Made in Canada: Alberta



Alberta has gone back to the drawing board to bring Hollywood film and TV projects to the province after a sharp fall in the global oil price pinched government budgets.

With its vast oil sands and natural gas reserves, the province last year offered hard cash to Lionsgate to shoot the NBC anthology series "Fear Itself" in Edmonton when oil was at $140 a barrel.

That was then. With oil at $70 a barrel, the province in August increased the funding levels available to foreign producers and hiked the per-project cap from CAN$3 million to CAN$5 million ($4.6 million) to stay competitive with rival jurisdictions.

At the same time, the province's Alberta Film Development Program fund will remain at CAN$20 million ($18.4 million) for fiscal year 2009-10.

Alberta culture minister Lindsay Blackett says the province can't go further to retain competitiveness against rival jurisdictions without breaking the bank.

"We've lost some production," Blackett concedes, as Ontario and Quebec recently introduced 25% all-spend tax credits to keep pace with such rival U.S. states as Michigan and Louisiana.

But Blackett adds the most recent revisions to Alberta's tax incentives will help entice Hollywood producers, "while being fiscally responsible."

Recent U.S. shoots include "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil," an indie horror comedy from Eden Rock Media shot in Calgary, the ABC Family TV movie "Santa Baby 2" and the Fox Television Studios telefilm "The 12 Men of Christmas."

Christopher Nolan's "Inception" for Warner Bros. is slated to shoot certain scenes in rural Alberta in the fall. But that marks the first big-budget Hollywood picture to film in Alberta since the Brad Pitt-starrer "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" in 2005. Before that, Alberta's mountain ranges and prairie plains in 2004 doubled as Wyoming in the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" by Ang Lee.

Alberta is also weighing two formal proposals for new purpose-built soundstages in the province after the closure of CFB Studio Center, a decommissioned military base that had four retrofitted soundstages for indigenous and foreign projects.

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