Film is a billion-dollar business in Toronto. Lured by favourable exchange rates and tax credits, American companies come here to shoot TV shows and blockbuster features full of clones, serial killers, giant robots and smaller robots.
Unlike inwardly focused Hollywood, though, Toronto rarely plays itself on the big screen. Our standard North American streetscape and convenient cluster of downtown skyscrapers make the job of disguising the city relatively easy. Completing the illusion, though, requires work. As a result, filmmakers spend millions dressing our streets to look like other places. Much of that money goes to a network of local businesses that exist to serve whatever movie crews pass through town.
When film productions want to make Toronto look like New York—or any other city, for that matter—one of their first calls is to Peter Cullingford, who specializes in movie vehicles. His workshop, near Warden and St. Clair, is home to a fleet of about 180 vehicles, including imitation New York police cars (Cullingford makes them using decals and standard rooftop lights) and real New York City taxis purchased at auction. All of it is in demand, thanks to a recent boom in the local film industry. Each car can rent for hundreds of dollars a day.