If you had trouble finding a parking spot near Kew Gardens in late July, it wasn’t just because of the Jazz Festival. Blame the NYPD – not the real New York police, but a squad of ‘picture cars’ filming an episode of Beauty and the Beast.
The TV series is set in New York, but filmed mostly in Toronto. Beauty is more grim murder mystery than Grimm fairy tale with Vancouver’s Kristin Kreuk playing the tiniest detective of NYC’s finest. ‘Twas Beauty that killed the parking!
The fantasy genre has been very popular lately with the success of franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings, as well as TV shows like Game of Thrones and True Blood. Studios are always on the lookout for that next ‘big thing’ to follow in those magical footsteps.
The latest young adult book to be adapted for the screen is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which opened Aug. 21. The supernatural thriller is also set in contemporary New York City and filmed here. Watch for a key romantic scene in the ‘mystical’ greenhouse at Allen Gardens. Other locations include Casa Loma, Knox College at University of Toronto and St. James Cemetery.
The Toronto film industry is hoping for a successful franchise, but has the fantasy flick reached its twilight? Filming of the second Cassandra Clare book, City of Ashes, begins next month. The casting call for extras to play otherworldly creatures (werewolves, vampires, etc.) has already gone out. Note to teens: Do not try to make the excuse that you didn’t finish your homework because you were out all night battling demons. Also, it’s dangerous to hunt demons while wearing high heels.
If you’re hungry for more Hunger Games, here’s the recipe for a fantasy adventure:
1) Start from a best-selling book with a feisty female character
2) Toss in some brooding male-model types
3) Add a splash of dark romance and supernatural creatures
4) Hire ‘hot’ 20-something actors to play teens
5) Mix it all up in a bowl of chills and thrills with a dash of HP Sauce (Harry Potter)
6) Voila! You’ve created a magical world unlike the mundane teen existence.
This has been the summer of orange pylons: construction, festivals, fallen trees and the odd movie shoot. Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson was filming David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars at the OK2 Diner on Queen Street East in Leslieville. Later that same night a storm blew down the ‘Maple Leaf Forever’ tree a few blocks away. (No, it wasn’t dark forces at work!)
Send in the clones! Try to catch an edgier show, Orphan Black, which just started a run on CTV on Friday nights. Tatiana Maslany has won critical awards and rave reviews for playing multiple roles in this cloning conspiracy thriller. The location is meant to be generic, but as co-creator Graeme Manson says, “I would love to be loud and proud and set it in Toronto.” Dramatic scenes were filmed around Queen Street East in the Morse Street area as well as near the old Hearn plant in the portlands.
Toronto crews have been busy this year with more than a dozen TV series on the go, especially in fantasy and sci-fi genres (Lost Girl, Defiance, The Listener). It’s good to see shows with such strong female leads. Talented actresses like Mia Kirshner, Rachel Skarsten, Megan Follows and Katie Boland have been able to work in hometown Toronto. Our own Beacher Katie B. has a role in the new period drama Reign, about Mary Queen of Scots. Besides having her first book published, busy Katie has created her own web series Long Story, Short with filming on the boardwalk (read more on both projects in the Sept. 10 issue – Ed.).
If you’re looking for something you can sink your teeth into, try the new werewolf series, Bitten, with Toronto’s Laura Vandervoort (Ted). The upcoming feature Wolves (with Beach resident Melanie Scrofano) is described as “Twilight with more bite.” Pardon me while I go howl at the moon.
At heart, fantasy films are modern-day fairy tales providing good-versus-evil life lessons and happy endings. Maybe fantasy helps young people deal with the dark unknown, tapping into our primal fear of what’s out there going bump in the night (pesky raccoons?).
Real-life teens may be too busy texting to save the world from evil, but if fantasy opens up young minds to reading, that’s great. To quote Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere. Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
And as John Lennon once said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”