Side Hustle Part Three: IATSE


If you've been paying any attention to the studio via social media or otherwise this past year, you've noticed that things have come to a bit of a stand-still in terms of progress. The delays have been largely out of my hands which is frustrating but I feel as though things are back on track since the new year!

Lest anyone think I've been loafing in the interim I'm putting together a series of posts titled Side Hustle to illustrate what it takes to keep things afloat when the build doesn't go your way.

In this entry: "I Already Tried Something Else!" (IATSE)

Remember when you and your friends used to collect all the cushions, cardboard, markers and tape in the house and build yourself a spaceship or a haunted house or a mansion? It was the best, right? Well that's basically my part time gig at the moment and I'm loving it!

Much of the most recent adaptation of Stephen King's IT was shot here in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of

Despite the immense pressure I feel to get the studio to a useable state, this year I feel as though I've managed to find a creatively satisfying existence that I haven't enjoyed in years.
Working with IATSE (aka: the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) allows me to draw from the various skills I've developed over the last decade. I've been working as a permit in both the construction department as a carpenter and the set decoration department as a set-dresser. I'm not sure why this path never occurred to me before.

DC's Suicide Squad is another of Toronto's claims to fame. (I caught some of it on a plane though and the less said, the better I think.) (Photo courtesy of

A career in the arts provides one with a bizarre skill set that is somehow broad and specific at the same time. It doesn't look like much on paper unfortunately. This is a major problem when it comes to looking for work:

“So Mr. Haigh, it looks as though there's a fairly sizeable gap in employment from 2008 to present... How do you account for that?”

“Well, after school I started my own business.  I developed skills in advertising, photography, graphic design, web design, carpentry, metal fabrication, rendering software, falconry, underwater basket-weaving, animal husbandry.....” (Trails off)

"Great! Hey, you look like you could lift a bunch of heavy stuff. The position starts at sixteen dollars per hour. We have a lot of heavy stuff to lift so I hope you don't mind working weekends."


A shot from the set of Total Recall at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (Photo courtesy of

I think my generation has a distinct advantage in this industry for one very specific reason: the rise and fall of DVDs. The format really hit it's stride during my high school years when I had nothing but free time to drink it all in and I do mean ALL of it. The extra features on even a mediocre film were so novel that I'd sit through each and every one. It wasn't enough just to watch the movie, I'd watch it again with the director commentary, then again with the spfx team and then sit through a few hours of making-ofs about story-boarding, concept art, set and costume design and 3d effects. Without realizing it, I was essentially schooling myself on film-production techniques. Before DVDs came along, this wasn't an option. Now, with the ubiquity of streaming video on any topic imaginable, sitting through a featurette about the makeup effects in Freddy vs. Jason seems downright quaint. It brings me a lot of joy to put this previously dormant part of my mind to use in a creative way!

Cronenberg classics Videodrome and The Fly (a personal favorite) were both filmed in Toronto (photos courtesy of

I wish it were possible to share more details and photos of the specific work I've been doing but there's rules against that kind of thing for good reason. As a permit, I'm constantly bouncing around to different sets and productions as I'm needed. I could be in a graveyard one day, building an office the next and putting the details on a futuristic wasteland after that. Too bad I have to keep it a secret for the sake of spoilers.

Toronto has a long history in film and television but it seems to be more popular now than ever before in terms of attracting productions. It only seems to be growing so hopefully the work continues. It seems to be a match made in heaven as the busy film season happens during the Summer just as the glass studio becomes unbearably hot. Perhaps it could be my annual vacation away from the studio in the coming years. Time will tell.

a clip from Steamboat Bill Jr. (Not shot in Toronto, I just really like that gag.) (.gif courtesy of

That concludes the Side Hustle series. I've made lots of progress on the studio this past Spring and seem set to light up and do final tests on all the equipment in June. I'll hopefully have a proper opening in the Fall! Hope to see you all then!


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