Calgary gets new film studio, with production booming and studio space in high demand
CALGARY -- There’s an old Kevin Costner baseball movie where the ghost of Shoeless Joe tells baseball-worshipping farmer Costner, “If you build it, they will come.”
Shoeless Joe was talking about a ballpark in Field of Dreams (1989) but William F White International (WFW) is betting something similar will happen with Calgary’s buoyant film and television production slate with the opening of a major new studio space in the city.
WFW, which was one of the original investors in the Calgary Film Centre, announced the opening of Fortress Studio Thursday.
The studios, which are retrofitted space that was originally intended for oil and gas but never occupied, will provide around 100,000 square feet of additional studio space (with 70,000 more to come at nearby Fortress Support) for productions at a time when studio space is in high demand, in Calgary and across North America.
That’s not news to William F. White International's vice-president of studios, Alex Godfrey, who praised the work of the mayor’s office, Calgary Economic Development and the province for creating a collaborative effort that is turning the city into a film and television production hotspot.
“Calgary has vistas, it’s got diversity of places (to shoot) downtown. It can double for a lot of places on earth,” said Godfrey, in an interview with CTV News. “What’s exciting about Calgary is all the infrastructure is coming online, certainly with the help of government.”
That all comes at a time, Godfrey added, when there’s significant demand from studios and streamers in the U.S. for studio space to shoot films and series.
“It’s very exciting news for Alberta and for Calgary,” he said. “There’s a lot of jobs and economic activity that it (film and television production) brings to the community, to gas stations, food, restaurants, construction."
(Robin Wright shooting Land in Kanasaskis country, 2019)
“It’s very exciting for a community to have a studio built into it.”
Calgary Economic Development Film Commissioner Luke Azevedo said the addition of studio space was welcome, at a time when there’s a genuine space crunch for production companies.
“We are excited to have WFW increase their offerings in Alberta with much needed infrastructure to service the film and television community in a long term, sustainable manner,” Azevedo said. “WFW has been a strong supporter of our creative industries for over 30 years, servicing both foreign and local productions as we continue to grow and develop our sector. New production facilities enhance Alberta’s competitiveness in attracting foreign direct investment and increase the impact of the film and television sector on our provincial economy.”
(Fraggle Rock is currently being shot at the Calgary Film Centre for Apple +)
50K to 500K SQUARE FEET IN 3 MONTHS
According to Azevdo, Calgary has gone from one purpose-built space with 50,000 square feet to over 500,000 square feet in the last three months.
Mayor Nenshi said, “WFW was a partner in establishing the Calgary Film Centre, and this latest investment is a major endorsement of our potential as a hub for film, television, and other content production. This will lead to new potential for Calgary, but even more importantly, will create training and employment opportunities for current and prospective film industry professionals.”
The Hollywood Reporter covered the opening Thursday, and Premier Jason Kenney, who has lately been bashing Netflix for its depiction of Alberta’s energy industry, weighed in with a tweet that was high on Hollywood.
“Big news for Alberta’s film industry,” he tweeted. "A new @WFW_Intl 100,000 square foot studio is ready to attract major productions. Growing Alberta’s film industry is a big part of our plan to build, diversify and create thousands of jobs.”
That sentiment was echoed by IATSE 212 President Damian Petti, who said Fortress Studio is the right project, at the right moment for the city’s film and television professionals.
“These new soundstages, along with positive changes to production incentives and increased training in the jurisdiction is fast positioning Alberta as a go-to production hub. Infrastructure, skilled crew and stable incentive programs have proved to be the recipe for success, the feast or famine rollercoaster ride of seasonal film making was a barrier to growth in this jurisdiction."
"The increased capacity in terms of year-round production that these sound stages provide are a springboard for crew retention and additional growth," Petti added.
"Alberta and in particular, Calgary are fast becoming a destination for the world's largest media companies to invest.”
With files from Adriana Zhang