Redpath Refinery

I was approached by Redpath Sugar in 2015 to do a video for them. They had seen my video ‘Time‘ and wanted something similar. Why? They are surrounded by condos and new developments. They are feeling the pressure to leave, so they wanted a video showing their history on the waterfront. People doesn’t like living next door to factories, even if it was there when they moved in, what with the noise and the smells and the truck traffic. Not that it’s their fault. Blame it on certain people who lead condo buyers to think that the refinery will be closing down soon and probably wouldn’t be there when they move in. Well, Redpath has been there since the fifties and actually don’t have plans to move out, and for a good reason. They depend on the waterfront for their shipments of raw sugar. According to a Torontoist article they spend thousands of dollars each year in court fighting for their right to be there.

This butting up of businesses against residents is a struggle that is going on across the city. Not surprising for a bustling city with a shortage of living space downtown and a dwindling manufacturing sector that can hardly afford the raising cost of land. For those who own their land they can probably make more money selling land than their product. As these businesses are squeezed out so goes the jobs they provide.

A recent example is the Christie cookie factory in the west end which opened in 1950. Surrounded by condos they closed in 2013 and 550 people lost their jobs. According to the city the land will not be used to build more condos but will be developed to provide jobs instead. Considering the potential amount of money involved the citizenry needs to hold the fire underneath city hall’s feet and make sure that will actually happen.

My video for Redpath was done in time for Doors Open in 2015. They’re involved every year, and while it’s a bit out of the way from other venues it’s worth the trip, even if just to look inside the big warehouse where they store the raw sugar. It’s big enough to house a container ship.

Many businesses like Christie bakeries, Gooderham and Worts, and architects like Frank Darling played a major part in our city’s history. I will be looking at some of these people and businesses in future blogs.

‘Time’ in HD

My short film ‘Time’ has been a long journey for me. The idea came to me in 2004. Being a downtowner I walk a lot. It’s one of the enjoyable parts of being here. Being on the streets connects you to the environment like no other form of transportation. Over time you notice the changes to the landscape.

One day as I was walking down Bloor street, one of the best walks in the city by the way, I looked up into the empty space between two buildings and realized that perhaps once before a building may had existed there. It was curious to me that what is now empty space, in mid-air, could had once contained the stories of people. A space where people once worked, loved, slept, eat, etc. is now just empty space. Throughout the city, human stories are erased forever, when buildings are erased. I set out to create a film to capture this  dynamic of the city.

The process of figuring out how to make a film like this took me four years. The film came out in 2008, thanks to funding from BravoFact. I have to admit it’s the only film I’d made that seem to have legs. The copy on Vimeo had gathered more than a quarter of a million views and continues to be watched.

So, I decided to update the piece and bring it into the high definition world where people can savour all the details. I also took the chance to add a few more elements and corrected a few inaccuracies. Please enjoy!