As we bid farewell to 2023, it’s time to take stock of the journey we’ve taken. This year has been marked by the significant achievements of our community, our progress in moving our strategic plan forward, and a plethora of captivating projects that have left an indelible mark on both local and global stages.
We took a big step forward as we moved ahead with the realignment of the Edmonton Screen Media Fund into the Strategic Initiatives Fund, which paved the way for innovative new programs. Two new programs were launched this fall and underline our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and the nurturing of talent in the community. The response has been incredible and we look forward to bringing more new programs to life in the new year.
We continued to build our team to better support the community by welcoming CK Dhaliwal as our new Business Development Specialist for the IDM sector. CK has brought fresh perspectives, energy, and expertise to our local ecosystem, promising exciting developments in the years to come.
This year saw the long-awaited release of the first season of The Last of Us, starting with premieres in Los Angeles and Calgary to a special finale screening right here in Edmonton. This show put a spotlight on our city’s versatility and garnered accolades, including multiple Emmy nominations, highlighting the impact that these types of productions can have on our province. We were also extremely proud to receive a prestigious LMGI Award for Best Film Commission along with Calgary Economic Development and Alberta Film.
The 2023 Banff World Media Festival provided our local talent with invaluable exposure on the global stage. While there, we, along with Calgary Economic Development, released Key Frames: A Growth Strategy for Animation and VFX in Alberta. The plan sets the stage for an exciting new chapter in Alberta’s screen industry, focusing on innovation and storytelling in the world of animation and VFX.
In August, we led a phenomenal group of local indie game studios to gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Crimson Herring Studios, Itzy Interactive, Occlusional Inc., Caldera Interactive, and VR Cave showcased their talent to the world and boy did the world respond. From the thousands of new wishlists on Steam and new followers to the prospective deals and inclusion in the gamescom Awesome Indies Show 2023, the trip was a resounding success!
There were so many amazing local events last year as well. This year’s edition of the Alberta Games Series was in Edmonton and brought together game developers from around the province for interesting panels and get-togethers and allowed some local devs to showcase their work to their colleagues. The film community gathered for the AMPIA Producer Power-up filled with enlightening panel discussions featuring top producers, leaders & funders from the Alberta film and television industry. We saw the fifth edition of the Alberta Game Jam hosted here in Edmonton and across the province, uniting and empowering developers throughout our province. The second phase of the BE Collective initiative took place, inviting BIPOC filmmakers in Edmonton to meet key industry stakeholders and decision-makers meant to widen social networks and create a more diverse pipeline of film practitioners in Alberta.
Edmonton productions have made their mark at home and abroad with a number of other local gems hitting the big (and small) screens this year. The release of made-in-Edmonton horror movie Skinamarink exceeded all expectations. Not only did it top Rolling Stones’ 10 Best Horror Movies of 2023 (along with Huesera: The Bone Woman at #8 by local producer David Bond), but it also placed 15th on its 20 Best Movies of 2023 (along with blockbusters Oppenheimer and Barbie). Local comedy Hey Viktor premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and had its Canadian premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Since then, it’s signed on with levelFILM for a theatrical and online release in 2024, was named to TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top Ten list for 2023, and won the Dramatic Feature Award at the 2023 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. Echo of Everything, by local producer Bonnie Thompson and Edmonton-born writer/director Cam Christiansen, made its premiere at this year’s Hot Docs Festival. The Lebanese Burger Mafia, the crowd-funded documentary about Burger Baron, also made its premiere at the Hot Docs Festival, followed by screenings right across the country and a VoD release in Canada. ScoreG Productions brought us Thunder: The Life & Death of Arturo Gatti, which premiered on Super Channel in May.
The year also saw Edmonton as the backdrop of a number of new productions with a distinct theme emerging. Edmonton played host to heartwarming Christmas productions, including Meet Me at the Christmas Train Parade, Coupled Up for Christmas, Me and Mr. Christmas, and Cape Holly Christmas. These festive releases will undoubtedly add a touch of holiday magic to our screens. We also got the chance to get behind the scenes on films such as Chasing Midnight and Soul’s Road and we celebrated the release of season 1 of Push earlier in the year and the filming of season 2 this summer (to be released in January 2024).
On the gaming side, we saw the worldwide release of Beamdog’s Mythforce in September. The game, inspired by Saturday morning cartoons, unites swords & sorcery with 1st-person combat in a roguelike adventure. Work continued on a number of projects including two upcoming releases. In January 2024, we will see the release of Sovereign Syndicate, the first release from local’s Crimson Herring Studios, and in February, we’ll get the long-anticipated release of Nightingale by Inflexion Games. We can’t wait to get our hands on these ones
It’s impossible to list everything that happened this year. There are so many more projects that our amazing community has worked on this year, we could write a whole novel! And there’s so much more that we can’t share just yet, but we look forward to when we can.
2023 has been a year of growth, creativity, and recognition for Edmonton’s screen industries. As we eagerly anticipate the adventures that lie ahead, we express our gratitude to the entire community – from talented creators to enthusiastic audiences – for making this year truly special. Here’s to another year of creative brilliance and storytelling excellence!