Coming up at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival is Soviet Bus Stops. Read more about VIFF and the film below.
By: Kennedy Randall
After much anticipation, the Vancouver International Film Festival is returning at the end of the month. In the past 41 years VIFF has become one of Vancouver’s most beloved film festivals will be running from September 29th to October 9th showcasing over 130 feature films and 100 short films.
InFocus Film School has partnered with VIFF to showcase Soviet Bus Stops, one of many fantastic films screening this year. Directed by Kristoffer Hegnsvad, Soviet Bus Stops follows Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig. From Ukraine to Uzbekistan, Armenia to Far Eastern Siberia, Herwig sets out to document a piece of urban architecture in former Soviet Republics that may be considered ordinary and benign – bus stops.
Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!
From the 1960s and 70s, the architecture of the Soviet Regime was largely utilitarian and mass-produced. What Herwig finds on his travels is profoundly different; bus stops that are creative and whimsical. Architecture within the Soviet period was highly monitored and totalitarian following a uniform style. However, bus stops are often a negligible part of the urban landscape, and these revolutionary structures ended up being overlooked. Therefore, these roadside fixtures artistically represent a place and time in history, built as quiet acts of creativity against overwhelming state control.
Although, despite their radical nature and innovation, these bus stops are seen by many as strange or embarrassing. This is, unfortunately, leading many of them to be torn down. “These bus stops are disappearing so fast. If I come back a year from now, they could be gone, demolished, or rebuilt. These pictures may be all that’s left in the end. I want to give them some kind of immorality,” Herwig reflects.
Shot over seven years, Soviet Bus Stops follows Herwig on his journey to capture these bus stops and memorialize them through film. He meets some of the humble and eccentric bus stop creators from various former Soviet Republics to hear their stories about how these unique structures came to exist.
Herwig’s photography books of the bus stops have become bestsellers around the world. Hegnsvad’s documentation of this process turns this unusual journey into an engaging film about human connectivity, photography, politics, and history. In so doing, Herwig and Hegnsvad both commemorate the stories of these bus stops through their chosen medium, sharing a relatively unknown subject with wider audiences.
The stories of individuals who created small acts of resistance are embedded in the poetry and art of the remaining bus stops and become honoured, protected, and celebrated in these mediums.
InFocus Film School is proud to be the community partner for such an unforgettable film. Purchase your tickets for either screening on October 2nd at The Cinematheque or October 4th at International Village 8 here.
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Are you curious about learning how to write screenplays for film and television? Keep reading for our tips on starting your journey as a screenwriter, and how to write your first screenplay.
By: Sophia Lin
You know you want to be a screenwriter, but how do you start? For many aspiring scribes, learning how to write screenplays can be a head-scratching task. There’s much to consider even before you put down your first scene heading or eke out a title.
Well, a finished screenplay marks the end of a journey, a winding road that begins as early as the brainstorming phase. And we’re here to demystify it all, with no less than a three-part introduction to screenwriting. From laying down a foundation to how to write a script, we’ll give you the nuts and bolts of the coveted craft. To top it off, we’ve included some extra writing advice — tips and tricks like accelerating your skills through screenwriting programs and sticking to a ‘less is more’ philosophy.
Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Writing for Film and Television Program!
How to Write Screenplays – Laying Down Your Base
1. Understand the Structure
Screenplays are traditionally divided into three acts, relatively evenly-split throughout the story. In simple terms, they are respectively referred to as the set-up, confrontation, and resolution.
The first act is responsible for establishing the situation: the exposition and the who, what, when, where, and why. It also poses the core dramatic question that the film will seek to answer.
The second act develops the story further, bringing in hurdles, character motivations, and sometimes a B plot to accompany the main plot. This is also called the middle, involving various smaller beats of rising and falling action.
The third act is where it all leads to, often constituting the lowest and highest points of the film. It is synonymous with the climax, representing a moment of major and irreversible change or development.
It’s just as important to be aware that the three-act structure is a guide, but not a set of rules. Many great screenwriters have broken boundaries by putting a unique twist on this structure — but mastering it first is a must. Grasping its intricacies will enable you to understand the alterations you can make, if you wish, without compromising the integrity and appeal of a story.
