Evolving Calgary’s film and television industry

Calgary Economic Development

Year Completed

2017

Client

Calgary Economic Development

Location

Calgary, AB

Size

50,000 SF

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Attracting major film makers to Calgary through a unique film centre design

For decades, film makers have come to Alberta for its majestic outdoor landscapes and shots of the Rocky Mountains. When it came time to shoot indoor scenes though, Calgary didn’t have much to offer… until recently. The Calgary Film Centre has brought diverse economic impacts and culture to the city. Major productions like Interstellar, Ghostbusters, the Fargo series, and Heartland have called Calgary their creative home.

Initiated by Calgary Economic Development, The Calgary Film Centre was given resources to build a world class film studio through a unique film centre design.

Kasian was awarded the project based on our relationships and our experience designing black box theatres. William F. White International – a Canadian production services company – also contributed knowledge and resources to the project.

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Setting the bar for film in Calgary

There’s never been a facility quite like this in Calgary before, so there were many unknowns. One of the biggest challenges with this project was planning the site. We needed to ensure there was plenty of space for many vehicles to comfortably navigate the space.

Security was paramount. We designed guard stations, tall fences, and other security features.

We also needed to acoustically isolate each of the three sound stages. This was particularly challenging since the centre was on a flight path and dozens of airplanes flew overhead daily.

The Calgary Film Centre was booking productions before we started the project, so we had a tight schedule. Construction happened in parallel with design, so we finished the building in record time.

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Bringing in help from the experts for this film centre design

Our team conducted design workshops with major stakeholders in the film industry, including an experienced filmmaker out of Los Angeles, who deeply understood the business. We began by creating the big picture design program, and conceptually planned from a high level before delving into the details.

We toured and studied several studios across the continent to research best practices and invested in software to carefully model site navigation to create the shortest distances from various points.

We worked closely with Graham Construction to make strong design-build infrastructure decisions. Our design was driven by the goal of creating a secure, quiet, and easily navigated environment for filmmakers.

PROJECT INSIGHT

We learned a lot on this particular project. We learned a lot about complex construction, about the film industry, and about the infrastructure that’s needed to attract world class producers to this city”

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Bill Chomik

Senior Principal

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Applying careful acoustic treatment

The Calgary Film Centre consists of three large sound stages with a common corridor, seating area, support spaces such as washrooms, etc., and a café. Separated from the three studios is a large common office building (a bar building), which holds bright offices and boardrooms for both William F. White and Calgary Film Centre staff. We created large rentable warehouse bays with natural light, storage space, and washrooms, so production crews can store equipment, hold meetings, and have a home base while on set.

We worked to properly sound treat each studio, so it was acoustically and thermally separate from the outside world. We worked with an acoustical engineer to design the intricate sound proofing of the building. Each studio contains tilt up, prefabricated, pre-cast concrete walls with acoustical lining insulation. The floors were ultra-flat without any undulations, so cameras could easily pan when needed.

We used elements of our industrial and arts & culture expertise to bring the complex project to life.

We also commissioned local artist Bram Timmer to create a colourful sculpture, called ‘24P,’ along the street near the studio’s entrance to bring inspiration for all those working in the film centre.

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Given Calgary’s film industry a rebirth

The construction of the Calgary Film Centre is a catalyst for Calgary’s film industry. According to an article in Livewire Calgary, since 2015 film revenues have brought in around $250 million annually, and there are projections of nearly $400 million in 2021.

Productions are booked years in advance here, and the demand is so high that William F White International recently announced that Fortress Studios was now also open for new productions – giving production crews more options to create meaningful films and content in the city.

Both the Calgary Film Centre studios and the office building are designed for future expansion, as Calgary’s booming film industry continues to grow.

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