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Alberta’s film-industry gets another nod as hit HBO series the Last of Us honoured

Recognition for Calgary and Alberta as a filming and movie-making destination continues to grow after HBO’s The Last of Us won international awards.

At the Location Managers Guild International Awards in California, the post-apocalyptic TV show took home the honours for Outstanding Locations in a Contemporary Television Series. 

Shot in close to 180 locations across Alberta, the hit series was narrated along the province’s diversified landscape — using city skylines, universities, a mountainous backdrop and old-West towns to complement its story line. 

“This identifies to the world that we can do a project the size and scope of The Last of Us,” said Luke Azevedo, vice-president, creative industries, operations and film commissioner for Calgary Economic Development.

“It’s also going to put us in a position where we can stay front of mind for the studios and the streamers as they’re making decisions moving forward of the best locations to take their next projects.”

A film set is pictured in downtown Calgary with road closures and abandoned cars.
A scene of a post-apocalyptic version of downtown Calgary as production of HBO’s The Last of Us descended on the province last year. (Tom Ross/CBC)

The awards honoured the accomplishments of location managers and scouts who work to find the ideal settings for film and television.

The impact of the awards, however, goes beyond the film industry, Azevedo said. It diversifies the economy, creates a space for representation and brings a range of talent to the province.

“What we want to ensure is that as these shows are coming into the region that we are showcasing the entire province,” he said.

“The more impact that we can make on every community in Alberta, the better it is from the perspective of our economy, the better it is from the perspective of our job creation.”

The video game-adapted drama wasn’t the only Alberta connection to win an accolade on the night. The Alberta Film Commission and Calgary Economic Development were also victorious, taking home the prize for Outstanding Film Commission.

It’s a nod to the strength of the industry and the collaborative effort between the two organizations as well as the cities of Edmonton and Calgary.

“The keyword is growth … the sky’s the limit in terms of of how big this sector can grow,” said Alberta Film Commissioner Mark Ham.

“Historically we’ve seen some of our graduates head out to Vancouver or Toronto for other opportunities. That doesn’t need to be the case anymore.” 

a collage image of a drone shot
At left, a drone shot taken by Calgary photographer Nick Coyne reveals a post-apocalyptic version of the city, with cars strewn about the streets. On the right, a shot taken by Calgary resident Mark Innes. (Submitted by Nick Coyne, Mark Innes)

HBO confirmed that the acclaimed production will return for a second stint, but its prairie backgrounds won’t be seen. 

The Last of Us will make its way west as it uses the scenic landscape of British Columbia for its follow-up season — something that fans of the source material would have expected.

“They indicated from the beginning as soon as we had started the conversation on season one that they were following the story line of the game and the game goes through the Pacific Northwest,” Azevedo said. 

“We can procure a lot of things in Alberta and we can make a lot of things happen, but we can’t make an ocean.”

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