The Town of Sundre, northwest of Calgary, may soon be known under a different name.
The town of around 2,700 people nestled in the province’s foothills is set to be dubbed as Hardwell, but only on television.
That’s because the town has been selected as the backdrop for a new series that’s being independently developed for streaming giant Netflix.
“I could have continued down my career and kept flying to to other places for film production, but I really wanted to do something (in) my backyard,” the series’ director Raoul Bhatt said.
“So, for the past year I spent developing the script with a writer out of Calgary. Her and I had been creating this concept and we took it to Netflix.”
The show is called Pipe Nation, and tells the story of a single mother working on a pipeline crew in a small oil and gas town.
The series isn’t a documentary, but rather a gritty drama described as a cross between Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy set against the backdrop of the energy industry, Bhatt said.
“It’s based off reality, it’s based off a lot of true stories that we learned in the industry, and obviously dramatized for Netflix…lots of drama, drugs, sex, everything else that that TV needs and entertains people,” Bhatt said.
“But it’s well balanced, and it’s very truthful.”
The series has received a letter of intent from Netflix, and will begin shooting a pilot episode in Sundre in mid-August.
Bhatt said the series is completely Alberta made, from the writing to the music featured in the show.
One of the producers of the series is Mike Vickers, owner of OilField Now, a oil and gas jobs website based in Edmonton, Bhatt said.
According to municipal leaders, it’s no accident that Sundre was selected as the backdrop for the series.
The Town has been working with Keep Alberta Rolling, a non-profit organization which works to showcase and grow the film industry in Alberta. Through that relationship, the community has been working on policies to attract more film and television production to the area.
“(We’re) hoping to set the ground and infrastructure for those policies for not just us, but for other small towns to create the ease of access for industry,” Sundre town councillor Todd Dalke said.
“A lot of indie films and such can be shot but you can’t afford to shut down streets in Calgary or Vancouver, where in Sundre we can make things a lot easier. You can make it look like a city or a small town.”
Bhatt said the town’s enthusiasm for the project, as well as the scenery around the community, were focal points for the project being shot in Sundre.
“We’re really excited by this project because it’s going to develop some serious cred for Sundre in the film industry,” Sundre economic development officer John Allan said.
“The community itself is really beautiful, we have a supportive administration, and because the natural landscapes around here are stunning.”
According to Bhatt, once the pilot is shot with the help of Netflix’s creative and production team, it will be submitted to Netflix along with a trailer by December.
If Netflix’s creative team approves, Bhatt and his team will be back in Sundre in May 2021 to shoot the remaining nine episodes of the series.
If all goes well, Allan said the project has the potential for a strong economic boost in the community.
“Any kind of film that comes to any community in Alberta has the potential to create hundreds of jobs in various areas, including the film itself, creative arts, construction for set design, trades people, hospitality and just general awareness to support tourism,” Allan said.
The next step in the production is a casting call and panel discussion about the series at the Greenwood Community Gazebo in Sundre on July 7 at 10 a.m.
“I think beyond the Dow Jones and beyond oil and gas, we’re people as well,” Bhatt said. “That’s what this TV show showcases.”
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