These Calgarians helped HBO see Alberta as Texas, Wyoming, and a monster-filled wasteland

It might have taken three days of work and very little sleep, but it was all worth it for Calgarian Luke Antosz, as it meant seeing one of his all-time favourite video games come to life in Alberta.

Location managers for The Last of Us describe what it was like bringing the show to Alberta

a guy takes a selfie in a photo on the left, he is smiling and has a grey hat. on the right a man in a flannel takes a photo with a dslr

It might have taken three days of work and very little sleep, but it was all worth it for Calgarian Luke Antosz, as it meant seeing one of his all-time favourite video games come to life in Alberta.

Antosz was a location scout for HBO's The Last of Us, tasked with preparing a photo package of locations where the big budget post-apocalyptic show could be filmed. He's also a big fan of the video game.

The show, which stars Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian and Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones, is based on the 2013 video game of the same name.

"It's the story of a cross-country journey to maybe save the world," Antosz said.

So when he was asked by the Calgary Film Commission to prepare a location photo package in 2020, he ran into his office's stairwell and called his wife.

A man wearing a green sweater stands in a field, there are autumn leaves on the trees behind him

"Just exclaiming total glee, total joy. 'Oh my god, oh my god, The Last of Us, TheLast of Us. I'm going to do a photo package for The Last of Us.'"

Antosz said the original scouting request included general city views, abandoned buildings, warehouses, and factories.

He was also given a "show bible," which envisions how the show will look for reference.

"For someone like me … a huge fan of the game and of the franchise, I went nuts," he said.

Antosz prepared two photo packages — one with the requested options, and a second package with a breakdown of potential filming locations for the entire series.

"Every single episode, I would say, 'Here's where you can film it in Alberta.'"

"I don't know how many people ever get that lucky to get that kind of experience, and to get that distinct honour to make something like that happen to take something you love so much and then help make it into a reality."

  • WATCH | 'It's Pedro Pascal,' The Last of Us shooting shuts down Calgary streets:

Zombie apocalypse shuts down major Calgary bridge — for filming

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A TV production based on the video game The Last of Us, recently turned the Fourth Avenue flyover into a post-apocalyptic movie set. It drew a crowd of curious onlookers, trying to catch a glimpse of the show's stars and a zombie or two.

Antosz has lived in Calgary for most of his life, and been a locations manager for more than a decade, but said working on the show shifted how he sees the province.

The show's main characters embark across the U.S., which meant Alberta had to look like Texas, Boston, Kansas City, Wyoming, and everything in between, Antosz said.

"It was really interesting kind of getting to look at the city in a new perspective … how can my city play four or five different cities?"

Antosz said the journey to bring the show to Alberta started with a small group of like-minded people working with the Calgary Film Commission and Alberta Film Commission.

"It was an incredible collective effort and everyone put their hearts into it."

Jason Nolan was the Calgary-based locations manager for The Last of Us, who worked to refine the original scouting. He said the show was location heavy and relied on the province's scenery and additional built sets.

Some of those locations meant you had to "hunt far and wide," Nolan said.

"I am constantly scouting, everywhere I go I'm always looking for new things and then interesting things that could potentially end up on the screen," he said.

A film set is pictured in downtown Calgary with road closures and abandoned cars.

But he added that there were a few moments when the team knew right away they'd found the perfect fit namely the 4th Ave. flyover, Alberta Legislature Building, and scenery in Fort Macleod and High River.

Plus a few locations that viewers haven't seen yet, he added.

Calgary Economic Development's film commissioner, Luke Azevedo, worked with Antosz to put together the photo package.

"That young man did a lot of work to get that here, and by the time we were done we were pretty confident that the work that we had done was going to bring this project to fruition," he said.

He added that Alberta has often been known as a location people come to for vistas and beautiful backdrops, but this was an opportunity to "create something completely different."

He said that Alberta has an award-winning film and television industry, but The Last of Us really showed what the province can offer.

"The world is looking in on Alberta and saw the quality of the work that was done here," he said

"It's an impact on our province like we've never seen before."


Jade Markus

Digital journalist

Jade Markus is a digital journalist at CBC Calgary.

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