I bet you don’t remember Toronto of the 1950’s. I certainly do. Back then, it was “Toronto the good.” On Sundays, department stores even closed the drapes on their windows lest commercial interests diverted the people from church going. The Liquor Control Board was a dismal place which you entered furtively and then slunk out the door with your purchase, wrapped in a brown paper bag. Life was serious in this town of the Protestant work ethic. Even a decent restaurant was hard to find.
Sometime in the mid 60’s and early 70’s, people from every country in the world began immigrating to Canada and winding up in Toronto. The dominance of the Irish, Scots and the Brits, began to wane. Brand new restaurants sprang up all over town luring us in with deliciously unfamiliar aromas. I still remember eating my first pizza at University in the early sixties.
But wait, this is more than just a trip down memory lane! I mention the past because I think Toronto is on the verge of another exciting burst of energy—this time in the arts and film making.
When I graduated from the University of Toronto in 1968, I had pretty serious ideas of being a filmmaker. But where to go? There was no school of any kind for film and no film industry in Toronto. All I could find was the National Film Board and that was in Montreal. And so, for some reason I became a lawyer.
Today it’s better. Although Toronto has its reputation as Hollywood North, that reputation rises and falls with the dollar and tax incentives.
But here’s what is on the horizon. TIFF has a brand new home and this is what will spur Toronto onto its next stage of development in the arts. I’ve yet to get a tour of the new place at 363 King Street West but I am hoping to see it soon.
Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF says that at the Bell Lightbox, “we are committed to building a centre that will lead the world in the discovery of film and the moving image… where audiences of all ages can immerse themselves in and learn about the magnificence of film.”
At the Lightbox they believe that this is a watershed moment in their history. The Word – dominant in our culture for 500 years – is now being challenged by the visual universe. The linear style of thought represented by print is being overtaken by the non-linear, multi-channel nature of the moving image.
What does this mean for the indie writer? It’s all good news. Good filmmaking is borne of good writing. You can’t have one without the other. Certainly, writing a screenplay is different from writing a novel. I’ve done it! And it is different. When you write a screenplay, you discover, as a novelist, that you have many other means of expressing the story with action, sound, light and image. But it all comes down to story—whether it is told in the novel format or with visual images on the screen. And so, I think that this is great both for a novelist whose work would translate well to the screen and those who want to produce film.
I’m continuing to explore the relationship between novel and film. Take a look at my book trailer at www.thedrawinglesson.com and let me know what you think.
The people at the Lightbox are convinced there is an urgency to teach and cultivate an understanding of the moving image – in all its diversity. They want to show great films from around the world as tools for communication, understanding and change on a global scale.
Lightbox’s vision is exciting for everyone. From the 50’s through to the next century, Toronto has always benefited from the influx of influences from all over the world. Just look at all the fantastic restaurants. Now we have a new addition to our cultural “menu” at the Lightbox. It will succeed because Toronto loves this kind of change.