InFocus Film School Blog


A movie landscape once dominated by theatrical releases is now facing competition from an abundance of digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo and YouTube. Netflix and Vimeo have given independent filmmakers more variety when it comes to distribution and one doesn’t necessarily have to release in a theatre. However revenue from these deals still needs to improve for the people who make independent films.

UBC Film Studies Professor Brian McIlroy sees the changes as good for independent filmmakers, but with room for improvement.

“It is true that the emergence, for example, of Vimeo as a platform for independent filmmakers has eased access to an audience. I am old enough to remember the highlight of a student film was to get one of the few spots on CBC’s Reflections program hosted by Adrienne Clarkson. That filtering (and “high culture”) selection process has diminished and the number of film festivals has exploded. The issue now is how to get noticed with so much product online, including YouTube, and actually make some money. So, yes, there are greater distribution opportunities and access to an audience, but the financial model seems to me to be precarious and haphazard.”

However there are curatorial distributors such as IFC/Magnolia that can secure a feature placement in a theatre. Of course here in Canada we have the National Film Board and Telefilm. The NFB has created over 13,000 productions and is in partnership with the world’s leading video portals. The NFB is a great place to pitch an idea and access their programming for emerging filmmakers. The International Women in Film Festival recently screened the award winning short “Rock the Box,” written and directed by Katherine Monk and funded by the NFB.

Once a filmmaker gets their foot in the door they will have access to their festival and worldwide distribution market. Telefilm is another great publicly funded organization that funds and promotes local production companies across Canada and individual filmmakers. They have a wide variety of resources for filmmakers including entry times for festivals, and a feature film distribution fund that makes lines of credit available for Canadian distributors. In 2013 they launched a micro-budget production program that supports filmmakers who want to distribute their film as a web based production. Both Telefilm and NFB have had their budgets cut over the past ten years, but are still robust and important resources for up and coming filmmakers.

Marketing offline is still crucial to getting the attention of audiences and distributors. Films such as “Exit Through the Gift Shop” a film by the elusive street artist “Banksy” got people excited in the real world because of the mysterious appearance of “Banksy” art across major cities. This word-of mouth hype was extremely helpful for the film and the public was buzzing with curiosity.

Amazon and Netflix are putting a lot of energy and resources behind original content, and DIY film culture is penetrating the once inaccessible film studio and challenging the dominance of the Hollywood blockbuster. McIlroy sees the current situation as still in flux.

“Kickstarter fundraising is wonderful but how many projects actually are able to pay back small investors? One suspects that the gold standard will become getting a deal with Netflix to develop a series or an original film. Is this substantively different (apart from size and budget) from filmmakers and producers pitching work to a Hollywood studio?

Nonetheless, the student film is a calling card that can lead to more professional work, so there’s an argument that it might pay off to post one’s film on Vimeo and other platforms for free…assuming you have exhausted the festival circuit and have few creditors.”

Now is an exciting time for independent filmmakers and for audiences who have a thirst for good storytelling, thrilling cinematography and international diverse faces. The established ways of distribution are being transformed and there are challenges. However because of the plethora of platforms, festivals like Sundance and TIFF and with the ability to garner the attention of a sophisticated global audience, there are many new opportunities for independent filmmakers.

The Vancouver film industry had one of its most lucrative years in 2015 – the number of productions increased by 40 per cent from 2014, and it looks like this rate of growth is set to continue for the upcoming year. It doesn’t take an expert, however, to recognize that the low Canadian dollar has played a massive role in this recent upsurge. But is it simply due to the economy? Vancouver has a lot more going on than just a good exchange rate. Experienced crews, huge studios, an amazing visual effects scene, and the Netflix effect are just a few reasons why Vancouver is one of the hottest locales to shoot a project.

It’s no coincidence that right around 2014, the Vancouver film industry began to take off. That was when the US dollar started to soar and the loonie fell in comparison. Fast forward to today, when that gap is wider than any in recent memory, and you have a formula for one amazing summer for Vancouver film. In 2015, international film production budgets in British Columbia rose by a whopping 54 percent. That’s a grand total of 1.7 billion dollars. In addition, these productions resulted in 143 million dollars of wages being paid to approximately 20,000 Vancouverites who work as film crews in our city. You do the math. These people are making some serious money.


