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Okotoks made $18,000 from 'Last of Us' film shoot

Revenue from the filming of the HBO series will be used to fund future economic development initiatives.
SA-Last of Us Film Set BWC 3510 web
Production vehicles and crews for HBO's "The Last of Us" line Robinson Drive in Okotoks on Feb. 10.

There's nothing like a little movie action to give the local economy a boost.

Film crews have made roughly one stop every year in Okotoks since 2016, according to community growth and investment manager Colleen Thome.

Recent projects include the HBO series The Last of Us as well as the new TELUS Optik series In the Jumpseat with Jaqueline.

The HBO series was the largest-scale filming event in town to date, Thome wrote in a report presented to Town council May 9.

The document outlined the economic benefits to Okotoks as a result of film and TV production as well as the continued efforts by local government to make the town a film-friendly community, which she specified is creating a process to streamline approvals, remove barriers and provide clear information regarding processes, costs and sustainable filming practice expectations.

When The Last of Us landed in the Suntree neighbourhood back in February, the crew undertook a mission to shop local, Thome said.

The production supported 28 storefront businesses, including food, retail and service establishments, during its time in Okotoks. Many storefronts saw repeat business. However, this number doesn't include businesses that were supported by the cast and crew independently.

In the end, $18,000 in revenue was collected by the Town. This was following the $20,000 deduction used to pay staff hours associated with the production.

"For example, we had municipal enforcement on site at times, and so that helped to pay for the cost of those officers that were on site and it didn't end up coming out of ratepayers' pockets," Thome explained.

She added that the money will go back into funding economic development initiatives and projects in the community.

"The fees that are collected through the economic development cost centre go back into supporting economic development activities in the community," she said. "So it's sort of a self-generating thing, where it's going to go back into initiatives that will be in support of business retention, business attraction, business recovery, those kinds of things." 

Coun. Rachel Swendsweid inquired whether a required quota for local business support could be established for production companies, rather than a numerical figure.

As administration works to establish guidelines for filming approval, Thome said that is something that can be considered.

"I think that's something we'll have to look at as we develop those guidelines," she said.

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