Festival Daily

By Hailey Eisen

Toronto filmmakers David Weaver and Aaron Woodley, two of the four talented local directors involved in making the film Toronto Stories, asked that I meet them for a beer at their favourite neighbourhood watering hole,

Crooked Star (202 Ossington Avenue). One of Toronto’s transitioning areas, Ossington and Dundas is gaining popularity amongst the city’s young and vibrant artist community. With new restaurants popping up regularly and some of downtown’s most unpretentious yet vibrant bars, it’s no wonder these celebrated filmmakers chose this neighbourhood to show off.

For Weaver, who lives just around the corner on Lakeview Avenue, it was the personality and energy of the area that brought him here. “A filmmaker’s life is much like that of a writer,” he says, “and I felt as though I needed to live in a neighborhood that would draw me out, so that I wouldn’t just sit in my house morosely, trying to make characters come alive.”

For those coming to Toronto for the Festival and Torontonians looking to venture outside of their own hood, Weaver and Woodley have plenty of recommendations. For a pint, stop into The Communist’s Daughter (1149 Dundas Street West); to mingle with locals over martinis by dusk and eggs benny by dawn, be sure to check out If Lounge (1212 Dundas Street West). And for great food, venture south to Queen Street, where Terroni (720 Queen Street West) serves up traditional Southern Italian fare.

While both directors have lived outside of the city for extended periods of time, Toronto’s energy has always called them back. It’s this passion for the city that led to the idea for Toronto Stories, which was born at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) during a party for Woodley’s feature directing debut, Rhinoceros Eyes. The conversation was continued at the Victory Cafe (581 Markham Street) over beers, and the budget and concept for the film was finally sketched out on a napkin at The Pilot Tavern (22 Cumberland Street).

The film, which is comprised of four distinct short stories connected by one interwoven narrative, was filmed entirely in Toronto with the intention of showcasing the diversity of characters living within the city. “There are zero films with the word ‘Toronto’ in the title…there has never been a film called ‘Autumn in Toronto’ or ‘To Live and Die in Toronto,’” says Woodley. “We’re part of this up and coming generation of Toronto filmmakers, and we wanted to tell stories of our city.”

While writing Toronto Stories, Weaver and Woodley would meet every morning at the local 1940s-style diner Lakeview Lunch (1132 Dundas Street West) for a breakfast meeting with their co-directors Sudz Sutherland and Sook-Yin Lee and their producer Jennifer Jonas. “We all had such crazy schedules that the early morning was the only time for us to get together,” recalls Weaver.

Chatting with Lee on the phone a few days later, she offered a few Toronto tips based on her chapter of the film. Shot predominantly in Kensington Market and inside Lee’s own home, her segment comments on the feelings of an outsider living in Toronto. Born and raised in Vancouver, Lee adores Toronto, but understands the challenges of being new to a city of this size.

The Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park) and the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) were both settings for Lee’s film, major Toronto landmarks that she recommends visitors take the time to see.  “I have a real soft spot for the older displays at the ROM, the real kitschy stuff, like the dinosaurs,” she says. “I’d be sure to go see those exhibits.”

For Sutherland, whose film was shot in Forest Hill and the St. Clair West and Vaughan Road neighbourhoods, what makes Toronto such an interesting city is the intersection of classes between neighbourhoods that are literally minutes from each other. “Toronto often serves as Any City, North America, so it was great to really have the opportunity to portray the city as the city.”

Looking forward to the Toronto Stories’ debut at the Festival and already busy with new film and television projects, these four directors are excited to share with the world what Toronto looks and feels like to them. “When we told people the idea for this film, the response was unanimous,” says Weaver. “‘It’s about time.’”

Toronto Stories
Sept. 9, 6:00pm, AMC 6
Sept. 11, 3:30pm, AMC 2