Adaptation of Jon Krakauer nonfiction book on double murder to shoot in Calgary area


An adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s 2003 nonfiction book Under the Banner of Heaven will shoot in the Calgary area this summer, according to the Director’s Guild of Canada.

The guild lists Under the Banner of Heaven as starting production in the province on Aug. 4 and wrapping up on Nov. 1 under the Calgary-based OP Banner Productions Inc.

The adaptation is the latest in a series of new major productions shooting in the Calgary area. HBO’s adaptation of the hit video game series The Last of Us is also scheduled to begin production in the area this summer.

In the book Under the Banner of Heaven, Kraukauer tracks the transformation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contrasting it with a small fundamentalist sect called the School of Prophets.

Two brothers who were part of the group, Ron and Dan Lafferty, were charged for the 1984 murders of their sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty, along with her baby daughter Erica. Ron alleged he had received visions from God instructing him to kill Brenda and Erica.

This 2016 file photo shows Under the Banner of Heaven author Jon Krakauer, who also wrote the best-sellers Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. (The Associated Press)

Warner Bros. initially purchased the rights to Under the Banner of Heaven in 2011, with Ron Howard attached to direct and Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar) attached to write.

Black’s website currently lists the production as being in development as a limited series with FX. A spokesperson with FX told CBC News they could not share anything regarding the project at this time.

A spokesperson for Black didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Scouting locations in small town Alberta

Last week, Crossfield’s town council discussed a lease agreement relating to Under the Banner of Heaven which would see a vacant former bank in the town utilized for the production.

The community was one of many southern Alberta small towns selected as a location during the 2019 production of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which is scheduled for release later this year.

“I [think Under the Banner of Heaven] would bring a positive economic impact to our local businesses and put Crossfield on the map once again, just like Ghostbusters did,” Crossfield Deputy Mayor Kim Harris told council. “I think it’s a positive thing.”

The Ghostbusters car, the Ecto 1, could be seen on the streets of Fort MacLeod in 2019 during the shooting of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Along with Crossfield, Ghostbusters: Afterlife shot in Calgary, Drumheller, Turner Valley and Beiseker, among other Alberta locations.

Excitement and hope in the industry

Calgary-based Garry MacLean hosts the podcast Talent Talk, a show that highlights local talent in the film industry. He said those he’s talked to are feeling hopeful about the opportunities on the way.

“It’s going to bring in a lot of work for those guys,” MacLean said. “Hopefully it’ll bring some of the folks who have left Alberta, bring them back, and hopefully establish a stronghold here for the acting side of it.

“A lot of folks are quite excited and hoping that, hey, this might be my chance now.”

Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, announced in March that the province would remove a cap that limited film and television productions to a maximum $10-million tax credit claim.

Other upcoming projects in the Alberta area include:

  • The series Guilty Party with Kate Beckinsale.
  • Fraggle Rock reboot.
  • Another season of CBC’s Heartland.

MacLean said that while Alberta still has a long ways to go to catch up with other Canadian film markets like Vancouver or Toronto, recent developments are encouraging steps.

“We’ve proven ourselves to be a great location for bringing in film — we just didn’t have the incentive to bring them in,” he said. “I think we have that now, or at least the start of one. It could still use some improvement, but it’s a fantastic start.”

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