Author

Toronto Stories Opens This Weekend @ The Royal

An Interview with Co-director, Co-writer and Actor Sook-Yin Lee
Jen McNeely

What inspired you to make this film?

David Weaver phoned me up and offered up the challenge. I was happy to be
considered and invited to take part in the movie and thrilled to be given an
opportunity to tell a story and make a film.

Why did you choose certain settings to focus on over
Others?

I live in Kensington Market. I imagined the story unfolding in my
neighbourhood. I also shot inside my house because it seemed like a good
idea, efficient because it’s already set decorated and cheap! I wanted to
reveal Toronto through it’s interior, so I shot in and around my
neighbourhood in various restaurants and bars in my community (the Silver
Dollar Club, Jenny’s cafe and bar, the Thai restaurant on Spadina.) These
locations were shot as is, capturing them as they exist in real life. This
helped underscore a particular authenticity I was aiming for. As far as the
other locations, the ROM is iconic Toronto to me. It’s the perfect setting
for a date, especially winding around those wonderful old 1960’s nature
dioramas. Sadly, today, the old stuff is being tossed from the ROM to make
way for a more modern, refined aesthetic. I remember being struck when i
first saw that huge terrrace of computers at the Toronto Reference Library,
again, an unusual yet iconic corner of the city. Then, of course, there is that ambassador of Eastern Canadian culture, Polkaroo, the giant plush sort of kangaroo from TVOntario who struck me as funny, when I first encountered him when i moved to Toronto from the westcoast years ago.

How did you come up with the character of the small boy
who arrives alone at the airport and gets lost within the city?

The lost boy was David and Aaron’s idea. My challenge was to simply incorporate him in my chapter. I figured a kid lost in the city would get tired after a while, so what better place to have a snooze than inside a public library?

Film aside, which other spots in Toronto do you think
would make rich backdrops for a film?

I like the area just outside the city where all those concrete towers
where people live stick out by the side of the highway. I also think little
Somalia would make a terrific place to set a movie.

What do you love most about this city?

My neighbourhood, Kensington Market,and my community there. I know the shop keepers and my friends and I drink beers on our porch and make art together. It’s got a relaxed and independent atmosphere, very free and home-made. There are people living in the market from all over the world, from all walks of life. It’s a lovely mix of people, Jane Jacobs would approve

How do you see the world differently than you did as a
VJ at Much?
What major changes have you undergone as a person?

Gosh that’s a big question. I’m happy to return to filmmaking. It’s one of the things I was doing before I got the job at MuchMusic. Then, as a VJ, I never had time to make films, I was too busy making TV. As soon as I left MM, that’s when I was re-inspired to tell fictional stories through moving pictures.

What are the stories, in Toronto, that you think we
don’t hear enough about but should?

Working at the CBC on my radio show Definitely Not the
Opera
, involves a lot of going out and gathering stories, not just from artists or cultural contributors, but from people I simply encounter on the street. Their stories of every day life are some of the most compelling to me. My favourite stories feature very specific situations and details and are extraordinary glimpses into the every day.

Shedoesthecity readers, we want to hear your stories so e-mail them to haley@shedoeshecity.com

Toronto Stories will be playing at the Royal Cinema from Dec 12 – Dec 19. Don’t miss your chance to see this endearing and thought provoking film on the big screen. Following, head to a local establishment and share your stories…is there any better way to spend a cold Toronto night?

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