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COVER STAR - Luke Azevedo: One of the Visionaries Transforming Calgary's Film Industry

Calgary Economic Development with Luke Azevedo. Our 12th issue is going National for June!

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

"Alberta's 2023 budget invests $335 million into the Film and Television Tax Credit, creating jobs and revenue across the province."

Story by I'm Here With

One of the people Behind Alberta's booming film industry is Luke Azevedo, Vice President, Creative Industries, Operations and Film Commissioner. His leadership and dedication has helped propel the province of Alberta and the city of Calgary, into the global spotlight, attracting major productions that create investment and job opportunities. In our exclusive interview with Luke for our Chapters/Indigo/Coles distributed 12th issue, Luke shares his insights into the industry's growth. He energetically shared about his role in securing investments and the true essence of Alberta's film community, just before he flew to the Cannes Film Festival.

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

In 2007, Luke joined Calgary Economic Development (CED) as the Commissioner for Film, Television, and Creative Industries. Luke works with studios, government, unions & producers in Southern Alberta to facilitate and develop local projects and to attract new foreign film, television & digital media productions to Alberta. Before joining CED, Luke was the Director of the Creative Electronic Environment, as well as the Banff New Media Institute and the Acting Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre, where he developed and directed television and interactive media facilities and personnel. Before Banff, he was the owner-operator of VisionWorks Commercial Productions and worked with Hockey Canada through four Olympic Games as well as numerous Junior and Women’s World Championships. During this period Luke was also the broadcast liaison for the Calgary Flames hockey operations.

In 2023, Luke was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), a global consortium of over 300 film commissions across six continents. As one of 10 board members, Luke is the sole city commissioner among country, region, and state commissions. In addition, Luke has been awarded the Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal by the Province of Alberta, recognizing his work and dedication towards elevating not only Calgary, but Alberta’s, reputation as a global production center for the Creative Economy and for content creators of all platforms and genres.

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

Jill Maria: "Oh, my goodness. Here we are. We're here today with one of Calgary's influential VP’s. I'm Jill Maria and I'm thrilled to introduce our newest cover star for Chapters/Indigo/Coles, Luke Azevedo. He is Calgary’s Film Commissioner and Vice President, Creative Industries and Operations at Calgary Economic Development. The Province’s recent announcement in the 2023 budget of an investment of a staggering 335 million into the film and television tax credit has sparked excitement and created a surge in job opportunities. Today, we sit down with Luke to learn more about the film industry in Calgary and what is currently unfolding."

Luke Azevedo: "Well, the film and TV industry in Alberta has a rich history spanning over a hundred years. We have experienced ups and downs throughout the years, but our commitment to quality work, authentic relationships and the exceptional talent within our industry have consistently produced award-winning projects.

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

Jill Maria: Alberta has produced and been a part of classics like 'Unforgiven', 'Cool Runnings', and 'Dr. Zhivago', 'The Assassination of Jesse James', 'The Revenant', 'Interstellar', 'Hell On Wheels', to more recent successes like 'The Last of Us', 'Joe Pickett", 'The Root of The Problem', 'Everfall', and 'Under the Banner of Heaven,' 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife', 'Letem Go', 'Consume short', 'Game of Thrones', 'Hot Box', 'In The Jumpseat With Jacqueline', 'This is Your Story', 'A Teacher', Jimmy The Bear Documentary, 'Creepy Pasta Anthology',' 'Dark Woods', 'Land', 'Left Behind', 'Ride', 'Push' on CBC, and most recently the Netflix series 'Wind River'.

Luke: Alberta has established itself as a preferred global destination. With the Provincial government investment, we have not only become nationally competitive but also an international destination of choice. This means the province can actively pursue any size project with the potential to come to Alberta and showcase the remarkable quality of work we can offer."

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

Luke continues, "My role is to create relationships with studios, streamers, and independent producers worldwide, leveraging the diverse assets and advantages of our region, as well as support our local production community. In recent years, it has become increasingly less difficult to attract projects due to the recognition we have garnered.

