It’s a beautiful, crisp autumn day in Vancouver and at InFocus Film School our Foundation Film Program, a six month filmmaking intensive, is now in session.

In honour of our class of new students who have travelled to the Pacific Northwest from all around the world, here are five tips on how to become a better filmmaker, and unleash your inner cinematic genius:

1) Recognize the Importance of Play

As children, we could dip our hands into a carton of paint and smear it on a canvas without much thought to what our soon-to-be-masterpiece would become. The worry of whether or not our work was any good is something that came much later in life, and it can be detrimental to the creative process.

If you find yourself stuck on a particular idea, or in a never ending struggle with perfectionism, take a moment to consider how you might approach your work if you were eight years old. Trust your impulses, put a pin in ideas, move past them when you get stuck, and do your best to practice openness.

2) Make Weekend Movies

It can be tempting to wait until conditions are perfect to start making films– when you have a generous budget, top-of-the-line cinematography equipment and seasoned actors. The truth is, is that money and technology are never a good substitute for talent and experience.

Grab your cellphone, a DSLR or even that old camcorder that is buried in your garage and start making movies. Enlist some friends to help out, operating the camera, dressing a location or standing in as actors. Remember that these films don’t have to be exceptional, but they should contain something in them that you feel represents your point of view, or your sense of humour.

3) Watch Bad Films

It may seem counterintuitive to include b-movies in your film studies, but they’re not only very entertaining – they can also teach you a lot about film production and story structure.

From cliched dialogue to overdone movie tropes, these films can act as a visual textbook on what not to do in your own cinematic endeavours. Use these as a guide to the mistakes many filmmakers make, and you’ll become better at identifying these issues in your own work.

4) Don’t Take it Personally

Here’s the truth  behind creativity — as you’re working towards mastering your craft, you’re going to have to work through a whole mess of mediocrity. The films you make in the beginning of your career aren’t always going to look how you want them to — in some cases you’re going to feel the impulse to trash an entire project after the final cut.

In order to become a better filmmaker you’re going to have to keep practicing, filming, writing and putting your work out there. Don’t look at your limitations as if they are a direct reflection of your worth as a person. Take pride in your dedication to improve as a creative talent.

5) Repeat

The most important thing you can do to continually nurture your creativity and skill is to keep making things. Write alone, or write with a partner. Recruit friends to meet up once a week and spend the afternoon filming. Edit that footage on your computer. Find other people who are making their own films, and help them with their productions.

Creativity is a muscle. To strengthen it, you must work on it daily. In order to become a masterful filmmaker you will need the ambition to succeed, the practice to refine your skill and the dedication to push yourself towards greatness.

Nearly fifty years ago George Romero changed the landscape of the indie horror films forever with his debut feature Night of the Living Dead. This tradition has continued as emerging directors have used horror to launch their careers, consistently breathing new life into the genre—from Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1980) to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

This generation introduces a new wave of indie horror films that play with cultural influences, horror clichés and self-awareness within their work. Here are ten indie horror films that are redefining fear.

The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Budget: $2 million
Summary: The Babadook is about a troubled young boy and his mother, who find themselves tormented by a nightmarish creature that appears in their home via a mysterious pop-up children’s book. Following the film’s release, William Friedkin, the legendary director of The Exorcist, announced: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film.”

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Director: Eli Craig
Writer: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson

Budget: $2 million

Summary: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is an incredibly entertaining twist of perspective, following two hapless rednecks that are mistaken for backwoods killers by a group of preppy college kids. This film is a romp in ‘meta-horror’ territory, slashing its way through tropes and emerging covered in blood and gore and a whole lot of heart.

Creep (2014)

Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Budget: Unknown

Summary: Creep is unlike anything you’ve seen before: a mumblecore found footage endeavour that treads the water between comedy and psychological horror. Director/writer Patrick Brice plays a naive videographer who answers a cryptic online ad, and begins documenting the charming and increasingly unhinged Mark Duplass, who produced and co-wrote the film. This film truly a testament to what two people can do with talent, a camera and a rubber wolf mask.