2. Outline a Beat Sheet
The preliminary step on how to write screenplays is planning and a beat sheet. But what is a beat? Simply put, it’s any one moment, no matter how big or small, that pushes the story forward. A beat is the smallest unit in screenwriting, and every scene will contain several beats. It can be a little confusing at first, so here are a few examples of what we’d call a beat:
A secretary glances at her boss’ face, realizing that she’ll be fired.
Prom takes place in the second act.
A daughter’s biological mother is revealed to be the villain.
In that vein, a beat sheet must identify all the important plot events that happen in every act of your screenplay. This extends to key emotional moments and changes in characters. This is best laid out in point form, and one tried and true strategy is to write each beat on an index card. Then, you can freely shuffle your cards around as you determine the best order to lay out your story.
3. Write a Detailed Treatment
A treatment is a more detailed outline of your screenplay, written in prose and read like a short story. In many ways, it’s the most important supporting document to have as you write. With that in mind, make sure to include every plot event, visual, and even the smallest story beat in your treatment. This paves the way for a well-formed and carefully plotted script.
Weaving your beat sheet into a complete, flowing piece of writing is what lies at the root of a treatment — so don’t be intimidated! It’s simply fitting the puzzle pieces together. The following four foundational elements form a treatment:
Title: Simply what you wish to title your film — a working title can stand in as well.
Logline: A compact and intriguing one-sentence summary of the premise of your story. Not too many details are needed, and the ending is often left untouched so as to create suspense!
Plot: The heart of your treatment, this is where you summarize story beats and events in the order you wish to present them, excluding most if not all of the dialogue. Be thorough yet concise, and think of it as a roadmap for the screenplay you intend to write.
Main characters: Descriptions, on a character-by-character basis, of the core characters’ traits and developmental arcs throughout the story.
Once you’ve wrapped up your treatment, form an elevator pitch — a 2 minute or so summary of your idea. Feel free to pitch this to peers, family, and even strangers, to get feedback in a quick and easy way.
Sitting Down to Write!
1. Know Your Technical Terms
In other words, do your due diligence! Just as the screenplay format should be second nature, you should likewise acquaint yourself with all the technical screenwriting terms. Below are just a few to get you started!
Scene heading: Appears at the top of a scene in all caps, displaying information about the location (interior or exterior) and time of day.
Action line: The next line below the scene heading, it describes anything occurring other than the dialogue — almost always actions.
Parenthetical: An additional bit of info, enclosed in parentheticals, added before a character’s line to give details regarding the line delivery.
Transition: This describes how one scene shifts to the next, editing-wise. The most common are ‘CUT TO:’ and ‘FADE TO:’, but numerous options can be chosen.
Voice-over: When a character or narrator speaks but is not seen, always abbreviated as ‘V.O.’ in screenplay format.
Extension: Written in all caps to the right of a character name, it indicates where a character is talking from. A voice-over is one type of an extension.
In a similar vein, make it a mission to read from cover to cover a diverse assortment of screenplays that you admire. This way, you’ll find yourself exposed to a wide range of situations and conventions, opening your eyes to what’s possible, and importantly, the correct formatting to use in even the most unorthodox circumstances.
2. Reimagine, Reconsider, Rewrite!
As you learn how to write screenplays, you’ll also need to learn rewriting. The first idea you have won’t always be the best one — but with all the possibilities out there, how can you sift through them all?
An effective exercise is to reimagine at least 10 possible ways something could have happened, such as how your two protagonists first meet. Then start to eliminate each option, reasoning why this location or that circumstance would be less than optimal. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can be certain your choice is purposeful, unique, and serves the story in the best way.
3. Pace Yourself & Know Your Flow
A screenplay can be anywhere from a couple pages to 120 pages or more — a rather hefty project. Rather than thinking of it as a whole, it’s almost always more beneficial to tackle your script in parts. Set page number goals each week, and hone in on those story events for that segment.
Getting to know yourself as a writer can speed this along too. Is there a mindless activity that makes your best ideas spring forth? A specific cafe that puts you in the zone? Knowing these and employing them at the right moment can be essential to staying on top of your game.
