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HBO show filming to begin in downtown Canmore

“This filming will give us insight into the complexity of film permitting at this level and provide the baseline necessary for future requests. This is the biggest filming in Canadian history, so it’s amazing all of the things that are in place."
RMO File photo.

CANMORE – Lights, camera, action!

The Town of Canmore will see a new HBO show, The Last of Us – starring Pedro Pascal of Game of Thrones and the Mandalorian fame – begin filming in the mountain town.

Canmore council received an update from Town staff on the closure of areas in the downtown core to allow the filming to take place for much of November.

“This filming will give us insight into the complexity of film permitting at this level and provide the baseline necessary for future requests,” said Chris Bartolomie, the Town’s supervisor of arts and culture. “This is the biggest filming in Canadian history, so it’s amazing all of the things that are in place.

“We’re learning as we go we have the systems in place to help us be successful. … This will have a very good baseline and challenge our policies and procedures and see what we may need to change moving forward, so we can welcome film to our community if that is what we want to do.”

The Downtown BIA has given its conditional support for shooting, as long as HBO and local businesses complete agreements on how it may impact businesses.

Bartolomie noted by the end of Tuesday (Nov. 2), she expected about 75 per cent of businesses to have signed agreements. She added the agreements are between $1,000 and $1,500 a day, depending on the impact.

The film shoot will also have production assistants to guide people to any local business they may be going to.

In recent months, the show has been filming in various Alberta locations such as Edmonton and Calgary.

Bartolomie said a four-day shoot in Edmonton saw HBO spend about $372,000 for the production.

She noted the preparation and wrap team will have 180 people associated with the filming and in town for four weeks, while an extra 240 people will be here for the seven days of filming. Roughly 300 extras will also be needed during the filming.

Several downtown businesses and residences also had letters placed on their doors Monday (Nov. 1) to give advance warning of the film shooting.

The letter from the location manager stated filming would be taking place on the 800 block of Main Street, the intersection of 7 Ave and Main Street and in the Canmore public parking lot at 726 7 Street between Nov. 17-19.

Beginning the week of Nov. 1, crews would be preparing the areas for “dressing the street,” meaning setting up the areas to be filmed at. Additionally, the parking lot at 726 and 730 7 Ave will be closed starting Nov. 8 and a lane reduction will begin at 7 and 9 Aves.

Nov. 15 will see Main Street closed to vehicle traffic until Nov. 20, but access to businesses and residential units will not be prevented. There will also be filming at the Engine Bridge on Nov. 15, meaning a wait of up to 10 minute for people to cross when filming is taking place.

The streets are anticipated to be returned to normal by Nov. 26, according to the letter.

“In order to support the filming activities, we will also be required to park our work related vehicles close to Main Street and alter the traffic pattern on 8 Ave,” according to the letter.

“Our production will be operating within safe COVID-19 mitigation guidelines as set forth by Alberta Health.”

The production’s staging – also known as the circus – will be along Bow Valley Trail near Cam Clark Ford.

The show is based off the 2013 video game of the same name and takes place in a post-apocalyptic world about two decades after modern civilization has been largely destroyed. The game shows a world crippled by a fungus that has turned the majority of people into zombies, with human survivors turning to cannibalism.

The story focuses on Joel, who is hired to smuggle a 14-year-old girl named Ellie across a United States with totalitarian quarantine zones, independent settlements and nomadic groups.

The popular game has sold more than 20 million copies and is one of the best selling PlayStation games of all time.

The show will star Pascal in the role of Joel and is set to premiere in 2022. Bella Ramsey, also from Game of Thrones, will join the cast as Ellie.

The production is being written and executive produced by Craig Mazin, who created the 2019 HBO miniseries Chernobyl.

Bartolomie said Alberta has become a popular spot to film due to the diversity of the province’s landscape in allowing filming to be captured in a variety of settings. 

“You can get to almost any type of landscape by driving from the airport. You can get to the mountains, the lakes, the prairies, the badlands, historical villages and urban centres,” she said. “It makes it really attractive for them to come here because every type of landscape is here.”

Premier Jason Kenney announced in the summer the show is receiving the Film and Television Tax Credit. The tax credit had been boosted from about $30 million to $50 million earlier in the year by the province as well as eliminated the cap on money a production could receive.

It offers either a 22 or 30 per cent credit on eligible production and labour costs.

Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer has said the filming will employ “thousands of Albertans” during its production.

Following the filming, Bartolomie said staff will be doing a debrief on how the planning went and impacted residents, which will allow them to make potential policy changes.

“We are certainly interested stakeholders and look forward to seeing how it all pans out and how we look on the television screen,” Mayor Sean Krausert said.