InFocus Film School Blog

 

Since its launch in 2009, InFocus Film School (formerly Pull Focus Film School) has produced prolific independent filmmakers who have moved into meaningful careers in film both locally and globally. Located in the heart of historic Gastown in a red brick hundred-year old building, InFocus Film School students are next to join a lineage of independent filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Orson Welles – Hollywood successful, yet independent.

Graduate Fiona Rayher for instance, went on to write and direct Fractured Land, a $500,000.00 documentary feature that created a broadcast bidding war during a Hot Docs Pitch Forum. Founder Steve Rosenberg wants to keep this momentum going. With a recent expansion, new program streams in development, and a brand new website, the school is set to become Western Canada’s premier hub for film and visual media excellence.

Rosenberg was encouraged to open the school by his own experience as a young director at the Canadian Film Centre, founded by iconic film maker Norman Jewison. The prestigious school accepts a limited number of students per intake, and Rosenberg was one of only five students to be mentored that year.

“What an amazing experience there. It was so great to be around people of that magnitude,” says Rosenberg. The Sundance Institute in Utah is another source of inspiration. InFocus also strives to nourish the artistic side of filmmaking, while launching students’ careers in the film industry.

InFocus Film School students learn to write, edit and produce their own films, and are ready to work in any role on set in the plethora of big budget movies being made in Hollywood North.

Students who come to InFocus Film School are looking for something different, and that is exactly what InFocus is striving for: to maintain its dedication to independent film and provide excellence in education.

“Nothing builds skills like going from theoretical to practical. Many of our teachers are working in the film business – the most rewarding thing for them is to take that knowledge and pass it on to students and support them to make a movie come to life,” says Rosenberg.

Offering an internship program with their media and industry partners, InFocus Film School instructors are committed to helping grads with their future goals, whether that is making their own feature film or getting their foot in the industry door.

“Many schools run as profit centers, a factory assembled model. But ours is a red brick building where graduates are job ready with four or five films already under their belt,” says Rosenberg.

The school straddles both worlds of artistic vision and hands-on skill building such as screenwriting, editing, and of course, operating a camera.

The next intake of the Foundation Film Program begins May 3, 2016. Email info@infocusfilmschool.com to learn more.

“When I was about ten or eleven I started fooling around with my dad’s camcorder, making a lot of videos and if there was a programme I could have done after I finished school I would have done it.”

Rider Laskin’s love and interest in film started at a young age in Langley, but it wasn’t until studying History in college that his interest become a solid possibility. “I took some film courses in college and I’ve always watched a lot of movies. And I’ve always been interested in making movies and so when I [graduated] I started looking around for different programmes and [InFocus] fit my criteria.” Rider’s passion and desire to become a filmmaker is evident – he always knew filmmaking was his calling, and is eager to learn about every aspect of the filmmaking process.

So what is the biggest challenge he’s faced while studying the dream he always wanted to pursue? “I knew it was difficult to make a movie but being here and thinking about movies all day and speaking with the professionals, has reinforced the idea of how difficult it is. It’s such an expensive art form and requires so many resources…it’s daunting.”

If he feels daunted or intimidated about the entire process of filmmaking, it has not stymied his creativity. Rider’s favourite project that he’s worked on so far is “Waiting Room,” a short film he wrote and directed himself: “the experience of making that movie, and [dealing with] all the stress that came with it was invaluable. InFocus has given me a practical skill set which I can use to put my creative energy into; it was very cool to take something that was an inkling of an idea, and eventually turn it into a finished product.”

Check out Rider’s bio project below:

 

 

“Film is what brought me to Vancouver and then I got distracted by many other things in life that eventually brought me back to film again – so its like a big circle!”

Renee’s “many other things” include traveling in Australia where she discovered scuba diving and a love for the ocean. A self-described mermaid, when Renee returned to Vancouver after traveling in Australia, she managed a dive shop on Granville Island for two years.

Her primary goal coming to InFocus was to create documentary films that inform people of the danger and consequences of mistreating the ocean and the environment. But through her studies with InFocus, her methods have evolved.

As Renee puts it, writing her short film PlastyQuaderBottle “really opened my eyes…I could do something with the message of environmentalism, that I’d like to convey in documentaries, [by] writing it into a fictional story…I never even considered that I could do fiction or drama while still conveying the meaningful messages I wanted to.”

