Film industry “one-stop shop” opens in the east end
28 Logan Ave, Toronto
Film/photo workshops, studio/office/equipment rentals, film/photo production, screening room
When visitors first arrive at HangLoose Media — nestled in the heart of the film district in Toronto’s east end — it’s immediately apparent that the company is still a work in progress. Construction workers are cleaning debris from recently renovated rooms, empty paint cans, ladders, and light fixtures lay on the ground, and the movie theatre has 30 leather reclining chairs facing an empty wall without a screen.
But while some might be distracted by the elements that are still missing, founder Sasha Crystal and project manager Steven Gordon smile at the transformation since signing a 10-year lease three and a half months ago.
“Before I took it over it was empty for just over 12 years,” says Crystal. “There were cobwebs everywhere, an inch of dust on the floor, windows broken, random noises, holes in the floor. It was in some shape.”
The formerly abandoned warehouse is now almost completely converted into 13,000 square feet of film production resources and studio space, including one 4,200 and one 1,100 square foot studio, a large screening room, two editing suites, an editing lab where classes will be held, three makeup and hair stations, five offices, four private bathrooms, shower facilities and change rooms.
After spending months working with a team of engineers and architects Crystal and Gordon are nearing their goal of building an all-in-one location where films and television shows can be taken from conception to the screening room.
“It’s not only a studio business, it’s not only a post-production house, it’s not a rental house, it’s kind of everything,” says Crystal.
Crystal recognized the demand for such resources last year when the independent film workshops he ran in Toronto continuously sold out, and founded HangLoose Media soon after.
The former warehouse is gradually filling with technical equipment, but he and Gordon were also sure to designate space for couches, refrigerators, a bar, and basketball hoops.
“The idea is to create not just a facility but a community, a place where people can come not just to execute their idea but to create,” says Crystal.
While building a community from scratch is a difficult feat for any small business owner, Crystal and Gordon have the added challenge of being relative newcomers to the landscape. Crystal, a native of London, England who’s spent the last two and a half years working in film production in Toronto, met Gordon as classmates at the New York Film Academy nearly five years ago. Gordon, on the other hand, just moved to Toronto last month.
In an effort to put the company on the industry’s radar, HangLoose hosted a “soft launch” event at their newly opened space in late February.
“We went around barging into people’s offices, introducing ourselves, saying this is who we are, come check us out,” says Crystal. “It was a lot of going door-to-door, meeting people and saying, ‘Look, we exist.”
The event drew in approximately 150 people, most of whom were members of the film and television industry.
“The party was a really big success. The reaction was better than I could have imagined,” says Gordon. “Some good deals were made.”
One of the first contracts to be signed was a three-year lease agreement for all five of the company’s available offices to an undisclosed company that produces major television shows and commercials all over the world.
While Toronto is no stranger to production studios, film and photography training programs, film equipment rental houses and rentable office space, Crystal and Gordon believe their level of service, price point, and community atmosphere will help attract established and aspiring filmmakers from across the city.
Only a few short years ago many such facilities sat empty, but since the recession film and television production resources are “being eaten up by increased demand,” says Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of Comweb Group Inc., which provides equipment, services, or studio space to approximately 60 per cent of all film and television productions in Canada.
Over the past decade Bronfman has witnessed the film industry move a majority of American productions north of the border, thanks in large part to tax incentives and the ease of doing business in Canada. While his company provided two thirds of its resources to American productions ten years ago, the tables have since turned, and more than two thirds of the major productions that utilize his company’s services are shot in Canada.
The boom in Canadian film production is providing a huge market for companies like HangLoose, but in spite of the local growth Bronfman cautions that they may be trying to do too much at once.
“It’s easy to say ‘one stop shop,’ its another thing to provide that,” he says. “It’s tough to be a jack of all trades. Our philosophy is to stick to what you know best, and be the best at what you do.”
Though trying to do too much at once can be risky, Bronfman also believes there is one surefire way to make an impression in Toronto’s film and television production industry.
“As long as they’re straightforward, as long as they’re transparent, as long as there’s no monkey business, I think they’ll be welcomed,” he said.
Fortunately for Crystal and Gordon, creating a straightforward business is their main objective.
“Everyone has space, but if everything goes the way we foresee it, nobody will offer the level of care we have to offer,” says Gordon. “That’s what separates us from the competition.”