Little Mosque on the Prairie actor Zaib Shaikh has been named Toronto’s new film commissioner.
The Toronto native will be tasked with serving as an ambassador for the city’s film business, with the goal towards doubling the $1-billion already generated each year by the industry.
“My goal is to make Toronto as a global media playground because we are the most diverse city, I believe, in the world,” Mr. Shaikh said after the announcement was made at City Hall Thursday afternoon.
“It’s already happening in Toronto. What the city has to do and what the industry has to be able to see, is that the city is ready to converse with everyone. So my goal is to open up the city to the conversation – the accessibility, the connectivity– to all stakeholders.”
Mr. Shaikh, who starred in Deepa Mehta’s 2012 film Midnight’s Children, has also produced and directed films for television, and has an MFA in directing from the University of British Columbia.
The announcement Thursday included a brief musical interlude by Mr. Shaikh’s friend, rapper Maestro Fresh Wes. The rapper performed two songs in the City Hall rotunda, including his 1980s hit Let your Backbone Slide – prompting several councillors to break out into spontaneous dancing.
Mr. Shaikh said that, given that the commissioner job is a full-time one, he will not be seeking acting or other film-industry jobs in the meantime.
Mike Williams, the city’s general manager for economic development and culture, said that Toronto did not deliberately seek out someone with a high profile for the job, but that they were “intrigued” when he applied.
“I think the office was strong, but it will re-energize our ability to sell ourselves,” he said. “I truly want to double the size of the industry, and he will help sell it.”
Mr. Shaikh takes over the role – which was vacated after the retirement of previous film commissioner Peter Finestone – in mid-June.