Calgary horror film chosen for prestigious Cannes Marché du Film

A Calgary film is set to appear at the prestigious Cannes Marché du Film, the business counterpart to the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Dark Nature, a horror film about a weekend retreat in the Rocky Mountains gone wrong, has been selected as one of the Fantastic 7 — seven up-and-coming genre films from around the world. 

Calgarian Berkley Brady wrote and directed the film, which is her first feature. She said she is excited to share the success of the occasion with the cast, crew, and family and friends who supported making the film. 

“It just feels like we work really hard to make good projects and it takes a lot of years. To be able to kind of get to that point and to have it recognized on the world stage is really, really exciting,” said Brady.

Berkley Brady writer and director of Dark Nature (Submitted by Berkley Brady)

The Fantastic 7 is a collaboration between seven film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which put forward Dark Nature as its submission. The event highlights films of note coming out this year to movie industry heavyweights and insiders. 

“You’re getting that kind of affirmation, you also get more notice from other big film festivals and also, market-wise, you have a better chance to sell your film,” said producer Michael Peterson.

Calgary connection

Brady, who grew up in Calgary, attended film school at Columbia University in New York. Approaching graduation, she considered staying in the United States to find work. 

“I think a lot of artists in film at least have to make that decision to move to Vancouver or Toronto or L.A. or New York, and those are all amazing places, but your home is your home” she said.

A screencap from the film Dark Nature, which follows a group on a wilderness retreat in the Rocky Mountains gone wrong. (Submitted by Berkley Brady)

“I just feel like I am a prairie person being Métis and being from here… I just feel very, very connected to this place and I love to live here. It made me feel really sad to think, ‘I can’t have the career that I want if I live here.'”

When Brady returned to Calgary to shoot her thesis film, she fell in love with, and eventually married, her cinematographer from that project. He convinced her to stay in Calgary and work on her screenplay. 

Local talent need more opportunities in key roles 

Producer Michael Peterson — who helped Brady develop the project — is committed to making quality work with Calgary filmmakers.

“I’m a big believer in mentoring and supporting people from the community here,” he said.

For Peterson,  Dark Nature’s appearance at the Marche du Film is just another example of the “world-class” work that can be done by Alberta creatives.

Photos from the set of the FX miniseries Under The Banner of Heaven, filming in downtown Calgary in December. Berkley and Peterson say while productions shot in Calgary are staffed by locals, they rarely get opportunities in key creative roles. (Ose Irete/CBC)

“You’ll often get into that conversation where someone is like, ‘We’ll get the person from the bigger city because they’re obviously better because they live in a bigger city’… [but] there’s people here that are just as good as any of those other people that they might want to bring in from elsewhere.” 

Calgary is a growing hotbed for the film industry with big-budget productions, like The Last of Us and FX’s Under the Banner of Heaven, shot in the city. However, local talent still struggles for involvement in key creative roles. 

“We want to be here and known to be like the creative force behind the projects as well, not just staffing them,” said Brady.

Landscape an advantage for local filmmakers

Dark Nature was shot in Kananaskis Country. The landscape is more than just a background for Brady who grew up camping and out on the land with her family. She believes local filmmakers can offer a more in depth portrayal of the land without being intimidated by it. 

Director Berkley Brady speaks to cast members on set of Dark Nature. (Spencer Eastbrooks )

“I want to go and bring the beauty of this landscape to the screen, and show characters who are comfortable in it. I think that that’s something that I can do and local filmmakers can do from the inside.” 

“It’s not just a beautiful landscape. It’s like something that you’re interacting with and there’s a relationship with the land,” she added.

Continued investment in artists necessary 

The film was partially funded by grants from Calgary Arts Development, Telefilm, and other organizations. Brady said she’s benefitted from grants and opportunities throughout her career in Alberta. She thinks that kind of support helps filmmakers develop and benefits the community financially as well. 

“These investments in local artists really do help us get to the next stage.”

“I would have to crunch the numbers but I’m sure the money that was made from the tax base of everyone that was hired on this project alone would pay back … all the grants that I’ve got while I’ve lived here,” she added. 

She hopes the success of this project can be “another stone in the pathway” for Alberta filmmakers.

“There’s no reason why the best filmmaker in the world couldn’t be from like, Drumheller, you know?”

Cast and crew members work on set while filming Dark Nature. (Spencer Eastbrooks)

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