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10 Tips for Shooting Video in Toronto

Posted by Meredith Kain on June 22, 2015

Toronto – the capital city of Ontario, Canada – is a hot bed for production. Touting the fact that they’re the fourth most livable city in the world and the greenest large city in the country, Toronto’s hosting of over 70 film festivals every year only exemplifies their diversity and film-friendly atmosphere. Famous films like A Christmas Story, American Psycho, Good Will Hunting, and (my personal favorite) Mean Girls amongst countless others were all shot – either all or in part – in Toronto. Before you head out in the Hollywood of the North, grab a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee and check out our best tips for shooting film in the Megacity:

10 – Unlike most major cities, Toronto doesn’t require permits for filming if you’re a small two or three person crew shooting b-roll. You’ll need a permit if you’re shooting a large feature production, in an office tower or building, or if you are parking your truck and have power generators and lighting. If you’re shooting in an office tower, be sure to inform the property manager and security as a courtesy.

9 – Like all major cities, traffic is an issue in Toronto. It is the biggest city in Canada and rush hour can last all day. Be realistic about how many places you can get to and safely park your van so you’re not sitting in traffic when you could be getting the perfect shot. One of our crews in Toronto has one really important point to bring up about the traffic:

“The traffic problems are making it more and more difficult to provide half day services. This is unfortunate because clients appreciate them when they just have quick interviews planned. Honestly, portal-to-portal can be a seven hour event these days so don’t be alarmed if you’re unable to book a crew at a half-day rate.”

8 – Since traffic is such an issue in Toronto, another one of our DPs had a great suggestion of multitasking – travel and shoot b-roll at the same time! Use a taxi for transportation while filming B-roll. “Taxis are plentiful in this city,” he said. “They can drop you off anywhere you need to go to get your shot.” If you have an hour or so that you can carve out for shooting b-roll, then the ferry ride to the Toronto Islands has amazing opportunity for waterfront and skyline shots.

7 – You can also circumvent traffic issues simply with good hotel planning. If you know where you want to shoot find a hotel nearby so you don’t need to worry about sitting in traffic on the way to your location.

6 – With all of the urban sprawl and increasing amounts of tall buildings, one of the premium shots for the Toronto skyline is from the Toronto Islands. Another great place for b-roll is near the foot of Bathurst Street because you can get nice harbor shots towards the city with yachts and dinner boats. The Hockey Hall of Fame tends to be a favorite for b-roll as well. The Fairmont Royal York Hotel and Bay Street commuters make for more iconic Toronto shots. Castle Loma offers beautiful shots of old architecture and beautiful gardens and plenty of history of the city.

5 – Toronto folk are so friendly. If you need any kind of street interview they will always stop to say hello and help you out. Bay Street is an exception because it’s full of commuters and people tend to always be in a rush. Bloor West Village has a good mix of friendly people – mostly “baby pushers” and active people – who are quite used to camera crews. Queen Street West is where you’re going to find your younger crowd for both street interviews and b-roll.

4 – A must in Toronto is notifying security and building management of your arrival. Security in buildings can be very tight, and if they’re not aware you are coming you’ll wind up having to wait around for client approval. So much time can be wasted if you get stuck waiting around. Loading and unloading times can be other potential time wasters because you’re going to be required to use loading docks at most downtown or tower buildings and then have to park off-site. Having a one-man band can make this horribly difficult and time consuming to accomplish, so it’s definitely better to have at least a two-man crew.

3 – The Ontario Film Commission is an invaluable resource. They can provide production guides, studio and warehouse lists, production stats, media lists, etc. They promote green shooting and also offer tax incentives designed to save you time and money. All this information is available at www.omdc.on.ca

2 – There is over 1.1 million square feet of dedicated studio and stage space available in Toronto. If you need a space to shoot something like an interview, space is plentiful.

1 – Keep in mind that Toronto has been labeled the Hollywood of the North for a reason! The amount of films that have been (or are being filmed) in Toronto are endless. Refer to the Ontario Film Commission for a list of productions that are currently being shot in Toronto to avoid any potential overlap.

There are so many beautiful and iconic scenes in the city of Toronto. While the need for a permit is not as strict as most major cities, the traffic a real beast to contend with. If you need a crew in Toronto, we have the best and the brightest in our arsenal. Give us a call; let us know what you need through our easy quote form and we’ll match you with the perfect crew. Don’t forget, you can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn!


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