Renee’s enthusiasm for film hasn’t diminished since her arrival to study in Vancouver. But now her filmmaking has a purpose and a message that must be shared – and InFocus is giving her the skills to do that. “I feel now, with the tools I’ve learned [at InFocus], I can make documentaries that carry a message that is important to me…while at the same time, I can apply the creative techniques I’ve also learned, using lighting and camera movement, to meld typical documentary methods with something beautiful and cinematic.”

Check out Renee’s bio project below:

 

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.

Let’s say you’ve just graduated film school. You’ve managed to convince investors (AKA your parents) to give you $5000 to start your career. What equipment should you buy for your film kit?

Camera

There is really no right answer in this category, it all depends on what you’ll be shooting and your personal preference. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a camera unless you’re sure it will pay for itself. While REDs and other high-end cameras may be alluring, going the DSLR route is definitely a much better choice for beginners.

Good Choices:
  • Panasonic AF100A: $2000
  • Panasonic GH4: $1700
  • Canon 7Dii: $1500
  • Canon 70D: $1000
  • Olympus E-M5 II: $1000

Lenses

If you know what to look for and are comfortable going second hand, this is the area to do it, but don’t cheap out! Your glass is honestly more important than the camera behind it. The focal lengths you choose will depend on the sensor size of your camera, but I would recommend getting a couple good zooms and 24mm and 50mm equivalent primes.

Tripod

A good set of sticks with a fluid head is another essential for any filmmaker. Manfrotto is the standard but can get quite pricey so shop around. Pay attention to the load capacity and make sure you’re not going to exceed it. The Manfrotto 190X3 is great if you have a DSLR, but put a video camera on it and you’ll quickly pass the 8 lb. limit. Expect to pay $300-$500 for a decent set of legs. I also keep a cheap photo tripod for use in sand, mud and other environments that might be damaging.

Audio Equipment

You’ll need at least a shotgun mic for shooting with a DSLR, but a couple of lavalieres are a good investment as well. If you’ll be doing dramatic shooting you’ll probably need wireless lavs, but for interviews I love my Sony ECM-77s. The good thing with mics is that if you treat them right, they’ll last forever, so don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money here. Don’t forget to budget for a recorder and some cables as well.

Accessories

Lighting, shoulder rigs, extra batteries, data storage… you could easily spend your entire budget again on accessories and specialized equipment. Ask yourself what you’ll be shooting the most and prioritizemy_collections-0012-WEB your shopping list based on that. Will you be doing a lot of corporate work? Then you’ll probably want a good lighting kit. Dramatic projects? Maybe you can get away with homemade lighting and some C-stands and a field monitor are a better choice. Get what you need before getting what you want.

Dylan’s Kit:

Here’s what I would buy. As most of my experience is with Canon, that’s what I’m sticking with. I do more doc projects than drama, so I kept that in mind, and built a kit that works for corporate jobs as well.

Keep in mind there are always rebates and other deals that you can find. With those I might be able to knock another couple hundred off my final price.

Camera and Lenses
  • Canon 7Dii w/ kit lens: $1800
  • Canon 18-135 3.5-5.6: Included
  • Canon 24-70 2.8 (Used): $1000
  • Canon 50 1.8 (Used): $80
  • Canon 28 1.8 (Used): $350
Tripod
  • Manfrotto 190X3: $300
Audio
  • Røde NTG2 Shotgun Kit: $250
  •  Shock Mount: Included
  •  1.5’ XLR: Included
  • Sony ECM-77 Lav: $280
  • Zoom H4N: $200
  • 20’ XLR: $15
Extras
  • Lowel Pro-Visions Light Kit: $450
  • Extra LP-E6 Battery: $35
  • 32GB SD Card (x2): $60
  • Pelican 1510 Hard Case: $165

Total cost: $4985

Go shoot some films and make your parents investors proud!

Filmmaking can be expensive. So how does a filmmaker straight out of school afford all the fancy gear that they’ve been taught to use? One option for handy filmmakers is to make it themselves. There are plenty of DIY projects out there on the web, here are a few that we’ve highlighted, either because they’re super easy, ridiculously cheap, or amazingly handy.

