From RATV student to working on the set of “The Last of Us”: Quinton Berger’s journey in Calgary’s film industry

by | Apr 19, 2023 | Arts & Life

Most students can relate to feeling overworked and over caffeinated, especially if they are juggling multiple commitments. Many of NAIT’s full-time programs pack a lot of action into a very condensed two years. Quinton Berger, a NAIT Radio and Television alumnus, remembers this feeling all too well since graduating in 2015.

“I basically lived off of Full Throttle energy drinks for two years,” he said. An avid film fan, Berger knew soon into his time at NAIT that television and film production was the direction he wanted to head in.

After graduation, Berger freelanced under his own production business, Shot By Q. He’s worked on everything from corporate gigs to low-budget music videos for local SoundCloud rappers. Now, he works as a Motion Picture Technician in Calgary’s film industry.

Part of his role is to manipulate lighting scenarios and ensure cameras are placed in a way that doesn’t ruin the integrity of the set. It involves building platforms and structures for rigging cameras and safely assisting actors to be in the shot.

“That’s what I really like about it is I’m basically just like an on-set problem solver. So, you get to look at [a problem] and be like, ‘Alright, how could we do this? Okay, that didn’t work. What if we tried this?’”

Berger began his journey in Calgary’s film industry two years ago as a production assistant. “I got a job on the show Heartland. I was able to stay with a friend of my family and yeah, quit my warehouse job that same day,” he said. 

This led him to work on other major productions, including HBO’s The Last of Us. The series was shot in locations across Alberta in 2021 and 2022, but most of the production took place in Calgary — a huge opportunity for anyone working in film in Calgary.

Quinton on the set of The Last of Us // Photo supplied

“Being on the set of The Last of Us where there’s an entire set built specifically for the show, there’s people running around, there’s guns going off, a guy on fire, zombies, whatever. It’s obviously a pretty startling jump from a graffiti’d up alley that I would do in a rap video,” he said. “I’m pretty stoked about it.”

“There actually has been a lot of stuff that you would be surprised that was filmed in Alberta,” said Berger. He used the 2010 horror comedy, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, as an example. “It’s amazing … but yeah, shot in Calgary.”

“I think we’ve gotten ourselves into a pretty good place right now where a lot of people are realizing [Alberta’s] potential. There are tourists who are coming to the locations that we shot The Last of Us on, so you kind of see this everlasting effect,” said Berger.

“If you make a big movie somewhere or if you shoot something that ends up being a cult classic down the road, then you get these movie nuts. People like me who are like, ‘Oh my god, this was there.’ It pays off in the long run too, especially just with all the money it generates for the local economy, the jobs it creates and then the people who come to see this is where that happened.”

While Calgary has been climbing the ranks of major film cities, Edmonton has been making headlines for being ranked as the best Canadian location to live in during a zombie apocalypse. From his experience as a problem solver on the set of a zombie show, Berger has a different opinion.

“Canmore. Because it’s remote, it’s mountainous. As much as I love Edmonton, Edmonton is a city. When you’re in a city you’re at the mercy of everyone and everything around you. You can’t hide out [for long] and you’re very exposed when you’re in a city. Your best bet for a zombie apocalypse is to maybe go to a city, get what you need, and then get as far away as you potentially can.”

Along with surviving a zombie apocalypse, Berger has advice for students graduating from the same program he left nearly ten years ago: “If you think you’re too big for the small stuff, then you’re too small for the big stuff.”

“One of the biggest things that has always helped me is the eagerness that I show when I do things. People can tell, whether it’s a low-budget music video or a big Hollywood production, that I care about it and I’m here to do this.”

“It’s also a big ‘yes, and…’ industry. You have to take things as they come and just kinda roll with it. Say yes to everything because you never know … I’ve gotten gigs, especially in freelancing, just based off recommendations,” said Berger.

“Be open to change, be open to accepting things that maybe weren’t your picture-perfect idea of your dream job at first,” he said. “Maybe you’re going to just be doing weekends in Lloydminster for a bit, and yeah sure, maybe that’s not the network anchor level you had originally hoped to achieve, but plot twist—you just f*cking graduated. You ain’t shit until you can prove it.”

As for NAIT students trying to survive the apocalypse that is the end of the semester?

“Maybe don’t drink too much,” he joked. “But you know, eyes on the prize. Keep it moving. Do your shit. Keep your head down, get that job, make that salary. That’s why you’re at NAIT.”

Cover photo via Twitter @ebenbolter

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