How ATB is fostering Alberta’s film industry
By ATB Financial 5 July 2019 2 min read
Financing independent films in Alberta can be a challenge. For Alberta filmmaker Dylan Pearce of Avatar Media, there’s never been a whole lot of separation between art and commerce.
“That’s always the constant struggle as a filmmaker here in Edmonton,” he explains. “Focusing on your stories or focusing on stories that will help bring consistent work to the city.” For Dylan, making sure Alberta has a viable film industry is a big part of making sure his own passion projects can be realized—here at home.
No money, no movies
Film, perhaps more than any other art form, depends on access to money. But when you’re not working in a big film industry town like Los Angeles, New York or Vancouver, the financing can be tricky to come by. Dylan describes producers putting up their own houses as collateral on production loans, and recalls the incredible stress of scrambling for cash to pay cast and crew at the end of each week’s shooting.
Minding the money gap
Things got a little easier in 2018, when The Branch for Arts + Culture approached Avatar Media to partner with them on funding their made-for-TV movie Christmas Cupcakes. As Dylan says, Christmas Cupcakes was “one of the first films to go through this stage with The Branch. So it was a lot of learning on both sides.” Nevertheless, The Branch came on to gap finance the project—which means The Branch provided, up-front, the funds that Avatar Media had coming to them from presales of the movie, and from federal and provincial tax credits.
But the partnership between Avatar Media and The Branch didn’t end with a loan.
Often producers are afraid of calling their bank when something has gone wrong on a film set or there’s been a delay in post-production. Dylan says things were different with The Branch. “It was the first time when working with a bank that we could pick up the phone and talk about a problem, and they would be a part of it, asking ‘How can we move things forward, how can we make things work, what can we do on our side?”
From Dylan’s perspective, this kind of partnership—between writers and directors, cinematographers and editors, producers and financers, creativity and business—is what the film industry is all about. His new company, Northern Gateway Films, is being founded for the explicit purpose of stimulating the Albertan film industry: “creating work consistently round the year for Edmonton crew members, and then also building on our passion projects.”
It meant a lot to Dylan to learn that The Branch shares his focus on helping other filmmakers across the province. As anyone who’s worked on a movie set knows, it’s hard to be successful when you’re working alone. One thing’s for certain—Northern Gateway Films won’t be alone in working to encourage growth and vitality in Alberta’s film industry. “That’s also the goal of The Branch,” Dylan says, “that this support expand to other people.”
Banking for filmmakers
The Branch for Arts + Culture exists to serve individual artists (like Dylan Pearce), arts companies and organizations (like Avatar Media), and artistic business ventures (like feature films). And we do care about spreading the love.