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These Calgarians Helped HBO See Alberta as Texas, Wyoming, and a Wasteland Full of Monsters

It might have taken three days of work and very little sleep, but for Calgarian Luke Antosz it was worth it, as it meant seeing one of his all-time favorite 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 is also a big fan of the video game.

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

“It’s the story of a journey across the country to maybe save the world,” Antosz said.

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

Calgarian Luke Antosz has put together photo packs for The Last of Us. (Jason Nolan)

“I’m just exclaiming: total joy, total joy. ‘Oh my God, oh my God, The Last of Us, The Last of Us. I’m going to do a photo pack for The Last of Us.'”

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

He was also given a “showbiz bible,” which predicts how the show will seek reference.

“For someone like me… a huge fan of the game and the franchise, I’m blown away,” he said.

Antosz prepared two photo packages: one with the requested options and a second package with an analysis of potential filming locations for the entire series.

“Every single episode, I’d say, ‘Here’s where you can film it in Alberta.'”

“I don’t know how many people have ever been lucky enough to have that kind of experience and to get that distinct honor of making something like this happen: to take something you love so much and then help make it a reality.”

  • WATCH | “It’s Pedro Pascal,” The Last of Us filming interrupts the streets of Calgary:

A television production based on the video game The Last of Us recently transformed the Fourth Avenue overpass into a post-apocalyptic movie set. It attracted crowds of curious onlookers, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars of the show and a zombie or two.

Antosz has lived in Calgary for most of his life and has been in charge of locations for more than a decade, but he said working on the show has changed the way he views the province.

The show’s main characters sail across the United States, which meant Alberta had to look like Texas, Boston, Kansas City, Wyoming and everything in between, Antosz said.

“It was really interesting to see the city from a new perspective… how can my city play four or five different cities?”

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

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

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

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

“I’m constantly scouting, wherever I go I’m always looking for new stuff and then interesting stuff that could potentially end up on screen,” she said.

A scene from a post-apocalyptic version of downtown Calgary as production of HBO’s The Last of Us descended on the province last year. (Tom Ross/CBC)

But he added that there were a few moments where the team immediately knew they had found the perfect solution, namely the 4th Ave. overpass, the Alberta Legislature Building, and the Fort Macleod and High River scenery.

Plus a few sights viewers haven’t seen yet, he added.

Calgary Economic Development Film Commissioner Luke Azevedo worked with Antosz to put together the photography package.

“That young man worked very hard to bring it here, and when we finished we were pretty confident that the work we had done would bring this project to fruition,” he said.

He added that Alberta has often been known as a place where people come for the scenery and beautiful backdrops, but this was an opportunity to “create something completely different.”

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

“The world is looking at Alberta and seeing the quality of work done here,” he said

“It’s an impact on our province like we’ve never seen before.”

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