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HBO's The Last of Us to show Alberta's beauty 'in its entirety'


Alberta's film and television industry says the widely anticipated HBO adaption of 'The Last of Us' is a successful proof-of-concept showing the province can handle any size of production.

Premiering on Jan. 15, the series takes place 20 years after a civilization-changing event where Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle a 14-year girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), out of a city turned into a quarantine zone.

Filmed from July 2021 to June 2022 in Alberta, the province's film commission says the production is the largest to date in its history and one of the biggest in Canada.

Mark Ham, Alberta Film Commissioner, told CTV News Edmonton the showrunners wanted a location with enough unique landscapes to double as sites ranging from Boston to Oklahoma.

"Alberta naturally has the diversity of locations that can meet that need," Ham explained. "We also have a one-stop shop [for productions]."

The series will last nine episodes and air weekly on Sundays through Crave. It is based on the 2013 action and adventure video game bearing the same name developed by Naughty Dog for Sony's Playstation consoles.

Tom Viinikka, Edmonton Screen Industries Office CEO, says the province has an "integrated" approach to film and TV productions, helping staff scout locations, navigate the permitting process, and with the activation of local experts, businesses and staff.

"When a big production like this reaches out, it's pretty exciting for our office," Viinikka said.

Shooting happened throughout the entire province, Ham said, all the way from Waterton National Park in the south to Grande Prairie in the north. Other sites included High River, Fort Macleod, Canmore, Edmonton and Calgary.

"We are really proud of the fact that Alberta, in its entirety, is going to be showcased," Ham added. "It wasn't just the traditional locations being featured."

"Being able to be involved at kind of whatever level is kind of a cool and unique opportunity," Viinikka echoed.

An overhead view of Edmonton's 104 Street for the Last of Us (CTV News Edmonton/John Hanson).

Viinikka said the most exciting part was then seeing familiar locations to Albertans and Edmontonians being represented in a post-apocalyptic light in the series trailer.

"One of those shots, the legislature is in it," Viinikka said. "It makes your heart skip a beat a little bit, to see something that's yours… there on screen."

"Our legislature is a beautiful building. There's some cool parts of downtown [Edmonton] as well," he added. "It's pretty fun to think of your city and how it will look on screen, how we can provide those different unique things and looks."

The Last of Us has taken over 108 Street between Jasper Avenue and 100 Avenue in October 2021. (Jay Rosove/CTV News Edmonton)

Both Viinikka and Ham said HBO staff were impressed with how the project came together and the province's film industry.

"They found Edmonton and Alberta in general to be a really great place to do business," Viinikka shared. "They really enjoyed the crew here and the people they worked with."

"I think they had a really great time. I know the crew and the cast talked a lot about how great it was filming in Alberta."

Vines and greenery are placed on the Alberta Legislature building as a production prepares to shoot scenes for an upcoming television show (CTV News Edmonton/Sean McClune)

Ham said the province's film-making industry came together and was supported by municipalities and local businesses, for everything from catering to hotels.

He hopes the series acts as a signal to the film and TV industry that Alberta is a destination of choice.

"For us it's a proof of concept," Ham said. "It shows the world that Alberta can handle projects of any size, from small independent features up to big mega projects like The Last of Us."

"We've shown the world that we can do this," Viinika reinforced. "It's millions of little things that come together to make a really big production like this."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Marek Tkach

Crave is an online subscription video-on-demand service owned by Bell Media. Bell Media owns CTV News, a division of Bell. Top Stories

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