The Itsy Bitsy Slider

A few tools, a camera plate, and a free sample kit from Igus are all you need to make this mini slider. Great for small, subtle movements, it proves size isn’t always everything. Plus, if you have a spare camera plate it’s completely free! Get the Igus “Mini Sample Kit” here.

The RotoRig

Not the easiest build, but at under $50 this jib/shoulder rig is definitely worth the effort. Be sure to check out the description in the Youtube video to get the full list of supplies.

The KrotoCrane

$50 too much for you? How about $20? This Jib made by Chad Bredahl of Krotoflik, the same mind behind the RotoRig, is a stupid cheap, super effective crane.

The Dual Shoulder Mount

If you’re like me, you’ll find most shoulder rigs to be ridiculously overpriced. Clocking in at only $25, that can’t be said for this handy tool from Film Riot.

While the director may be the big fish on set, to be an assistant director you need to be a shark.

Assistant-Director2A film set models its hierarchy after the military, and as the highest “below the line” role, the 1st AD is like the commander. Starting in pre-production they break down the script and plan and schedule the shoot.

Once the film goes to picture, the AD runs the set. Acting as a communications hub they ensure the shoot remains organised, safe, and on time. Responsible for the smooth execution of the production, being an AD is easily one of the most stressful jobs on set, but if you can handle it, it can be extremely rewarding.

Interested in the role? Here are six tips for succeeding as an AD:

  1. Don’t slack off in pre-production. Prep is the most vital aspect of having your shoot run smoothly. Did you plan enough time for lunch? If you have a company move, did you account for traffic? Be prepared to spend as much time planning the schedule as you will spend on set.
  2. Communicate. Speak loudly and clearly and listen closely to what others are telling you. Be sure everyone knows what is happening, ask questions if there is uncertainty, and don’t be scared to be the bad guy if someone isn’t doing their job.
  3. Be organized and well prepared. Always think several steps ahead. Have extra copies of the script, call sheets, and any other important documents available.
  4. Be confident but not cocky. Be firm with your orders and confident in your decisions, but always listen to advice and criticism. Arrogance is the fastest way to get your crew to lose respect for you.
  5. Respect your crew. Don’t talk down to anyone, put a stop to any gossip, and most important, don’t micro-manage. Your crew members are (hopefully) professionals hired to do a job. Let them do it.
  6. Have a sense of humour. Film sets are stressful environments and it’s your job to keep the crew from getting overwhelmed. Humour is a great tool to lift spirits and keep the set productive.

Thanks to InFocus’ assistant directing instructor Rosalee Yagihara for her help with this article. 

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Compositing techniques have been around since the beginning of the film era. Starting in 1898 with Georges Méliès’ matte photography, image compositing processes were a technically challenging aspect of filmmaking for nearly a century. Thanks to the rise of digital post production however, today blue or green screen compositing is a very easy and effective way to put actors in situations that would be too difficult, expensive or dangerous to do otherwise. Nearly every Hollywood feature now uses the technique, and whether you love or hate the rise of digital special effects, it is here to stay.

Even beginning filmmakers can take advantage of green screens with almost any mid-range editing software. Check out the video below for 10 tips on how to improve your green screen shoot.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was partly filmed in Vancouver

 

Super, Natural British Columbia. As a filming destination, we could easily lose the comma in our provincial slogan. As the unofficial ‘Hollywood North’, Vancouver draws in a huge number of sci-fi and fantasy productions, and has hosted everything from major blockbusters and prolific television series, to cult classics with rabid fanbases.

There are several major productions slated to shoot here in the upcoming year, including Star Trek 3, Tron 3 and the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Deadpool.

Here are five reasons why Vancouver is the absolute perfect location to shoot sci-fi and fantasy:

 

 

1. ONE STOP VFX SHOPPING 

 

An increasing number of productions that shoot here are opting to work with local VFX production houses to fulfill all their lens-flared-space-battle needs. Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic even opened up a permanent 30,000-square foot studio downtown last spring.

 

Here are some of the notable studios, and the locally shot productions they worked on. Keep in mind some of their credits overlap as production companies spread bigger design jobs to multiple companies.

 

Artifex Studios has provided visual effects for several series that were shot here, including Continuum (Showcase), Almost Human (Fox) and Red Riding Hood (Warner Bros).

