One of the unique pleasures of working at Toronto Global is that our offices are located at the heart of TIFF. We are kitty-corner to the Bell Lightbox where so many films are screened. Perhaps even more fun is the fact that our windows overlook the red carpet itself, albeit from nine stories up. Every afternoon, starting at roughly four o’clock, the sounds of screaming crowds draw the Toronto Global team to the windows to see if we can identify which stars are being greeted by their adoring fans.
Canada, Ontario and the Toronto Region all owe a huge debt of gratitude to TIFF for the stellar work they have done to put our country, province and region on the film map year-in and year-out. In our bid on behalf of the Toronto Region for Amazon’s HQ2, we featured TIFF prominently as an indication of the dynamism and vitality of our region as a whole. As Idris Elba famously said, “This is one of the greatest film festivals in the world and you are amazing…I just realized what TIFF actually stands for: Toronto is f**king fantastic!” (And yes, we included that whole quote in the Amazon bid book. Probably the only bid book to include a swear word!)
As much fun as TIFF is, however, we should not miss the opportunity to reflect on the scale and importance of the film, TV, animation and special effects industries to the economy of our region. As residents of the Toronto Region, we sometimes get frustrated by the sight of white production trucks cluttering up our sidewalks while our neighbourhoods are turned into a Christmas scene in a July heatwave.
But, we all need to recognize that film and TV production is a massive and critical element of our regional economy and one that stimulates economic growth in areas outside the production of the film or TV show itself. Yes, we all know that Toronto Region crews and talent helped to produce the Oscar winning film, “The Shape of Water,” and that our region and the City of Hamilton have been at the centre of the ground-breaking series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but from Durham to Halton, our talent, our people and governments from all levels have turned the region into a magnet for film and TV production. Film production in Durham is up 70 per cent in 2018. New studios are planned for Toronto and Markham, adding to the more than 2,000,000 square feet of production space in the region and more than 7,000 shoot locations. Over 30,000 highly skilled people are employed in the production of the movies and TV shows that are enjoyed by millions around world.
Our colleges and universities are pumping out the talented animation, CGI and digital arts graduates that are being employed by production companies making documentaries, animated TV shows, blockbuster productions and taut crime shows. Alumni of Sheridan College have taken home Emmys, Golden Globes, Annie Awards and Oscars.
This high tech talent finds its way into industries and sectors that seem at first blush to be distant from film and TV. We see graduates of digital animation schools producing ground-breaking developments such as VR applications for medical diagnostics, self-driving car interfaces and hundreds of other applications. This, in turn, assists in cementing the Toronto Region as a world tech leader.
Given this impact, we have to view the entire area as a vibrant and critically important element of our economic resilience. No longer should we think of the “screen industry” or the “movie business.” We have to embrace the fact that we are in the Toronto Region, a leader in the creative industries, which is every bit as important to our vitality and vibrancy as any other large industries such as finance, advanced manufacturing and health care.
Congratulations to all those who have worked hard to make the region such a powerhouse in the creative industries. Let’s not sit back and just watch the show. Let’s make sure it grows, prospers and has a resilient future.
Proud promoter of Canada, Ontario and the Toronto Region.