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  • Fargo NorthCalgary’s Turn toward Postnational Regionality in FX’s Fargo
  • Rusty Hatchell (bio)

On January 7, 2018, Ewan McGregor accepted the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie for his dual roles as Emmit and Ray Stussy on the third season of Fargo (FX, 2014–). During his acceptance speech, McGregor thanked showrunner Noah Hawley for “putting an amazing crew together up in Calgary.”1 McGregor’s brief and direct gratitude arguably amplified the profile of the Albertan city as a world-class destination for shooting films and television series. As the “fourth-largest film production jurisdiction in Canada after British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec,” Alberta’s significance as a site of cultural development—especially in the production of film and television—has risen in recent years due to the critical successes of properties filmed in the area .2 Although the number of feature-length and television productions remains far below those from the aforementioned provinces, “[o]ver the last ten years, Alberta-shot films have won more Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmy awards than any other province.”3

Scholarship on the production of film and television in Canada has grown in recent years, especially as the volume of productions—particularly runaway productions—has risen since the late 1980s.4 Much of this literature has primarily focused on Vancouver, Toronto, and, to a lesser extent, Montreal, as Canada’s core production hubs and some of the more prominent production centers across North America in general. Calgary, however, has its own rich history as a minor regional center for media production, contributing to Alberta’s overall economic development as well as positioning the Prairie province as an affordable destination for Hollywood firms to produce film and television content. Whereas Vancouver and Toronto have sociocultural and geographic ties to nearby [End Page 115] urban areas in the United States, Calgary’s lack of a proximate American urban counterpart has led the city’s media productions to become representative of what I call a postnational regionality that is culturally bound by communities scattered across the Canadian Prairies as well as the northern Great Plains of the American Midwest.

I use the term postnational regionality as an extension of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s characterization of Canada as a postnational state. Although Trudeau was using postnational as a way to voice support for Canada’s pro-immigration stance and national multiculturalism—and simultaneously as a defense against the anti-immigration stance of the Conservative Party—I use postnational regionality to describe two regions—one American and one Canadian—whose cultural, social, economic, and political norms are more aligned with each other than with the national mainstream of their respective countries. Despite Trudeau’s assertion that “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,” I argue that the rapid urbanization of the continent’s metropolitan areas has created a more visible dichotomy with the rural communities of the American Midwest and the Canadian Prairies.5 As I note later in this essay, the production and distribution of media in this region may be considered transnational as well. Michele Hilmes notes that transnational production is “not just cofinancing or presale of distribution rights . . . [but] also involves a creative partnership in which national interests must be combined and reconciled, differing audience tastes considered, and, often, the collision of public-service goals with commercial expectations negotiated.”6 The asymmetrical understanding of this region—as postnational from the Canadian perspective and transnational from the American—is complex, but an in-depth look at the history of production culture in this region’s largest hub—Calgary, Alberta—provides insights regarding how postnationalism operates in this region.

Calgary’s attempt to market itself as a world-class location for Hollywood productions mirrors that of its larger Canadian counterparts. Serra Tinic argues that “American producers are primarily interested in Vancouver as a space in which to invest capital in order to garner greater profit rather than a place about which to tell stories.”7 Much in the vein that Vancouver-filmed television is rarely set in Vancouver, Calgary-filmed television is also primarily set elsewhere. Additionally, Ben Goldsmith and Tom O’Regan note that...


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