A woman in scrubs hustles a patient out of a hospital in a wheelchair and into a waiting black SUV, her face a knot of anxiety. Suddenly she sees someone and turns to leap into the car.
“Cut!” calls out a director on the Entertainment One Ltd. production “Mary Kills People” — and immediately the real-life bustle of an afternoon commute resumes on the leafy Toronto street. A police officer lets through a held-up streetcar and pedestrians begin to navigate around cameras, electrical cables and lighting booms. Film shoots have become so common in Canada’s biggest city that hardly anyone bats an eye at the commotion all around them.
“This place is nuts,” says actor Richard Short, who co-stars with Caroline Dhavernas in “Mary Kills People,” a drama about a doctor circumventing legal issues to provide physician-assisted suicide. “Just last night we were one of three productions on one block. We’re sharing parking lots with other shows almost every day.”
Stoked by a drop in the Canadian dollar against the U.S. greenback, favorable tax credits and a surge in demand for original content by companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, film and television production is at a record in Canada. Toronto alone will play host to almost 700 productions in 2016, according to the city. These include ABC’s political drama “Designated Survivor” starring Kiefer Sutherland, a movie version of the Stephen King thriller “It” set for release in 2017, and the CBS-led “Star Trek: Discovery,” which began shooting this month.
Foreign production in Ontario rose 52 percent to C$763 million ($594 million) in 2015, boosting spending to a record C$1.52 billion, thanks in part to mega-projects like Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad.” Producers on that big-grossing, critically panned film spent more than C$80 million in the province, according to the Motion Picture Association of Canada.
The boom is bringing in more than C$5.5 billion a year across the country and employing more than 128,000 full-time workers, according to the Canadian Media Producers Association.