By Jessica Lewis
For a few days last week, the students of Ryerson University attended class on a movie set. While the Hulk tore up Yonge Street at night, curious students gaped at set designs during the day.
Filming in Toronto and around Ryerson is not uncommon. At least once a year, you will likely hear about something being filmed near our campus, whether it’s a television series like Degrassi: The Next Generation or a major-motion picture such as The Incredible Hulk. Toronto is also a popular stand-in for cities like New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Baltimore.
Ryerson had a big fat part in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. All school scenes were filmed in either the Rogers Communication Centre or Kerr Hall. Main actress Nia Vardolos was actually a graduate of Ryerson. Cinderella Man took over the Maple Leaf Gardens and the Distillery District. Chicago was located from Old City Hall to Casa Loma to the Danforth Music Hall. Good Will Hunting and Mean Girls shared the University of Toronto. Most recently, Hairspray pretended Toronto was Baltimore on Dundas Street West.
A lot goes into filming in Toronto, but there are many reasons why it is done here as opposed to the actual cities where the films are set. The largest issue is money. Filming in Canada is generally cheaper than filming in the US, although that could be on the verge of changing.
“Toronto’s obviously a place that has been used for a long time,” said Ryerson’s film program director, Michael Conford. “But it will be interesting to see, as the Canadian currency goes up, if the volume considering to film here stays the same.”
According to the Toronto Film and Television Office (TFTO), production companies spent about $704 million filming in Toronto last year. These companies have to register with the TFTO in order to film in Toronto, and in return, the TFTO will provide the companies with permits, crews and facilities.
Filming on campus comes with a price tag, too. According a Judi Irwin, facilities rental co-ordinator at the university, the amount Ryerson gets paid depends on how much they are used. “They have paid as little as $2,500, and as much as $25,000,” she says. For The Hulk, Ryerson didn’t receive anything.
As for the businesses on the streets that are on the locations of filming, they aren’t completely inconvenienced. Peter Fleming, the theatre production and operations manager, mentioned Yonge Street’s Reilly’s pub, a popular hang out for theatre students.
“I was talking to the owner of Reilly’s and he said that they were asked to close at 7 p.m.,” said Fleming. “They became a holding place for extras. They were paid to close early and they were paid for what they lost in business that night.”
There are some silly advantages for Ryerson students from these films. The Incredible Hulk may take place in Harlem, New York, but when it comes out and you’re sitting in the theatre, you’ll know that the Apollo is really a hair salon and that Martin Luther King Blvd is really Yonge Street.
The film, starring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, is set to be released in June of next year.