Don't just film in Toronto, hire local talent, new billboards say on eve of TIFF

Big names are already arriving in the city for the Toronto International Film Festival and one of the first things they'll likely see when they land are billboards promoting the hiring of local talent. 

The Directors Guild of Canada launches 'tongue-in-cheek' ad campaign for film festival

Two of the advertisements from the Directors Guild of Canada in Pearson International Airport telling Hollywood to hire Toronto talent. (Shutterstock / VTT Studio)

Big names are already arriving in the city for the Toronto International Film Festival, and one of the first things they'll likely see when they land are billboards promoting the hiring of local talent. 

Sure, Toronto is a hub for the film industry. It's even considered Hollywood North by some.

But all those white movie trailers you see parked in the city are often filled with foreign stars. The Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) wants to change that so it's launched a campaign to remind the who's who of Hollywood that Ontario has 5,000 professionals able to work both behind and in front of the camera. 

Currently a lot of those key creative slots, like producers, actors and designers are being flown in from California, says Alan Goluboff, chair of the DGC Ontario executive board. 

"Our whole M.O. here is to get key players to look at our people before they make their final decisions," said Goluboff. "Especially if they're going to be shooting here."

The electric signs in Terminal 1 and 3 at Pearson Airport say things like: "Hey, MGM. Not sure if you should make your next picture with Toronto editors? Just ask Fox. And Shape of Water's 4 Oscars."

One of the billboards on the Gardiner Expressway as you enter Toronto. (Shutterstock / Roman Sigaev)

There are also two signs over the Gardiner Expressway that say: "Hey, Hollywood. Make more with Toronto." 

"It is a bit tongue in cheek," said Goluboff. "We're not trying to tell people, you know, 'Don't hire the people you're comfortable with' … we never want to break up that creative relationship. Our view is there's lots of other people that are not being considered because they're not living in California." 

Some productions focused on Canadian talent

The hit TV show The Handmaid's Tale has an extensive Canadian staff and it's shot in Cambridge, Hamilton and Toronto. The Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Shape of Water, used a crew that was almost entirely Canadian or Mexican, says the film's producer J. Miles Dale.   

"There's just a degree of recognition, I think that gives gives us credibility," said Dale. "I also think having more training programs is critical … People who might not have access but who might have talent, let there be sort of a fertile training ground for them so that they can find their way."

Guillermo del Toro, left, winner of the awards for best director for The Shape of Water and best picture for The Shape of Water, and J. Miles Dale, winner of the award for best picture for The Shape of Water, pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

Along with training, actor Andy McQueen says casting directors should be looking at more talent in the city they're shooting in. 

"I think agents are just hiring safe," said McQueen. "I do believe that the opportunity and the risks that are being taken on actors in the States is much bigger than it is here."

The campaign runs the entire length of TIFF from Sept. 5 to 15 and Dale hopes its catches Hollywood's eye. 

"It's great that the industry has been able to come together as a unified voice and I think that's a sign of the maturation of our business here."