Canada is quickly outgrowing its dated ‘Hollywood North’ nickname, evolving into something much more than just an alternative destination for U.S. movies and television shows.
According to a survey of the Toronto Film School community of students, faculty and alumni, conducted by the school in celebration of National Canadian Film Day, there is not only strong optimism for the future of Canada’s film and TV industry, but also a massive opportunity based on world-class infrastructure and a diversity of people and stories. The findings highlight an overwhelming sense of positivity, potential and pride, feeding growing confidence that the Canadian film industry is poised to move beyond its longstanding moniker and forge a new identity.
Canada is no longer the back-up plan.
“Gone are the days of needing to drive south to L.A. or New York to launch a career in this industry,” says Andrew Barnsley, Toronto Film School President and an executive producer on some of Canada’s most successful TV series, from Schitt’s Creek and Jann, to The Kids in the Hall and Son of a Critch. “Today, people are building reliable, exciting careers here in Canada. The screen industry in Canada is a massive economic engine, and a global powerhouse in the cultural industries. We are world class and no longer need to be measured against Hollywood. Toronto is Toronto, and this community survey has highlighted what sets us apart – the diversity of Canadian talent, and the stories we have to tell.”
The TFS survey found that only 17 per cent of respondents like the term “Hollywood North” as a descriptor of their industry, while 36 per cent feel we’ve outgrown this name and deserve a title reflective of our diverse, talented community of writers, producers, designers, actors and crews. Asked for more relevant descriptors that celebrate the unique ecosystem that Canada provides for the industry, responses ranged from ‘Maplewood’ and ‘Nollywood’ to ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Reel North.’
This is reflective of the confidence respondents are showing in the industry. More than 80 per cent of respondents reported feeling “excited” or “good” about the future of the industry, while eight in 10 plan to pursue, or are already pursuing, a film or TV career right here in Canada. Meanwhile, the TFS community indicates the two main factors that distinguish the Canadian film and TV industry from other markets as our people and the stories we have to tell; “diversity and representation” in both talent and content was ranked No. 1, followed closely by “talented, skilled and friendly crews.”
Looking to the future, respondents emphasized the need to promote and support both Canadian creators and Canada as a global film hub to ensure sustainable, continued growth of our domestic industry.
“As an educational institution, Toronto Film School is directly supporting Canadian screen industries by training students who graduate to be set-ready, confident and emboldened to shape this dynamic and booming sector,” says Barnsley. “Being deeply ingrained in our local industry allows us to grow and evolve quickly to support burgeoning set and production needs.”
With the arrival of major studios and productions into Canada and the expansion of studio spaces across the country, the demand for skilled labour in the domestic film and TV industry is greater than ever. Canadian screen production revenue topped $11-billion in 2021 and supported more than 244,000 jobs, reinforcing the fact that Canada is truly its own unique ecosystem.
The health of the industry is exemplified by TFS alumna Camille Lortie, who is thriving on set as a second assistant director. She’s so booked for work that she can’t help but be optimistic about the potential for others.
“Every year there’s more film, TV and web series shooting here,” says Lortie. “The months that used to be slow are reinvigorated with brand new stories to bring to the world. There’s an element of realness that sets Canadian film apart from Hollywood. It makes me very proud to contribute to the industry here at home. It feels like I'm part of something bigger. Community is searched for everywhere; Canadian filmmaking is where I found mine.”
The Toronto Film School community survey engaged students, alumni and faculty between April 3 and 11, 2023.