The three Degrassi series were produced by a small production company called Playing With Time. Linda Schuyler, a former grade 8 schoolteacher, and Kit Hood, a former video editor and child actor established Playing With Time in 1976. The couple worked together in the late 1970’s making educational videos for children in junior high school. Their production name was actually inspired by their first educational documentary called Jimmy-Playing With Time (Chatelaine, June 1988:132). Their first documentary was ninety minutes and about a 72-year-old marathon pianist. After making the documentary, Linda and Kit wanted to make films about childhood and adolescence. They found the opportunity with a children’s book called “Ida Makes a Movie”, by Kay Chorao. Both Schuyler and Hood thought that it would be a perfect opportunity to make a film about an inner city girl who wanted to make a film about cleaning up her neighbourhood. For less than $20,000 Schuyler co-wrote the film and produced it. Hood directed the film, and after that project The Kids of Degrassi Street series was born.
The Playing With Time Offices were born in 1977, in a two bedroom apartment in Toronto’s East End district called “Leslieville”. In 1978, the concept for more “Kids” episodes was accepted by CBC, and partially funded by them and Magic Lantern. In 1979, CBC agreed to give partial funding to make a mini-series of 6 episodes continuing from Ida Makes a Movie. The mini-series was to be called “The Kids of Degrassi Street”. CBC could not fund the show totally (it cost $70,000 to make one episode), but Playing With Time was able to get additional funding from private investors. By the end of 1979, Playing With Time established a storefront and the couple lived above the store on Queen’s street, in the same neighbourhood where they were originally located. By 1985, Playing With Time were able to afford 6 episodes per year, and by 1986, they had produced 26 episodes of Kids of Degrassi Street.
They got a small group of 52 young actors who had little or no acting experience and started filming around the area where their company was located. The neighbourhood where De Grassi street is located is called Queen-Broadview Village and The Playing With Time Offices were located in the neighbourhood of Leslieville, in the east end of Toronto.
They filmed around the streets of Degrassi and in a school building one block away from Degrassi. This was the building where the show was mainly filmed, as well as in the homes of the residents who lived on the street.
As the kids got older, more kids were hired to play their younger siblings in the show. When the group entered grade 6, it was assumed that the series was going to be finished, because the older group were not filmed as much, like Noel, and Sophie. The show continued the next year as many of the actors started to work on a sequel-like series by the name of Degrassi Junior High.
In 1987, Degrassi Junior High was born out of many of the characters from the Kids of Degrassi Street. The show was not a sequel, but merely related by its geographic location. The company hired a larger cast, and seven of the original cast members remained on the next series. As Degrassi Junior High was not a sequel to Kids of Degrassi Street, there were many familiar faces, but their characters names were different. Degrassi Junior High delivered an average of 15 episodes per season for three seasons. The first season of episodes cost Playing With Time $2.6 million dollars (Chatelaine, June 1988: 134)
When Degrassi Junior High first had its auditions, there were 300 young actors and non- actors who applied. Fifty were selected to join the cast, as well as some people who were in the previous series. They still had to audition, but they were experienced as they worked on a kids show before.
Degrassi Junior high started its filming in the summer of 1986. The setting of the show is filmed in Etobicoke, Ontario, and in East End Toronto. Most of the show was taped in Etobicoke, where the school building actually was located. Part of the filming was taken in an area of Toronto called “Queen-Broadview Village”. The actual Degrassi street was in the neighbourhood, and the series tried to pretend that both the school and street were closeby, when in reality, they were not. The school building which housed Degrassi Junior High is Vincent Massey Junior School at 68 Daisy Street, in the Mimico District of Etobicoke, Ontario.
After three seasons of Degrassi Junior High, the decision to have them go onto high school was obvious. Playing With Time decided to expand their cast, and find a larger building to portray Degrassi High School. They found an empty building that was under renovation, that was part of the Centennial College campus in Scarborough, a district in Toronto.
Degrassi High was on CBC for two years until the spring of 1991. The show officially ended in the spring, and in the fall, the Degrassi made for-tv film, called School’s Out was produced. The 90-minute drama summed up the whole series. After the film, there was a six part documentary series called Degrassi Talks. It hosted 6 of the Degrassi actors, and it dealt with a different adolescent issue each week. Each episode was 30 minutes in length and the actors traveled across Canada interviewing adolescents about such issues as depression, drugs, alcohol, sex, sexuality, and abuse. The documentary mini-series was funded by Heath and Welfare Canada and by other private companies.
Linda Schuyler has since separated from partner Kit Hood, and has started her own production company called Epitome Pictures. She has produced another CBC production that was loosely a continuation of Degrassi, called Liberty Street. This drama was about people in their twenties, living in the same apartment complex. It is also very similar to Spelling’s spinoff of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place. Schuyler and her husband/lawyer Stephen Stohn just ended their three year venture into the world of Riverdale, the first english language soap opera on CBC. The series has been cancelled as CBC did not renew the contract. As mentioned on the Epitome Pictures Web site, Schuyler and Stohn are venturing into new developments regarding a new teenage television show for next year. Linda Schuyler was a founding member of the Association for Media Literacy and is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Film and Television Producers’ Association. In 1994, she was honoured for her work with the Order of Canada. (http://www.riverdale.ca :March 1998)