Extra Writing Tips
1. Be Economical
For anyone who wants to learn how to write screenplays, chances are, writing — especially writing a lot — can come pretty easily. But in scriptwriting, a good rule of thumb that many embrace is: “less is more”. For instance, lay back overly detailed descriptions, avoid heavy exposition, and cut scenes off earlier rather than later. This can be vital to maintaining suspense and keeping the audience engaged.
Likewise, screenwriters make a point to rely on visual storytelling and motifs to do some of the heavy lifting. In particular, for conversations, aim to fully make use of the subtext: the underlying context, and what is unsaid rather than said.
2. Watch & Read Related Works
Some truth lies in the old adage of “you are what you watch”. While you’re working out the rough beats and first characters of your script, it’s instrumental to watch other films in the same genre, preferably with a similar tone. Notice how we didn’t say great films — knowing what to do is just as important as knowing what not to do, so study a variety of works across the spectrum.
Not to mention, knowing what’s already out there gives you a key step up. It can be all too easy to accidentally fall into stereotypes and overdone tropes while writing, simply because it’s what we’ve seen the most of!
3. Learn Fast Through Structured Courses
Our one last takeaway when thinking about how to write screenplays, is to work smarter, not harder. To learn screenwriting and fully hone your craft takes time, and banging out scripts on your own can be an even more trying process. One sure-fire way to expedite your skills is to enroll in a screenwriting program, screenwriter courses, or a masterclass.
Seek out classes or schools with industry-experienced professors, with a balanced experience in the classroom and out in the industry writing scripts to be produced. Importantly, these structured spaces offer one invaluable tool, and in mass amounts: feedback. By knowing exactly how to write screenplays and what you did well — and not so well — you’ll know with certainty your targeted areas of improvement, so each new script can be your best one yet.
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Join the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival for their renowned film screening on August 9th!
Taking place next month, the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival has set to screen various films relating to Chinese culture. By merging Canadian and Chinese audiences the festival allows Chinese culture to be seen by audiences at home and abroad. Their mission is to create a more inclusive Canada by promoting cross-cultural exchange. Below we have outlined five of the short films that will be screened at the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival on August 9th.
Brick follows Wenxin, an architect who lives abroad. He returns to his hometown to bury his mother’s ashes. Upon arriving in his hometown, Wenxin finds himself at a classmate reunion. Here, he accepts the invitation of his classmate to act as a consultant for the renovation of the old district. It seems as if he has the ability to protect the nostalgic memories of the traditional district and the opportunity to enact his “dreams’ ‘ and “revenge.” Upon attempting to complete his dreams, he finds that he cannot achieve them. On the other hand, his revenge results in a new series of harm. Wenxin learns Yin and Yang, finding that life and death are a part of the natural law and the unity of men and nature is the true connotation of Feng Shui.
2. Ideal Homeland
The story takes place in the near future when AI (Artificial Intelligence) controls humans. In this future, the tables turn, and humans begin to work for AI. The hero of the story, Joe, is the carrier of AI’s sexual experience. He does the most mechanical task every day to obtain the credits on which we depend for survival in AI society. In such oppression of slavery, Joe desperately yearns for the freedom of independence.
3. A Zebra-Riding Boy
Based on the Impressionist-Southern author, Su Tong’s novels, Cavalryman and Paper, A Zebra-Riding Boy explores the combination of literature and commerce. Poor bow-legged teenager Zuo Lin has a dream to ride a horse in the most prosperous place of the city: the sad wooden horse cavalry, the happy zebra cavalry, the bleak and sad iron cavalry, and the brilliant paper cavalry all melt into one.
Churi is a short dramatic film about a young man who remembers his mother’s love through the act of making churi. The film weaves together the young man’s search for food and subsequent cooking with the memory of his mother cooking. The film artistically jumps between past and present. By doing so, it evokes the longing that pervades diasporic experience and explores how we carry memory and our roots in our bodies.
Created by Namit Kataria, this film was made during his time in the InFocus Film Production Program!
5. Sisyphus the Turtle Chaser
Years ago, teenagers, Will and Liang Zi grew up together in Northeast China. When they were young, Will was lively and naughty. He was known as the”king of gambling,” becoming a master of all kinds of gambling and trickery. Liang Zi was his faithful follower. One day, the pair ran away from home. Many years later, the two adults find each other face to face in Beijing. Liang Zi had a southern girl Molly, while Will became a taxi driver. Both adults must figure out how to face each other years later.
