big screen.

“It would be really easy to move to a bigger city where opportunities are bigger, but that’s just not how I wanted to do things,” Gill said.

“I want to bring film here, so that’s honestly been my main motivating factor, where it’s just like, ‘Why do we need to go to them when they can come to us?'”

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