Deadpool, filmed in Vancouver in 2015

According to Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, “We see firsthand the enormous positive impact on film and TV productions on our city every day.  As one of Vancouver’s high-growth industries, film is a big contributor to our nation-leading economic growth. Vancouver is home to world-leading talent in the film industry and the City is committed to supporting all levels and aspects of production.” This is a key point when it comes to Vancouver’s film industry: it’s not just at an all-time high, it continues to grow. Right now we are the third busiest city in the world – and we may well rise to number two, or even one.

The Netflix effect is also one of the reasons behind the recent surge in productions. Big companies like Warner Brothers are tapping into the fact that people are turning away from “normal” television, and relying instead on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon for their entertainment needs. Huge companies such as Disney have seen their stocks fall like rocks, and experts say it’s because of the rise of streaming television. Their solution? Invest heavily in making better, higher budget television shows, and a lot of them. Warner Brothers alone is responsible for seven productions that are filming exclusively in Vancouver.

In light of these promising factors, there is a sense of optimism felt by many in the Vancouver film industry. What might the future bring? Over 350 productions were filmed in Vancouver in 2015, and that number is set to continue rising this year: 30 percent more film permits were issued this past January, than in January 2015. One thing is certain – if you’re looking to get your foot in the door in Vancouver’s film industry, there has never been a better time.



Sarah Race, Photographer and Filmmaker

Sarah Race is a photographer originally from a small-town in Oregon. She has been in Vancouver since 2004. Sarah completed the Documentary Film Program at InFocus Film School (formerly Pull Focus Film School) in 2015.

Her documentary Barbarian Press will have its world premiere at the Toronto Hoc Docs Festival 2016 on May 4, 5 and 8. Hot Docs is a renowned Canadian International Documentary Festival, held April 28-May 8 2016.

The film will also be screening at DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver on May 7 and 12.



About Barbarian Press, and Jan and Crispin Elsted

Jan and Crispin Elsted produce awe-inspiring books of beauty using techniques and traditions dating back to the 15th century and to Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg is credited with introducing the printing press and movable type to Europe, thrusting Europe into a literary revolution for the masses.

Told as legend by the Elsteds, Barbarian Press was founded on the morning of January 1, 1977 while in England. It began with a poem Crispin wrote and wanted to have printed. Print maker Graham Williams introduced them to the tools of the trade – Jan and Crispin have not looked back since, and have dedicated their lives to making objects of beauty.

We recently caught up with Sarah to find out about her experience making Barbarian Press.

Why did you decide to make this documentary?

I worked with Brian Howell and he told me about the Press, since he photographed them for GEIST.  In some ways I wanted to explore questions I personally had in regards to living an authentic life. This film is not making any judgements. The Elsteds offer a glimpse into another world.

Were the Elsteds receptive to you making a short documentary about them?

The agreement was that if I made an indiegogo campaign for them I could film them.

How long have the Elsteds created hand-made books?

Crispin and Jan Elsted moved to Mission, B.C. in the summer of 1978 and have been publishing books ever since. So for about 35 years. In 1988, Jan and Crispin converted the barn into a proper workshop with a press room for their growing collection of presses and a composing room. In 1996 they added a small hand-bindery where they offer workshops.

How did you gain their trust and access to their life as bookmakers?

They are lovely people. They let me into their lives by being there. I slept on the couch and some evenings we would talk and drink scotch. Spending time in their house and studio was like going to a candy shop. Everything in their studio is beautiful, it would be challenging to mess up making a documentary about them.

What was your approach when it came to depicting this couple’s life?

This film is not about judgement, and it’s not about one or the other. But choosing how you want to live an authentic life. Spending 80 percent of your day on a screen (iphone,computer), who can say whether that is good or bad. They live the life they want to live and there is a cost to it, but they are producing something that will last hundreds of years.

They could have had quite a more secure and comfortable life at UBC as professors. Instead they chose a life that is not so easy, physically or economically. Why did the Elsteds decide to pursue this ancient or old fashioned art form?

It’s not old fashioned for them. For them it has to be done by letterpress, and that can’t be recreated digitally. Their craft is about creating beauty, something physically beautiful. The words or what they decide to print is secondary to how it looks and feels.

How do they divide the work?

Jan is one of the world best printers and Crispin does the typesetting. They are now among the most senior and respected members of a very small group of people worldwide (the Fine Press Book Association’s website lists just 118 member presses).


Jan and Crispin Elsted

What surprised you about the Elsteds? What do people misunderstand about them?

People thought they were quirky people who live in the woods. That’s not the story. It’s the way they base their lives, to create beauty; if you live in a consumer world there is no reason to do it and it doesn’t make sense. But for them it is their joy and life’s work. They are married in life and work.

Was this a personal journey for you as well?

This story is about value systems and seeing and living in 3D instead of 2D like most of us do nowadays, working in front of a computer screen. That is not their value system. Their value system is based on bringing joy and creating a world for people to go into. It’s not how much money they can make, they are not operating in our value structure. They are operating very consciously.

I was questioning my own value system and why do I accept all these things. You get something different in letterpress form. What have we lost? To have information come so fast on a phone. Being with the Elsteds made me conscious that what I see is 2D. For most of the day many of us only use our one sense and we don’t use our sense of touch, smell etc…. They use all the senses when they are making books. The feel and smell of the ink, leather and paper. We live in a world where we use one. This was kind of a revelation for me. I was like “huh, I didn’t know I was doing that!” Seeing them work with their hands and every sense simultaneously had me think about the bigger questions in life, like how to live an authentic life?

What was your experience with InFocus Film?

I took the Documentary Film Making program last year. I am a photographer and I wanted to add to my skill-set. It was great program and I had an amazing mentor Julia Ivanova, an award-winning Vancouver documentary filmmaker. Without her this would have never happened, she went far beyond just being an instructor.

What was the most challenging aspect of making a short documentary?

There was a lot going on. Some things are similar with still photography, like putting people at ease, setting up a shot etc.. (and) I did everything myself, lighting, script writing, sound and editing. With the exception of Julia helping.

What was it like getting into the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto?

I am very happy and excited! Financially it’s tough though, especially entering film festivals it can get expensive with the fees and film formatting. Funding is always a problem for filmmakers and that can be restrictive. If my project was team driven it might have been easier, but I chose to do this on my own.

What did you learn about filmmaking during this process?

It’s like putting together a puzzle. I started making this movie because “these are interesting people” but you learn something about yourself through the relationship with the people you are documenting. With documentary filmmaking you have to be a good listener. I concentrated on the story as opposed to some filmmakers (who) focus on technical aspects. As a photographer when I see a bad image I throw it out. In filmmaking it’s not like that. The imperfections, it added to the story…mistakes can benefit the story.

Jan and Crispin Elsted are Barbarian Press. They have produced stationery and cards, and fine press work, including forty books. They’ve published classic authors—William Shakespeare, Edm­und Spenser, John Keats—and contemporary ones, such as Theresa Kishkan and Tim Bowling. The newest project by Barbarian Press is called: Bordering on the Sublime: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press. Find out more here

Despite the Hollywood franchise hold on worldwide audiences, and $100 million dollar plus budgets, low budget and independent films are making their mark and drawing bigger audiences and financial windfalls. The years 2014-2015 saw a boon of financial and festival success for low budget independent films and filmmakers mostly outside of Hollywood.

According to renowned New York Times film critic David Edelstein, “none of the great material came from Hollywood studios.” Studios are directing their financial resources into sequels and comic-book movies, which leaves little room for “creative expression, and for doing something weird and potentially boundary-moving.”

Due to audience demand, changes in distribution and access to online viewing, low budget movies are once again making headway into the mainstream market. Audiences are becoming more sophisticated and demanding quality stories and characters over CGI and big explosions.

Here are ten low budget movies (under $20 million) that did spectacularly at the box office and in the eyes of award givers and worldwide audiences.


“Ex Machina” (2015)

Director and Writer: Alex Garland

Budget: $15,000,000

Alex Garland makes his directorial debut with a film that is both visually stunning as well as cerebral. Following in the footsteps of Blade Runner, Ex-Machina has the audience questioning the nature of human consciousness and where Artificial Intelligence fits into our world. A coder at an internet-search giant wins a contest to spend a week in a mountain retreat belonging to a reclusive CEO of the company. He soon realizes he has been chosen to take part in a strange but enticing Artificial Intelligence experiment. Ava is a highly sophisticated AI and he must evaluate her consciousness through a series of tests. Ava is beautiful – and her emotional intelligence, and deceptiveness proves beyond what both men could ever imagine.

Watch The Trailer 


Heart of a Dog (2015)

Director and Writer: Laurie Anderson

Budget: $500

No, I didn’t have that stuff [a budget]. I just started shooting with my Canon 5D, and I shot about 80% of the film in the end.” Laurie Anderson

Akin to a personal essay, Laurie Anderson, partner of the late musician Lou Reed, directs a tearjerker of a film. An homage and remembrance of her dog Lolabelle, the film is a mix of animation, realistic footage from the animal’s life and imagined scenes reflecting on life and death. Heart of a Dog reminds us that these creature companions are as intertwined in our emotional lives as we are our in theirs. We find out that Lolabelle was a spirited canine with creative ambitions like piano playing and painting.

Heart of a Dog was selected to screen in the main competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival after premiering at Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 31st Independent Spirit Awards and was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature on December 1, 2015.

Reed also makes an appearance in this film as a doctor in a memory re-enactment sequence, and contributes a song to the closing credits

Watch The Trailer


Timbuktu (2014)

Director: Abderrahmane Sissako

Writers: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall

Budget: $2.5 million

2timbuktuTimbuktu, is a film that draws us into a world and a place that has been both romanticized and vilified by the West. An Oscar nominee this year for best foreign language film, director Abderrahmane Sissako, sets his film in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu that in 2012 was seized by an al-Qaida group whose regime of terror outlawed music, dancing, laughter and soccer. Central to this story is a cattle herder and his family who live peacefully in the dunes outside of the city despite the chaos brought by the regime. However their lives are soon abruptly changed.

Watch The Trailer


Anomalisa (2015)

Directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman

Writers: Charlie Kaufman

Budget: $8 million (crowd funded by Kickstarter)

Director Charlie Kaufmann (Adaptation) once again delves into a topic he comes back to again and again; the mundanity of life and how to somehow make it extraordinary. Kaufmann’s ability to return to this theme without seeming redundant is a unique talent to have, and turning to animation works well. A motivational speaker who is not very motivated himself is stuck in a hotel room while in Cincinnati waiting to give a talk at a conference. He is crippled by thoughts of his repetitive life. He imagines the people he has met at the conferences, his wife, and his child are starting to look like one big mass of the same person. In order to disrupt this mind melding train of thought he hopes to meet up with an old flame who lives in the city, in hopes he can make it up to her about the way they broke up. The meeting doesn’t go the way he has planned. Now alone and depressed he meets a stranger who is different and slowly becomes a cure for his bleak view of life and could possibly change his life forever.

Watch The Trailer


Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Director and Writer : Olivier Assayas

Budget: $ 6.6 million

Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloë Grace Moretz are a tour de-force in this scenic masterpiece of existential quandary, aging and forgone youth. Set in the Swiss Alps, Maria Enders, a middle-aged actress at the height of her career is face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself while starring in a revival of the play that launched her career twenty years ago.

Originally playing the role of an alluring young woman who drives her boss to suicide, Enders is now in the role of the older boss. Sigrid a young, volatile Hollywood actress is to take on the role Enders once played. Now Enders finds herself on the other side, face to face with a younger woman who is an unsettling reflection of herself. She and her assistant retreat to the Swiss Alps to prepare for the role and come to terms with being a middle-aged actress in a youth obsessed world.

Watch The Trailer


Tangerine (2015)

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Budget: $100,000

Tangerine delves head first into the gritty world of transgendered sex work in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Shot entirely on the iPhone 5s, director Sean Baker is granted access into a world of characters based on real-life working girls and the culture surrounding them. The characters deal with discrimination and hateful actions from many, yet find acceptance in the least expected of people: an Armenian taxi driver. Beneath all of this is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of Sin-Dee a sex worker recently released from jail who goes on a rampage searching the streets for the pimp who broke her heart.

Watch The Trailer


Girlhood (2014)

Director and Writer: Céline Sciamma

Budget: Under $100,000

GirlhoodBanner-m35a9xhl2g9hhy13woc954ksxkvn4tj2s82u8rlfuwInspired by the real life world of teenage girls she would see hanging out in Paris shopping malls and train stations, director Celine Sciamma was compelled to dig deeper and find out more about their lives. Girlhood is an authentic, lyrical and gritty coming of age story of a young black girl growing up in the rough suburbs of Paris. With a dynamite soundtrack that uses the Rihanna song “Shines like a Diamond” as a thread throughout the movie, Girlhood is full of life with an almost exclusively female cast, giving this film an honest agency.

Watch The Trailer


Room (2015)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writers: Emma Donoghue, (screenplay) Emma Donoghue (based on the novel by)

Budget: $6 million

Room is the surprising Canadian-Irish 2015 smash hit directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel. This chilling and claustrophobic film starring, Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, takes place in an enclosed space, where Joy has been kept captive for seven years. She and her 5-year-old son finally gain their freedom, allowing the child to experience the outside world for the first time.

Room was written well before the 2014 revelation that three women had been held captive for ten years in a house in Cleveland. This real life nightmare makes Room even more gut wrenching and terrifying, yet surprisingly hopeful.

Watch The Trailer


The Lobster (2015)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou

Budget: $4 million

the_lobster_cadreYorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, 2009) directs his English language feature film debut. The Lobster is a strange and jarring film with many layers to peel off. Part science fiction part dystopian nightmare, the film tells the story of a place where people who are single are given forty-five days to find a romantic partner or they are turned into an animal of their choosing. The film stars Colin Farrell who chooses to be a Lobster if he fails to find someone. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize. It was shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Watch The Trailer


Force Majeure (2014)

Director and Writer: Ruben Östlund

Budget: $5 million

Force Majeure (Swedish: Tourist) is a 2014 Swedish drama that exposes a society’s (and a family’s) entrenched expectation of the patriarchal role men should play, even in the modern world. Marital tension rises after an avalanche during a ski holiday, during which the husband Tomas is believed by his wife to have prioritized his own escape over the safety of his family. The script and cinematography are praiseworthy, with hints of playfulness and dark humour. The title force majeure, is also the name for a contractual clause freeing both parties from liability in the event of unexpected disasters.

Watch The Trailer

Janalee Budge, who hails from Whistler, BC, has a background in art direction and graphic design, giving her work a unique artistic style. “I want to make visually beautiful documentaries and with (my biography film) Unbound, that magical and super beautiful visual style is what I’d like to explore.”

Janalee took a leap of faith in going back to school to study filmmaking, and leave her relative work security – but it’s a leap that is paying off. “I was looking for a course that I could take part time, so I took a one day course to see what [InFocus] was all about, and I was super happy with it. So I decided to do the drama and documentary six month course. I was working as an art director before, and I was in charge of corporate ads and webisodes, but I wasn’t very hands on.“

Janalee is an avid believer in strong visual themes and images in her films but since studying at InFocus, her ideas and themes have broadened: ”I didn’t know what to expect because this program covers so much of film. When I first started I wanted to hone in on my camera and editing skills, but we also get a lot of classes here on directing, lighting and grip and all those other aspects of filmmaking. They’re all interconnected so I’m really happy I got to do some of those classes as well as focusing on my documentary filmmaking.”

What’s next for Janalee? “I wouldn’t mind trying to work on a bigger set while working on my own projects, and this school helped me utilize these different skill sets. I like the fact that I’m in such an intensive course and that it’s a small class (so) it’s more hands on.”

Watch Janalee’s biography film, Unbound, below.


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 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:


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?


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


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.


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.


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
  • Manfrotto 190X3: $300
  • Røde NTG2 Shotgun Kit: $250
  •  Shock Mount: Included
  •  1.5’ XLR: Included
  • Sony ECM-77 Lav: $280
  • Zoom H4N: $200
  • 20’ XLR: $15
  • 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.