Beyond screening films that promote Chinese culture, the VCFF aims to further develop China-Canada relations. Liu Fei, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver, saw the quality of cross cultural exchange in the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival. Fei vocalized his wish for more young individuals to contribute to cross-cultural exchange between the two continents.
This year, the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival will be held as a joint festival with the Vancouver International Youth Film Festival. Reserve tickets for film screening here.
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Looking for film resume tips? Having trouble standing out against the crowd? No need to worry, we will teach you how to make your film industry resume stand out.
By: Sophia Lin
How do you create a resume that dazzles at first glance? Research has shown that a recruiter will typically spend only 7 seconds reading a resume. It’s a not-so-fun fact that will make many prospective employees’ blood run cold. But don’t fear! Passing the so-called “7-second test” with your resume is simply a matter of learning key dos and don’ts.
We’ve tailored this list of film resume tips specifically for film, TV, and media careers. Whether you’re in the midst of film school, freshly graduated, or an experienced professional in the field, these crucial ways to make your resume stand out won’t go unnoticed when you’re looking to secure your next job.
Read on to find out how to create a stellar film industry resume!
Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!
1. Mix Creative and Technical Skills in Your Resume
Interdisciplinary and multifaceted are buzzwords for a good reason. In today’s ever-growing and interconnected industry, a well-rounded set of skills is a major asset. With that in mind, having a solid balance of both creative and technical skills in your resume will get you far.
For instance, a varied range of creative skills can look like having experience as a 2D and 3D animator as well as a visual effects artist. Important technical skills (including experience with industry software) can include script analysis, editing, cast and crew management, and location scouting.
2. Use Third-Party Recognition to Make Your Resume Credible
Simply put, this means make a note of any time a third-party has recognized your achievement. From an educational perspective, this can mean a great film school that you graduated from, and with it, perhaps a high GPA or honours. Once you’re in the industry, this can mean film festival awards, fellowships, professional organizations, and grants.
These hard-earned tokens of recognition show a recruiter that previous individuals or organizations have already attested to your strength and talent in your field — assuring them that you are indeed the right pick for the job!
3. Use Strong Film Action Verbs
Make sure to use action verbs in your film industry resume. It might be cliche advice at this point but it certainly does ring true! Strong action verbs, especially used in active voice, emphasize your skill set and highlight your proactivity.
Below are some tried-and-true compelling action verbs to use for those in film:
Direct, Lead, Operate
Develop, Coordinate, Manage
Produce, Coproduce, Shoot
Scout, Cast, Edit
4. Keep Your Film Industry Resume Short and Sweet
This isn’t to say keep your entire resume short. What we mean is keep your writing succinct. Get to the point fast and make it clear and convincing. A resume with long sentences and meandering explanations will be overwhelming and difficult to read, while a resume that is too short won’t contain enough information to convince recruiters.
An excellent strategy is to include a short film resume objective or summary right at the top. This is where you hit on your key skills and competencies, your focus, and your career goals. Make sure to tailor this to every job you apply for to give the recruiter the most relevant and important information right off the bat.
5. Use Aesthetics to Make Your Resume Pop
When it comes down to it, the look and feel of a resume is one last factor that you can use to create memorability — this is a point that recruiters at the media company NBCUniversal have even seconded.
Even more so for those in the more visual-based sides of film, a beautifully formatted film industry resume with one-of-a-kind graphic design will make you stand out from the masses. Beyond that, it shows effort, professionalism, and your willingness to go beyond — all of which are instrumental assets that are more than likely to win your recruiter over.
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Learn more about the multi-talented filmmaker’s genius and the highly anticipated film, Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022).
By: Sophia Lin
There’s no doubt you’ve heard of the famous mind behind some of the best horror movies out there, from Get Out (2017) to Us (2019). Not to mention, one of the screenwriters for Candyman (2021) and the writer-director of the hugely anticipated horror film Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022). It goes without saying that Jordan Peele is a master of horror filmmaking… but the big question is, how does he do it?
Few directors are able to churn out hit after hit, and even fewer are able to redefine a genre. Peele has certainly done both, and we’re here to let you in on how. We will look into his writing process, his directorial style, and what exactly separates him from the rest. We’ll dive deep into his impact on the horror genre and the social commentary he embeds in his work. Without further ado, let’s get into how exactly Jordan Peele has become one of the best horror directors!
