I've been with Pie in the Sky Studios literally since the beginning where Pie 1 (used to be the old Donlands movie theatre) started it all. I recall the first studio being under construction and the intensity of creation, with long nights on coffee and adrenalin prepping everything, making it ready to deliver to clients. Now many years later with three full service studios in the east end it was as good a time as any to extend the sphere of influence of Pie to the west end!
Just a month or two back the story began of the transformation of the previous studio facility on Wallace Ave to what has now become the all familiar sunny blue skies and efficient environment that Pie in the Sky provides the film industry. Pie has now expanded to six full service studios across the central GTA which all include on-site gear rental and other amenities.
The previous dreary grey walls and sets of black double doors began to take on sunnier shades of tasteful yellows and whites. The bathrooms were brightened up with fresh flowers and new wood door replacements and any unwelcoming signs were discarded and instead a message of abundance and comfort was promoted! The old leopard print couch went out along with a few other unsightly items to be swept away with any other debris, now calling the dumpster their new home.
The Pie Wallace atmosphere says come on in, stay a while and have a great productive day (or week or month) on set! The floors got cleaned up, unstable coat hooks got replaced with high quality ones and of course, Tim added his own personal touch with a beautiful piano which welcomes you upon entering the catering area.
Just recently over the weekend Pie Wallace had quite a big and exciting job in with a very special individual on set promoting a project that I can say a lot of us have been looking forward to from around the world, from Hollywood and back! I can't say any more on that at this time but we'll share more details and behind the scenes info upon release.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance not only to be on set during this very unique shoot but also had the opportunity to get a full two day tour of Pie Wallace from Tim, detailing the studio expansion and upgrade as well as getting the chance to find out some very interesting history that has gone down at this location. More on that history later.
As we walked around he pointed out the new plush couches he'd just lined the walls with (very comfortable I may add) and showed me an expanse of three distinct studios that can all interconnect or alternately, be used for totally separate jobs simultaneously. The large double doors to the various spaces allow vehicle or lift passage from one area to the next, for easy range of motion within the building itself. The loading docks are roomy and spacious and accommodate large vehicle stationing from within and I'm pretty sure no crew member felt cramped at any point, though tons of equipment was making it's way around the place all weekend!
There are two levels to the building and many neat little makeup rooms and kitchenettes line the halls. When you go upstairs you again have various rooms that can hold talent, service makeup or just give some privacy on set. I definitely felt a distinct community feel when I walked around and I even told Tim that it feels like "Pie Movie Town". Very Hollywood, but still north.
The place was bustling with lots of crew and activity and there were several sets built at the same time within all three studios, allowing a diversity of usage by the same job, who had the full building occupied. They transitioned from motion with their talent to green screen to stills by literally just moving from one area to the next and it flowed like a well-oiled machine. The space is expansive enough that even with a vast crew you always feel like there's ample quarters and even during lunch there was lots of places to sit and dine.
The talent on site had a newly specially renovated room upstairs from which could be made undisturbed international promotional calls between takes. Both Tim and I agreed that the amount of footage and diversity of promotion done over the period of a couple days was pretty astounding and impressive. I believe the studio set up only facilitated that, though it takes quite a group of pros to pull off this output in any quality of environment.
As for some Wallace Ave history, I was surprised to hear there was quite a memory chest. Tim told me stories of first coming to Toronto and working on sets at Wallace Ave in 1992. He reminisced about doing maybe some 30 or 40 jobs, many of which were infomercials which were very popular in the 90s. Tony Little, the fitness guy, popped up out of the repertoire of the various sets Tim worked on.
He led me to a room upstairs where he started going through old pictures. I felt like this was some hidden treasure attic, much like you'll find over at Pie 1 which used to house the old theatre. There were several pictures framed of various jobs through the years that had taken place at Wallace. He said that there was even an old photograph around of the owner of SIM Digital (the largest camera rental company in North America), as he used to do freelance work at Wallace back in the day.
It's very interesting that Tim, newly on his path into the industry years ago worked these very spaces and now he and his wife Ayda are now proudly putting up a Pie in the Sky sign here on Wallace Ave, over two decades later and by that, upgrading the community and bringing about a higher quality of service to the art and film industry. Some things were just meant to be it seems.
See this blog posting and others at our Pie in the Sky studios website
Who hasn't likened a ballet dancer to a fairy godmother of sorts? I know I have. Funny enough my late Godmother Maria Kurthi was in fact a Prima Ballerina in her day in the 30s/40s in Vienna, Austria. She arrived to Canada where she bonded with my mother and took her under her wing and taught her the art of ballet. My mother had also just come to the country via Germany from Hungary and found in Maria a mentor.
The art form of ballet and ballet dancers have a timelessness and a mystique that is not quite easily described. I know out of the many people to have crossed my path as a child, my moments with my godmother Maria stood out to me. Her gentle grace, her smile and her sincere charm and warmth were truly distinct. I find there is always a feeling of nostalgia while watching ballet. I was pretty enchanted as Elena Lobsanova, a principal dancer for the National Ballet, moved on set for the camera tests and I watched intently during her progressions through the choreography. Though Elena was definitely concentrating on the task at hand she made a point to look over and send me a smiling glance, befitting of a star, to notice others and make them feel welcome.
The piece being performed for the camera was Robert Binet's "The Dreamers Ever Leave You". The footage will be a part of an upcoming performance at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I can tell you that what I saw was absolutely stunning and I was definitely mesmerized. There were points where Robert would come on set and work with the dancer and it was a very unique experience to see the precision and care put into perfecting each movement.
Throughout the weekend several members of the Canadian ballet troupe were filmed for what will be included as the digital promotion of the actual gallery performance within the walls of the AGO coming this August.
The tickets go on sale for AGO members and National Ballet members on the 22nd of May and it is an immersive theatre performance, meaning the audience in some way plays a role, whether that is of a witness as they roam through the spaces as the performance takes place around them or as the role of an actual character.
As a film studio servicing the creative industries, it was a complete pleasure to have been able to support and be a part of such a wonderful project that enhances our culture the way only the fine arts can. You can get your tickets here.
Same article on Pie in the Sky Studios website here