The most unlikely of places often contains the most interesting things. Take The Next Step, for instance. Family Channel’s smash hit tween series is filmed in a nondescript neighbourhood in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot: an old high school that’s been decommissioned by the Toronto District School Board.
The only indication anything is happening are the telltale orange traffic pylons that denote television or film production underway in the city. There’s plenty happening on the set of The Next Step. Though the second half of Season 2 has yet to air on Family, the third season is filming now. On the day I visited, creator and showrunner Frank van Keeken (Wingin’ It) was overseeing a key storyline where one member of the dance studio was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a decision that could affect everyone else on the squad. Those on the team include Michelle (played by Victoria Baldesarra), Emily (Alexandra Beaton), Riley (Brittany Raymond), James (Trevor Tordjman), Eldon (Isaac Lupien), West (Lamar Johnson), Giselle (Jordan Clark), Chloe (Jennifer Pappas), Thalia (Taveeta Szymanowicz), Hunter (Zac Vran), Stephanie (Samantha Grecchi) and Amanda (Logan Fabbro), who showed off their dancing skills during several takes as part of the day’s frantic production schedule.
According to van Keeken, one episode of The Next Step is shot in just over a day, a lightning-quick turnaround when the industry norm is one episode per seven days of shooting. The industry veteran, whose experience goes back to working on The Kids in the Hall, says he wanted to hire dancers rather than actors to fill the roles on The Next Step. As he tells it, he could teach them how to act. Or react; van Keeken gives the kids a scene outline to work with and then they go for broke, giving authenticity to the mockumentary series.
The Next Step attracted 574,000 viewers in its Season 1 debut, making it No. 1 for the network. A 2013 shopping mall tour was a success, original music from the show is available on iTunes and the series airs around the world in such countries as the U.S., the UK, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Belgium and Switzerland. Next up: a retail program for fans to connect with the show.
Look for my Next Step feature when Season 2B has been announced.