 

Zoic Studios is the production house responsible for developing the special effects for Battlestar Galactica (Syfy) as well as Arrow (The CW) and Once Upon A Time (ABC).

 

The Embassy Visual Effects received an Academy Award nomination on their work on District 9 (Tristar Pictures) and have continued to work with director Neill Blomkamp as he moved his productions to Vancouver, and developed the visual effects of the weapons in Elysium (TriStar Pictures).

 

Image Engine has an incredible reel of past feature work, including acting as the main VFX team behind Elysium (TriStar Pictures), Watchmen (Warner Bros) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (20th Century Fox).

 

 

2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION 

 

Vancouver is widely known for its rain soaked old-growth forests, but it’s just as easy to find rocky beaches, snowy mountains and, if you drive out a little further to the east, sandy deserts. The incredible visual diversity of our city is one reason that crews have been flocking here to film projects, ever since The X-Files proved that it could double for pretty much any location in the United States.

 

The range of climate zones in British Columbia is so extensive that it has been an indispensable resource to television shows that need to cheat locations from around the world, or for any production company that doesn’t have the budget to shoot in several different countries.

 

 

3. CITY OF GLASS 

 

Vancouver is one of the youngest cities in North America, and the futuristic architecture rising out of our downtown core is positively built for a sci-fi setting. It isn’t difficult to imagine a prospective director standing on a corner in Coal Harbour and feverishly quoting JJ Abram’s Super 8: “Production value!”

 

It doesn’t hurt that only a few blocks away the cobblestoned streets of Gastown can easily be transformed into a charming heritage scene, or the deserted remnants of a post-apocalyptic future (and it has!).

 

 

4. MILD CLIMATE 

 

For year round shooting, Vancouver can’t be beat. Warm summers, mild winters – and if you’re shooting a sci-fi or fantasy project the constant rain will just add to the mood of your production.

 

 

5. TRIED AND TRUE

 

Vancouver has been home to dozens of fantastic projects, and continues to be the ideal shooting location for creative and ambitious production teams.

 

Here are just a few of the television series and films that have used Vancouver as a location:

 

FILMS:

Tron: Legacy, The Cabin in the Woods, I, Robot, Fantastic Four, Watchmen, The NeverEnding Story, The Twilight Saga, Rise of Planet of the Apes, X Men: The Last Stand, Elysium, Man of Steel, Godzilla

 

TV SERIES:

Supernatural, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Once Upon A Time, Arrow, Eureka, Smallville, The Vampire Diaries, Continuum, The Stargate Series, Dark Angel, Caprica, Taken, Dead Like Me, Highlander, The Flash, The Outer Limits, The 100.

Vancouver is a premier location for shooting film and TV. But what artistic edge does it have over other major cities? Here are 5 factors that differentiate shooting in Vancouver.

1. Vancouver’s higher latitude means extended daytime shooting hours during summer–­ a huge boon for productions shooting on a tight timeline. During peak filming season, Vancouver gets up to 16 hours of daylight, two hours more than Los Angeles, yet avoids the southern California heat during summer.

2. With softer light, ideal lighting ratios and a warmer colour, the “golden” or “magic” hour after sunrise and before sunset is often the best time to shoot. In any given season, the sun in Vancouver remains lower on the horizon than in most US cities, giving Vancouver a magic hour that is actually way longer than one hour, and often spectacular for more than two.

3. Vancouver often has a thick cloud cover that diffuses light. Harsh sunlight pouring above your subjects is complicated to control and a sky sprinkled with clouds is a nightmare due to constantly changing light. Cloudy grey skies make for constant lighting conditions and a much easier shoot.

4. Although Vancouverites love to complain about it, rain isn’t always a bad thing. Our mild winters and lack of snow allow for a nearly year-round shooting window. Although uncomfortable to hold a shoot in the rain, it often doesn’t read on camera and can easily look moody, arty, and unlike anything that LA can offer.

5. Compared to popular American film locations, Vancouver’s air pollution is low. Cleaner air means a larger spectrum of unfiltered sunlight. In places with heavy pollution, sunlight may come pre­filtered and muted, negating much of its artistic usefulness. The lack of pollution during sunrise or sunset provides a gorgeous broad spectrum in Vancouver­ and exquisite backdrops.

Written by Freddie Kim