B-roll—video footage intended to fill out things like news pieces or documentaries—is by itself rarely interesting. But when the City of Toronto prepares ten minutes of it for the use of broadcast outlets covering the G20 summit…it’s still not very interesting. And that’s, at least, a little bit interesting.
After a boilerplate opening (“The G20 in Toronto will bring world leaders and international media to one of the most diverse cities in the world that stands proud as…” etc.), the City’s press release accompanying the video, sent out on Wednesday afternoon, hops to the point—the b-roll is “To help media cover the G20 Summit”; especially if you’re paying attention to how international media covers the summit, this may not be the first time you see it. The b-roll “has footage of the Toronto skyline, waterfront and world renowned CN Tower, the downtown business core and financial district, Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, and aerial views of the city.” It “is a selection from existing Tourism Toronto footage and is representative of Toronto’s diversity, culture and place in the world as a global financial centre.”
It is, then, a capsule of how the City is aiming to represent itself to the world: very, very safely. B-roll isn’t usually expected to be anything but filler, though there are some signs of life here (a wedding party outside City Hall, cops mingling with the crowd at Pride) amidst the more sterile, tourist bits (like half a minute of Niagara Falls footage). If you wanted to show off Toronto to a world totally unfamiliar with it, you could do worse than the ambient noise–scored clips in this waltz through the city’s most famous things. If you wanted the world to know or understand Toronto, though—well, the G20 won’t allow for much of that anyway.