The Orphanage (2007)

Director: J.A. Bayona
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Budget: $4 million

Summary: If you prefer your horror films to come with a pedigree, rest assured that The Orphanage not only opened at the Cannes Film Festival, but also received a ten-minute standing ovation from the audience. The film centers on a woman who moves her family into the orphanage that she grew up in, her hopes to reopen it abruptly halted when her son goes missing under mysterious circumstances.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall
Budget: $2 million

Summary: Before director Neil Marshall released his critically acclaimed feature The Decent (2005), he first tested the waters of horror with Dog Soldiers, a film that wholeheartedly celebrates the low-budget comedy-horror genre. In the Scottish Highlands a group of soldiers is forced to barricade themselves in a farmhouse and fight off a wave of bloodthirsty werewolves.

Resolution (2012)

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson
Budget: Unknown

Summary: A disarmingly funny genre-twisting film that opens with a man’s aggressive attempt to help detox his meth-addicted best friend, and switches gear when a mysterious entity begins targeting them. Exploring a barrage of classic horror-film clichés, Resolution is a breath of fresh air for those who feel they have thoroughly OD’d on the genre.

Lake Mungo (2008)
Director: Joel Anderson
Writer: Joel Anderson
Budget: $1 million

Summary: Presented as a faux-documentary about the death and secretive live of a sixteen year old girl, Lake Mungo feels like something you might stumble across while watching late night television, blurring the line between reality and nightmare. This is a gem of a horror film that blends the complexity of grief, memory and the afterlife.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Budget: $1 million
Summary: The critically acclaimed A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a stylish cross-cultural black-and-white feast for the eyes that can be summed up by its tagline, ‘The first Iranian Vampire Western’. The result is a film that was clearly made with excitement, passion and a true love of the cinema.

Honeymoon (2014)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak
Budget:   $1 Million USD
Summary: A newlywed couple finds their brief marital bliss shattered when the bride begins sleepwalking and acting increasingly erratic. This film plays on the very relatable anxiety that goes along with intimacy and commitment, taking it to a chilling extreme.

The Loved Ones (2009)
Director: Sean Byrne
Writer: Sean Byrne
Budget:   $4 million
Summary: A future cult classic, The Loved Ones feels like an absolutely horrific mashup of Carrie (1976) and Misery (1990). When a socially awkward young woman is turned down for a date to the prom by the high school heartthrob, she and her father take things into their own hands to give her the night that she so desperately desires.

Tonight I left the movie theatre wishing the directing and writing credit had my name instead of the name Sanna Lenken. It’s one of a handful of narcissistic fantasies that every filmmaker experiences. It’s how I felt after seeing the early works of Todd Solendz. “My Skinny Sister,” is a Swedish drama about a pudgy neglected twelve year old girl who witnesses her older sister’s ongoing struggles with figure skating and anorexia.

A triangle emerges as red headed tween Stella, (Rebecka Josephson, granddaughter of Bergman regular Erland Josephson), falls for her sister Katja’s forty-something skating coach. The lengthy dialogue scenes have moments of magic as Stella is a resourceful liar who can lie beautifully in a pinch. Her genius lies directed to both her parents and the chiseled skating coach are the only laugh-out-loud moments in this sobering film.

Obviously talent is abundant for this young actor whose understated performance includes a variety of brooding stares and giggling meltdowns. She has the unenviable task of her viewing her sister’s skating demise while keeping silent for fear of betrayal. The scenes unravel slowly with minimal cuts and the close-up stares are Bergmanesque. Most appealing about this film are Lenken’s storytelling choices: the anorexia breakdown is less relevant than the story of a young sister trying to behave like an older wiser sister. In this textured portrait of sister envy, not everything is solved, but a certain raven haired adolescent ends up with an awkward life affirming kiss.