When HBO wanted to film scenes of post-apocalypse, fungus-crazed-zombie-like humans attacking Jackson, Wyoming, the entertainment giant set up shop in the perfect place.
Someplace, Canada. Actually Canmore, Alberta, 65 miles west of Calgary, a resort town willing to welcome a lot a disruption in return for a lot of money.
At Canmore Town Hall, Chris Bartolomie said the filming for “The Last Of Us” is expected to be “a huge economic boost” for the Rocky Mountain town of 13,500 permanent residents.
“This is the biggest thing here,” Bartolomie said of the production.
Producers of the show — based on a popular 2013 video game — brought nearly 400 crew members to town, are hiring about 300 extras to be made up as zombies, and have taken over and remodeled a block of downtown Canmore. The set includes remade bars, a bank, a real estate office, a shoe store, a faux Town Square decorated for Christmas and a rampart that keeps the still-human survivors safe from the marauding monsters outside.
The log wall, made up of 6-inch logs and in places up to 75 feet tall, also keep the non-zombie real-life citizens of Canmore at bay during the filming.
It’s estimated that each installment of “The Last Of Us” has a budget of about $10 million. That includes the local hiring, paying rent and “disruption fees” to businesses that agreed to be used as sets and the money being paid to Canmore businesses that are going about their usual activities.
Bartolomie said the visiting HBO people “are taking up our hotels ... our shops are just thriving.” Payments to businesses mean that “most will be making some money,” she said. The show is said to be one of the biggest television productions ever done in Canada.
Greg Colgan, editor of the local paper, Rocky Mountain Outlook, agreed it’s good for the town’s economy but sometimes wearing on locals.
“It gave residents some excitement for a few days and something to get angry about since Main Street was shut down to pedestrians and cars,” he said.
GM Beth Vandervoort of Downtown Canmore, a business association, said just how much money flowed into town remains to be figured. The town, she said, is like Jackson in ways other than being in the mountains: It’s a resort with a dwindling offseason, and “it’s pretty busy even this time of year.”
Residents seemed to roll with it, despite the mess right downtown, Vandervoort said.
“It was a huge production,” she said. “You don’t really know what it’s going to be like until they show up.”
“The Last Of Us” stars Pedro Pascal as tough guy Joel Miller and Bella Ramsey, of “Game of Thrones” fame, as Ellie, a teenage survivor and the series’ central character. Also playing roles are actors Anna Torv, Murray Bartlett, Gabriel Luna and Natasha Mumba.
Miller and Ellie are traveling across the western United States after some fungus among us erupts into virulence and transforms most of the population into zombie-like “clickers.” Jackson — in the show — is a refuge for survivors in the infested wasteland of America.
Filming in pseudo-Jackson began Nov. 15. The actual shooting is supposed to take about a week, but the activity is scheduled to spread over about a month.
Bartolomie, who oversees filming and cultural events permits for the town government, said creating American television shows in Canada is a growing business, spurred by lobbying by the province of Alberta that includes “a huge tax incentive.” The rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and its weaker Canadian brother also offers advantages.
American productions in Canada range from the Oscar-winning movie “The Revenant” to Hallmark movies to commercials, Bartolomie said.
The Jackson show is episode 7 of “The Last Of Us,” which also sees the two stars making their way through Boston, Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City. It’s expected that it will be released sometime in 2022.
Filming in and near Jackson used to be common, right from the time movies began talking in 1930, when John Wayne and company visited to make “The Big Trail,” a wagon train extravaganza. Other movies produced here, at least in part, include “The Big Sky” (1952) with Kirk Douglas, “Shane” (1953) with Alan Ladd, “Spencer’s Mountain” (1963) with Henry Fonda, “Any Which Way You Can” (1980) with Clint Eastwood, “Rocky IV” (1985) with Sylvester Stallone, and “Django Unchained” (2012).
But nothing with zombies.
The headline of this article has been changed to remove the word "zombie." The apres-human things that roam the planet in search of their still-human prey are not zombies. The monsters of “The Last Of Us” are “clickers,” people infected by a brain fungus who then wander around in dirty, shredded clothing, exhibit superhuman strength and bite and infect people. Not zombies, clickers. Nothing like zombies. The News&Guide apologizes for any inconvenience to anyone preparing for the clicker apocalypse. — Ed.