CCRA President Kathy Rowe met director Mike Barber on the set

By Kathy McGrath

Centennial residents may have noticed more film crews in the area as movie and television productions rush to resume filming after several lockdowns. It’s difficult to miss the plentiful trailers and rigs that line the streets for even a short scene.

Major productions shot locally this summer include The Luckiest Girl Alive, a Netflix thriller starring Mila Kunis (who gained prominence on That ’70s Show), and The Boys, a popular series from Amazon Prime. 

In early July, the Daisy Mart and gas pumps at Lawson and Centennial Roads were transformed into 2001 Pennsylvania for a flashback scene from Luckiest Girl Alive.  The movie, based on the novel by Jessica Knoll, features a young woman who strives to create the perfect life until several violent events from her past threaten to expose a shocking secret that ruins her façade. The film is directed by Mike Barker, director and producer of The Handmaid’s Tale, among many other credits.

Mila Kunis was not on set but her younger counterpart, actress Chiara Aurelia, commanded the scene as she ran down Lawson Road and into the convenience store, seeking refuge from a potential assailant.  In the store she meets her teacher, who agrees to give her a drive. 

Location manager Derek Brady says the Daisy Mart provided an ideal film site because it has a “good approach” and because the suburban setting was suitable for the script. Filming also took place at Mowat Collegiate, which doubled as a private school.

The Boys, which profiles the tension between opposing superhero groups, was filmed in several Highland Creek locations, including the Tru Value gas station at Old Kingston Road and Watson Street as well as a private home on Deep Dene Drive. The gas station was made to look like a location in Russia, complete with graffiti-painted backdrop, while the private home doubled as a house in the American Pocono Mountains.

Filming in Ontario

Location manager Derek Brady said the film industry in Ontario and the GTA is competitive and growing each year. While provincial tax credits and a low dollar compared to the United States makes Ontario an attractive place to shoot, Brady said professional crews and a solid base of actors are also highly valued. The $1.6 billion industry employs tens of thousands of people in Ontario, including 32,000 skilled workers. To thank neighbourhoods for accommodating and supporting them, film productions make donations to local charities. 

Daisy Mart experience

Nijitra Panch, who works for her uncle at the Daisy Mart, said she was amazed to discover how much work goes into creating a 30-second movie shot. Nijitra was in attendance while the crew set up and she says she didn’t even recognize the store when it was all done.

“Every detail of the store had to reflect America in early 2000,” she said. Liquor bottles and cigarettes were among the many props brought in that day to set the scene. While she had to stand outside while the scene was shot, she got to watch the filming on a large screen set up in the parking lot. “They re-shot the scene many times and each time the director was giving them advice,” she recalled. “It took a couple of hours to get the final take.”

Nijitra was impressed with how quickly the cleanup crew was able to put the store back together. “They took lots of photos of the store before they changed it so they were able to put things back very quickly. There were also lots of people – like 50 ‒ who took part in the cleanup.” By 10 a.m. on the day after the filming, the Daisy Mart was back in business serving customers.