Drones, aka Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), are an increasingly integral part of film. Filmmakers are exploring the possibilities of this new, game changing technology and shooting scenes in ways never done before.
As film gear has gotten lighter, more compact, and more sophisticated, filming with drones has become, not only feasible, but often the right tool for the job. More than that, the tech has become more accessible to filmmakers of all levels, breeding new perspectives and dynamism from diverse sources.
This is a huge deal for the indie film community, where money and resources are often tight. Even our own InFocus Film School students have used drones in their student films!
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From creating fantastical landscapes to trapping a boy in a boat with a tiger (Life of Pi), Visual Effects (VFX) have expanded the possibilities in film and television and made it cheaper to fulfill them. But visual effects are more ubiquitous than you think. For every alien planet or flashy explosion, there are many “invisible effects” you don’t spot. Consider the beachside mansions in Wolf of Wall Street or any car in a car commercial—all of these are the work of VFX artists.
With the pervasive integration of VFX in both the entertainment and advertising industries, it’s not surprising that the demand for VFX artists is only growing. Vancouver is a major VFX hub in North America, and you can quickly begin working in the local industry with InFocus Film School’s new 3-month Compositing Program and 10-month Visual Effects (VFX) Diploma Program.
According to curriculum developer and instructor Amir Jahanlou, these courses were developed after seeing a demand in the local industry. Vancouver is home to many of the major VFX companies, and the 3-month Compositing program was specifically designed as a fast track into the industry. “The Compositing Program is for someone who wants to find a job right away,” said Jahanlou.
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Though we’re no longer building Colosseums to watch people die gruesomely, violence is still a fan favourite on the big screen. But just because the fights aren’t real doesn’t mean filming them isn’t dangerous. Having violence and weapons on set means you must follow strict rules and guidelines to ensure everyone walks away intact.
Note: Much of this advice is from a Vancouver perspective. However, these are still solid guidelines for anywhere.
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So you’ve graduated film school and the future is exciting but intimidating. You’re not sure where to start. What’s next? What’s the job market like? How do you find work in the film industry?
Optimizing Your Resume & Portfolio
Before you start sending out your resume and demo reel, consider tailoring your portfolio to reflect a specialization. Ideally, you’ll have gravitated towards a certain field during your time in school. By tailoring your portfolio, you’ll be cutting out irrelevancies and emphasizing your expertise in your chosen specialization.
The Job Market
British Columbia is one of the top places to be for anyone looking to work in the film industry.
The Vancouver Economic Commission estimates over 40,000 people work in film, full and part-time, in BC. Known as Hollywood North, BC is the third largest production centre in North America, with a constant flow of work from American studios and networks due to tax credits and the favourable Canadian dollar.
Where to Look
If BC is a film production haven, where do you find work? Some production jobs are listed, but many aren’t. Here are some places to look:
There are many Facebook pages dedicated to hiring independent filmmakers. Filmmakers will create their own community for hiring purposes.
Introverts, strap on your social face! Filmmakers network intensely. Take a look at Women in Film and Television in Vancouver, DOC BC, Celluloid Social Club, Cold Reading Club, etc. Projects often arise from like minds finding a mutual passion. These jobs may never be advertised.
Check out the Gigs and Production Jobs sections on Craigslist. These jobs are well paid, but beware of listings that ask if you are “adventurous”—it might be the porn industry!
One search on job boards like Indeed.com will bring up many listings for compositors and other VFX positions.
The Union Department
The Union department is the pool of eligible labour that big feature films and TV series will pull from. The unions control access to these jobs to ensure large producers have trained and qualified crew members. Once a student has met the union criteria, they’re often placed in a “hiring hall system.” This is why you don’t see these jobs advertised.
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Is there a good reason to invest time and money into film school or can it all be learned on the job?
On-set learning is better suited for those who are happy to stay in one department with one specific skill set. Those who desire to move up in the industry and have greater control over the creative process should be equipped with a wide, practical understanding of the entire production process. Having gone through the full production process already, film school graduates are well-rounded filmmakers who will already have the skills needed when promoted.
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At the mercy of the world economy and great forces of nature, Julia Ivanova’s latest NFB documentary was a story that just wouldn’t stop unfolding. While no filmmaker can be entirely sure where they will end up when they begin the process of making a documentary, Ivanova’s Limit is the Sky (2016) was pulled from the editing stage back into production, three times.
This non-traditional environmental film follows how the rise and demise of Fort McMurray has affected some of the younger residents. “It’s a portrait of Fort McMurray, and of Canadian millennials searching for money, identity and success in the heart of the Alberta oil sands,” Ivanova said. She said her focus was not on the shifting political landscape, but instead on the stories of the people that it affected. What Ivanova didn’t anticipate was that it would take four years to complete the film, as new events and tragedies important to the story occurred in the process of editing.
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If you love filmmaking, overdosing on popcorn, and waiting in line ups, then you’ve probably seen a film at a film festival before. Festivals have a certain exciting frequency to them as audience members, celebrities and filmmakers all enjoy the same viewing screen. But for a new filmmaker, festivals can be daunting new territory.
InFocus alumni Sarah Race’s student film, Barbarian Press (2016), has been screened at a dozen festivals around North America. Race felt clueless when she entered the festival world—but even though she spent more money on festivals than on the cost of her film, it was all worth it. “To me, it was all about the experience, about all the amazing people I met, how awesome people were, and all the learning curves,” said Race.
Race was encouraged to submit Barbarian Press (2016) by her InFocus instructors, and her film won official selection at Hot Docs in 2016. The decision to take the festival route has been very beneficial for her networking but has limited the potential audience for her film, as opposed to if she had posted her films on an online platform like Youtube. “Film festivals only have a very small audience of a specific sort of people that go to film festivals,” she said.
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No matter how much care a screenwriter may put into their script, it only takes one rogue actor with a penchant to ad-lib to completely derail their meticulously written dialogue. There are a number of infamous scenes that have come from this process.
Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes is in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), when a swordsman, theatrically brandishing a sword, confronts a weary Harrison Ford, who had been recovering from a bout of dysentery on set. With the expectation that an elaborate fight would follow, audiences were surprised and delighted when Ford simply pulled out his gun and blasted his foe away. This improvised moment resonated with fans because it felt fresh and unpredictable in an otherwise polished film.
But what would an entirely improvised film look like?
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International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, cultural, and economic achievements of women around the world, and an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on some of the most badass women in film, both in history and today.
The role of women in the film industry has changed dramatically since the early days of Hollywood, when most women on set were on-screen bombshells or at least deemed marketable by the big studios. While film is statistically still a male-dominated industry, more and more women are moving into key creative positions and making highly acclaimed and celebrated films in both the independent and studio world.
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Margaret Atwood eloquently captured the struggle of many emerging writers when she said: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Although it’s much more romantic to imagine screenwriting as a god given talent rather than an acquired skill, the truth is that the key to becoming a skilled screenwriter is to take risks, make mistakes, and practice, practice, practice.
The hardest part of improving your screenwriting skills is mustering up willpower to dedicate some time each day to work on it. The easiest part is finding screenwriting prompts online. There is a wealth of free and easily accessible exercises that will help cut through even the most stubborn writer’s block.
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InFocus Film School is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.