Alberta has always been an excellent place for film and television production, but our global reputation has significantly improved, positioning us as a prime location of choice for filmmakers and storytellers. Calgary was also selected as the 8th best place in North America to live and work as a Filmmaker. This speaks volumes about the local content creators, who play an important role in the development of the sector and create amazing Alberta stories that get national and international recognition.

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

Jill interjects, expressing admiration for Luke's contributions: "Luke, we believe your instrumental role has played a significant part in this industry's growth. Your kindness, inclusivity, and approachability have made an indelible impression on everyone you encounter. People within the industry consistently praise your character and how welcoming you are, even to industry members, you may not directly work with. Having you here today discussing the film industry and how individuals can participate is a testament to the type of leader we have. Calgary Economic Development has treated us exceptionally well, including your team. It's crucial to showcase the people behind Alberta's success, not just its financial achievements."

Luke responds with humility, acknowledging the importance of collaboration and the positive atmosphere within the Alberta film community. This a community of Talented individuals who genuinely care about one another. Nurturing an inclusive and supportive environment is essential for the industry's growth. Alberta has so much to offer, and it's not just about our thriving economy or the incredible projects being produced. It's about the people who make it all happen. We take pride in our collective achievements, and it's an honor to be a part of such a dynamic and passionate community."

As the interview continues, Luke delves into the strategies implemented to ensure Alberta's global competitiveness. He emphasizes the importance of a competitive incentive program that complements the province's existing assets. By removing the $10 million per project cap on the film tax credit, Alberta became an even more attractive destination for large budget productions. Luke highlights the growth of the crew base and the development of infrastructure to support the industry. He explains, there is a large investment in the development of talent and fostering their growth. Training programs offered by Alberta unions, guilds, and post-secondary institutions including micro-credentialing programs, are equipping individuals with the necessary skills to thrive in the industry. Additionally, the focus on infrastructure has been instrumental in attracting production to the region.

"We have seen significant growth in studio space, with facilities like the Calgary Film Centre, William F White studios, and purpose-built stages at Rocky Mountain Film Studios. These developments have transformed our environment and positioned us as a top destination for filmmakers."

Jill, impressed by Luke's insights, adds, "Luke, your vision and efforts have not only made the industry more accessible but have also challenged the notion that industry leaders are unapproachable. Many aspiring individuals, especially those in background or crew roles, may feel intimidated, believing they could never approach industry leaders like yourself. However, you have shown us time and again that you are here to develop and nurture the growth of the industry. Your willingness to engage and support even smaller initiatives, like our magazine, speaks volumes about your commitment to invigorating the industry and creating opportunities for everyone. You have inspired us to believe that there is a place for all of us in this industry."

Luke Azevedo by Darren Ballingall

Luke appreciates Jill's words and acknowledges, "It's essential for us to support one another, Together, we can cultivate and grow an industry that is inclusive, diverse, and welcoming. It's not about one person or one organization; it's about the collective effort of the thousands involved in the Creative Economy. I encourage individuals to educate themselves, get involved, and seize opportunities. The path to being a part of this vibrant industry is more accessible than many may realize. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, collaboration, and active engagement, we can contribute to the continued growth and success of Alberta's film industry."

In conclusion, Luke Azevedo's visionary leadership and inclusive approach have been instrumental in helping shape Alberta's thriving Screen industries. With a focus on global competitiveness, talent development, and infrastructure expansion, Alberta has become a sought-after destination for filmmakers, studios and streamers. Luke's commitment to accessibility and support has shattered misconceptions about industry leaders, inspiring individuals from all backgrounds to pursue their dreams in the Creative industries. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, learning, and active involvement, Alberta's creative sector continues to thrive and invites aspiring individuals to be part of its exciting journey.

Follow n Instagram @ifeincalgay and @filmtvguy

Photography by Darren Ballingall

Supported by Lisa Webber and Luke Azevedo

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