The City of Toronto recently released its 2021 report card on the state of the local screen production industry and the results were “historically” good – especially for Toronto Film School grads looking to make their mark.
In total, more than $2.5 billion in direct spending was invested in the city’s film, television and digital media productions in 2021, and Toronto’s screen production industry is poised to experience even more rapid growth and momentum in the year to come.
Toronto Mayor John Tory touted the continuing expansion of the city’s screen industry – which is already one of the largest in North America – as “a huge achievement and testament to the strength of the sector.”
“We have seen expansive growth and jobs over the past few years, and along with the continued investments we have made in the infrastructure and workforce, I am confident that the growth will continue for years ahead,” Tory said in a statement.
“I want to thank all of our partners for helping us create a world-class industry that continues to garner the interest of global players and companies.”
In a year that saw Toronto host 1,468 productions over the course of 7,800 production days, Tory singled out several of the “key productions” that helped Toronto’s screen industry workforce grow to more than 35,000 people.
Included among those productions were Nightmare Alley, See, Reacher, Titans, Star Trek: Discovery, Locke & Key, and Chucky – on each of whose sets Toronto Film School was represented by alumni and faculty working in their respective fields.
Several of those TFS community members took time to share their first-hand experiences working here in Toronto during a record-setting year in the industry. Here’s what they had to say:
Mousa Ghodratifard, a Class of 2013 Film Production graduate, worked as an Assistant Director on the second and third seasons of Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard’s hit Apple TV series, See. Created by Steven Knight, the sci-fi drama is set in a dystopian future in which the human race has lost its sense of sight, and society has had to find new ways to interact, build, hunt, and to survive.
“Working on See gives me the opportunity to know and work with the number one experienced film crew in Canada – from designers to shooting crew, creators and casts,” Ghodratifard said.
“Being an assistant director on the biggest budgeted TV show filmed in Ontario also gave me a chance to learn how time is important and how you can manage that in the pre-production by working closely with every department.”
In his role, Ghodratifard said he was given the opportunity to work closely with the show’s director of photography to manage the large number of background performers and extras required to fill some of the blockbuster’s frames.
“Studying at Toronto Film School has helped me to know about all aspects of filmmaking, such as scheduling the filming, understanding the scenes and scripts, and how to work with talent,” he said. “My biggest takeaway from working on See was becoming a stronger AD and learning from the best-of-the-best film crew.”
Class of 2005 Film Production alumnus Drew Moss was cast in the role of Pete Jobling Jr. in the Amazon Original, Reacher. Based on the Jack Reacher book series by Lee Child, it stars Alan Ritchson as the title character – a drifter and former military policeman who battles dangerous criminals throughout his travels.
“Working on one of the biggest budget productions in Ontario was a fantastic experience. I got to work with such a talented cast and crew. The stunt team was fantastic, and I appreciate all of their hard work during my stunt scenes,” Moss said.
“My experience at TFS helped me grasp the tasks and demands needed to perform at the most professional level on set. Although the road is tough to follow your dreams, the reward of being able to express yourself artistically is life-changing. It is my therapy.”
Garima Sood, who graduated from the Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program in 2018, worked as a camera trainee on the set of Chucky, a Syfy/USA Network horror series based on the Child’s Play film franchise.
“Working on Chucky was a blast! The camera team, the producer, the cast, and the whole crew were a delight to work with,” she said.
“It was a big project that was heavy on VFX and puppeteer movements. It was very interesting to see the intricacies of how it all works to make the real doll come alive! I’ll always cherish the moments from Chucky, especially with the camera crew.”
Kim Janveau, who graduated from the Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program in 2019, was cast as an Ambrose Carnival Patron in Nightmare Alley. The Oscar-nominated crime thriller, which was directed by Guillermo del Toro, tells the story of a grifter (Bradley Cooper) working his way up from low-ranking carnival worker to lauded psychic medium.
“The production was huge, with many, many people in all departments, and many built sets within close proximity that were immersive,” Janveau said of her experience as an extra on the set.
“Preparing for this experience, TFS and other productions have taught me how in-film change will be inevitable and constant, no matter what, and you need to be ready to adapt to it all, especially with an open mind. Make sure you know what you are doing, where you are going and if you are not sure, use your words and ASK someone.”
Other TFS community members who worked on some of the “key” big-budget productions in Toronto in 2021 included:
Toronto Film School’s Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning President, Andrew Barnsley, said it came as no surprise to him that TFS alumni were found working on many of the biggest productions in the city last year.
“My dream is to see Toronto Film School students on the sets of every major production not just here in Toronto, but all across Canada,” he said.
“Our graduates are not only be ‘set-ready’ but ‘industry-ready’ – confident that they have mastered their craft and gained important insights into an industry that is fast-paced, exciting and demanding.”
Indeed, Toronto Film School was named one of 2021’s Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada for the third consecutive year by MovieMaker magazine – the same Los Angeles-based industry publication that ranked Toronto number two on its list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022.
“This feels like the beginning of a good news story. It feels like we’re on track for future, continued growth,” Barnsley added.
“And I think Toronto Film School students should be feeling very confident going into an industry that will value their education.”