TORONTO — Try for a moment to remember the last time you saw a major feature film that was set in Toronto. Other than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I mean.
Thanks to local and national tax breaks, a film friendly population, and a variety of urban settings that can easily double for somewhere else, Toronto has long been a popular location for feature film productions angling to save some money. But having Toronto play itself?
"It is a rare thing," director Michael Dowse told me at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The Canadian filmmaker has set a few of his films (Fubar, Goon) in his native country, but never in Canada's biggest city. That changed with The F Word, a charming romantic comedy staring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as two Torontonians who are perfect for each other — except she's got a long-term boyfriend. (The film, which debuted at TIFF, was picked up at the festival for a U.S. theatrical run by CBS Films.)
Dowse says that the decision to shoot in Toronto was purely financial, but there was a version of the script that set the story in Chicago. Instead, the creative team decided to let Toronto be Toronto. "I think it's important in these types of movies to have a specific location," he said, "and feature the city, like some of the classic romantic comedies do, and create these little vignettes and establishing shots, just to give people breathers and look at where they're set."
Over the course of the experience, Dowse discovered just what it is like to be a Canadian filmmaker shooting a movie in Toronto that is also set in Toronto. Here's what he learned: