InFocus Film School Blog


Every now and then a film is mistaken for a masterpiece and achieves international acclaim despite an unimaginative and tedious plot, such as “Amore”. Then there is the case of the hidden masterpiece: warmly embraced by festival audiences only to disappear without a flicker of publicity shortly thereafter, such as “Like Someone In Love”.

LikeSomeoneInLoveFilm-300x251Like Someone In Love, set in Tokyo, is directed by Abbas Kiarostami, a man who barely speaks a word of Japanese. He doesn’t have to speak Japanese because he is too busy inventing a new cinematic language that relies on tone and subtext rather than plot. This is a director confident enough to spend twelve minutes in a taxi while Akiko, a fashionable college aged, call­ girl listens to eight phone messages while staring blankly at the neon lit Tokyo streetscapes. The repeated messages are from her visiting grandmother politely wondering why Akiko is a no ­show for their meeting at the train station.

Akiko is on route to visit her next client Takashi, an unassuming eighty­-one­ year ­old widower. He is a lonely man in search of a one­ night girlfriend experience, an elegant dinner companion. Takashi is flawlessly polite. Sex is the last thing on his mind. Akiko rejects his homemade eel soup and slumps into bed waiting a further call to action. Sex never materializes. It’s a polite film, even by Japanese standards. All of the characters, even Akiko’s ruggedly handsome mechanic boyfriend are painfully polite, and painfully lonely.

Loneliness is at the heart of this film, a feeling we all must face. It’s a hard thing to crush. There is little moralizing about prostitution and a multitude of gaps that leave the viewer pondering the subtle actions by these luminous characters. “Like Someone To Love” is a complex stylized film, by a gifted director.

Social media has revolutionized the way people market their business, and documentary film is no exception. It’s true that little can replace the buzz created by a festival appearance or jam­packed screening, however social media can help you market your documentary in other ways, perhaps even helping you land traditional opportunities like those all ­important festival screenings ­­ if you use it right.

The power of social media is undeniable and failure to take advantage of these platforms in your marketing strategy can be a serious misstep. Is social media marketing becoming more powerful than promotional screenings and festivals?

social-iconBuild Marketing Ability Into Your Project

Many doc filmmakers might cringe at the idea of building a marketing scheme into their content before they start shooting, but considering how you’ll market your film before you make it doesn’t have to be unethical or detract from a relevant social issue.

In fact, considering marketing before you start shooting can actually help increase awareness of a serious issue – the primary goal for many documentary filmmakers. By capitalizing on the relevant social issues present in your documentary, you’ll be able to build a social media marketing strategy that can coordinate and connect with other movements and/or organizations that might relate to your film. Or, better yet, you can reach an audience already informed on your hot button topic and let them serve as a springboard to bring attention to your film.

Promotion via Social Media

If you use social media personally, you’ve surely seen somebody’s marketing campaign, whether they’re promoting a musical act, the release of a film, an event or a social cause that’s important to them. While some promotions work, many also fail.

Those that promote their work via social media and fail, usually do so because their outreach lacks passion – they’re simply repurposing a lacklustre post in hopes that someone will notice. Considering how many people promote their stuff via social media, these types of marketing campaigns are doomed to fall flat. ­People don’t have time, and they’re flooded with that kind of marketing already.

That’s where documentary filmmakers can take advantage of social media. By making part of your marketing campaign about the issues, and not solely about the film, you’ll draw people into the action and community surrounding the cause.

Social media is a necessary marketing tool for documentary filmmakers.

Sharing Work Through Social Media

Sharing clips and snippets of your documentary film is integral to building visibility. With so much content posted on social media sites these days, few people are going to march out to a theatre and buy a ticket for a film they don’t know much about. Give them something to snack on first.

When you present clips on social media sites, it’s important to make them as sharp as possible. Present high­quality clips of finished material to generate interest on any social media platform. Make sure your film has it’s own dedicated page on each social network you use, and that the page isn’t cluttered with personal posts and off­topic tweets.

Having clear links between each social media site ­­ and especially clear links to your film’s website, if it has one ­­ is extremely important.

At the same time, sites like Vimeo in particular can be helpful for uploading longer, HD clips for publicity and for submitting work to film festivals ­­ or even getting the attention of producers and distributors.

GUEST BLOGGER: Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and accomplished online marketing professional in the Los Angeles area. Her writing covers everything from social media marketing, health & wellness, real estate and technology.

In the summer of 2011 In Focus Film School students Katrina Chowne and Suzanne Street interviewed Compassion Club of BC participants to discuss how the program has changed their lives.

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think “marijuana advocate?” Chances are pretty good that it wasn’t a senior; the Compassion Club of BC is looking to change that image. Many seniors and people with debilitating, chronic pain see it as a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals that often have unpleasant side effects. Acquiring marijuana for pain relief can, however, be challenging for some. As Pearl, a North Vancouver resident at a senior’s home notes, she’d prefer not to buy pot from a teenager on the corner.

That’s where the Compassion Club comes in. Not only do they offer numerous different strains of high quality marijuana at a reasonable price, they also offer it in a variety of forms. If you don’t feel comfortable actually smoking pot, you can also consume it in pill form, or even baked goods. It’s all part of the organization’s efforts to de-stigmatize the plant, and highlight its benefits. And an improved quality of life for people living with chronic pain is certainly worth standing up for.


Crowdfunding your indie film


Funding independent films is never easy. The difficulties receiving grants and finding other sources of funding is a full­-time job beyond the time it takes to actually work on the film itself!


Salam Films is a Vancouver-­based international film production company that’s less than 48 hours away from ending our first crowdfunding campaign an alternative financing tool for creative and start­up projects that’s emerging in North America, Europe and the Middle East.


We’re running our campaign to raise post­-production funds for feature documentary, WAJD: Music, Politics & Ecstasy. The film traces Syrian-­Canadian director Amar Chebib’s journey through Syria and Turkey to learn Arab­ Ottoman music. There he discovers its deep connection to Sufism and the socio­political influences that led to its suppression. The film is ultimately a story about this music’s ability to invoke a heart ­opening experience of universal beauty.


We’re making this film because we’re inspired to share the beauty of this music that has inspired us with the rest of the world. On September 4th we gratefully reached and surpassed our goal of $15,000, a few days before our campaign deadline of September 8th. This was not an easy feat, and we’re dedicated to continuing our work at the same pace until the end of our campaign. We have only 2 days left to reach our new goal of $20,000 so that the funds beyond our initial goal can go towards hiring an editing/story consultant and to doing a final sound mix at a professional studio.


Here’s a list of tips that incorporate some of what we’ve learned along the way:


Read more


Whistler and Pemberton are renowned for their majestic mountains and scenic beauty. As tourist destinations that draw over a million people every year, any damage to their reputation can cost residents their businesses and livelihoods.

A high profile incident of a dog sled owner accused of killing over 50 of his animals in April 2010 has Dominic Ball looking for answers. Does dog sledding, by its very nature, subject animals to undue risk? Or is it possible to run an ethical business that treats dogs humanely?

As Dominic notes, “This was a huge international case and gaining access to people to tell the story was not easy. They might say in an email or on the phone that they would speak to me but when I would show up with a camera they would change their mind. I also tried to have some Whistler local businesses or media talk to me and they flat out refused or would not get back to me after my continuous attempts to contact them.”

One person who didn’t turn him away was Jamie Hargreaves, who once worked with Bob Fawcett, the man who is charged in the case. In the film, Hargreaves offers her insight on both Fawcett, and the dog sledding business.

In April 2012 Fawcett was formally charged with causing unnecessary pain and suffering to a number of sled dogs under the criminal code of Canada. Due to appear in a Pemberton court on May 24, 2012 Fawcett’s lawyer requested the trial be moved to North Vancouver, citing security concerns and recent threats to Fawcett’s safety.

Municipal elections tend to have the lowest voter turn out, and Vancouver is no different.

As one campaigner in The Doorknockers notes, voter turnout in the city’s 2008 municipal election was a paltry 28%. Braving the cold, hostile dogs, and sometimes even hostile homeowners, this documentary follows doorknockers Aaron, Angela, Annie, and Tim in their efforts to fight voter apathy.

Representing the COPE team, these valiant doorknockers burn the midnight oil by knocking (or buzzing) on as many doors as possible, in the hope of garnering voter support for COPE on election night. They race to the finish line with only 25 minutes until the polls close, but they’ll have to wait and see if their efforts paid off.

Was it worth it?

Katherine Krampol’s charming mini-doc, made at In Focus Film School, examines modern beauty and old world ideals. “Show Me Your Teeth” looks at her Romanian lineage and some modern-day insecurities through a focus on her “snaggle tooth,” otherwise known as a misaligned bicuspid molar.

Her story delves into contemporary standards of beauty. She films herself obsessing over perfect smiles on the pages of glossy beauty magazines. She’s so inundated with images of perfect teeth that she can’t help but clip out the pearly white smiles of strangers, and hold them over her own mouth. Her honesty about her insecurity makes her easily relatable, but what makes the film even more fascinating is the link between dental beauty and her Romanian homeland.

She traces her tooth obsession back to her father and the poor dental care he received there. The story is not just about beauty, it is about love too. In spite of her father’s dental challenges, her mother’s enduring love for him sets the tone for Katherine’s personal quest.

“Old world teeth don’t have a place in modern smiles,” says Katherine.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the “old world,” Katherine has recently left for Romania to pursue her story there. Katherine is eager to learn about her cultural legacy. The young filmmaker is hoping to interview her grandmother and create a longer film that connects her modern world with her Romanian ancestry.

Interested in attending In Focus Film School? Email info@ to learn more.