Click here to learn more about InFocus Film School’s Film Production Program!
How Jordan Peele Became Jordan Peele
Let’s start from the beginning. What lead Jordan Peele to create some of the best horror films of our generation?
Jordan Peele famously started in comedy. While attending Sarah Lawrence College, he dropped out to perform in stand-up and improv. After various stints for four years, he finally got his first big break as an actor in the comedy series MadTV. This led him to meet his future collaborator Keegan-Michael Key and from there, the comedy sketch series Key & Peele was born.
As his work gathered acclaim and virality, including an Emmy nomination along the way, Peele broke into the directing world with his debut feature film Get Out. Both a critical and commercial success, Get Out launched Peele into international attention — and he hasn’t looked back since!
Jordan Peele’s Directorial Style
Society as the Greatest Evil
A trademark of a Jordan Peele horror movie is that it’s not really a horror movie. At least not in the traditional sense, in which a big bad must be overcome and destroyed. Peele has said that the antagonists in his films aren’t truly the source of evil, but rather, the system as a whole is evil.
In Peele’s words, his work explores “the horror of society”, focusing on the depravity already contained within humanity. One of the best examples is the Armitage family in Get Out — a reflection of America and the fatal racial tensions that lurk in today’s society.
Comedy and Horror
While it might not be surprising, Peele’s multifaceted experience in the industry factors into his unique voice as a horror director. More interestingly, it’s his work in comedy that informs his horror movies. One makes you laugh and one makes you scream, but as he says, there’s really a very thin line between the two realms.
Both are based in realism and relatability: comedy and horror both work the most effectively when the world feels believable, with only one or two heightened changes. Another crucial similarity comes in the timing. Well-timed jump-scares are truly no different than well-placed jokes in a story. It’s a matter of creating tension in the audience and then releasing it at the perfect moment. From his comedian days, Peele learned how to manipulate this release of tension, applying it just when the suspense becomes unbearable.
Contrast of Visuals and Sound
A more subtle decision that permeates Peele’s filmography is the idea that visuals deceive, whereas sound or aural information contains the truth. A clever trick, it makes for excellent plot twists and forces audiences to look twice, so to speak. The (spoiler alert!) doppelgängers in Us and the teaspoon clinking in Get Out are perfect illustrations.
Beyond that, it can act as a form of social commentary too. Harmful biases and judgments almost always come from visual determinations, and Peele’s horror films point out the fallacy at the root of this. Even with such understated devices, he sends a strong message: looks can — and are — deceiving.
Jordan Peele’s Creative Process
New Jordan Peele movies seem to come out every few years or so, yet writer’s block is one of the biggest struggles that artists face. How does Peele overcome this? His first step when looking for inspiration, he says, is to listen to himself and his emotions. He assesses what makes him scared and uses that as a jumping-off point.
In that same vein, he sees autobiographical elements as an irreplaceable part of his brainstorming. He looks to bare his soul in some way — in fact, the key storyline in Us was inspired by his time growing up in New York City and staring at his own reflection while riding the subway. Peele’s own movie tastes come into it too: one of his mantras is to write his favourite film that he hasn’t seen yet.
With the initial conception spelled out, the tricky part is developing it into a full-fledged film. For Peele, he spends the bulk of his time planning the plot — Get Out’s plot took 4-5 years of planning. He then writes the actual screenplay in a matter of short months. He sometimes works out multiple endings and then eventually choosing one.
As he’s picking and choosing, cutting and rewriting, he likes to have a “democratic” approach to art. In other words, he diligently considers audience appeal and whether his work is accessible to all. Stemming from his improv days, Peele has spoken about how he values getting to “everybody in the room” — while making sure to balance this with his own artistry.
With so many overdone horror tropes, creativity is a rare find in the genre. One of the crucial ways Peele figures out how to work in brand new ideas is not making them brand new. He sees the future of horror in the past, closely studying classics like The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby.
After getting to know the gambits of these classic horror movies , he employs them as the base, using them in a modern way For instance, Us takes after the historical horror element of shadow selves and the Other. In his Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022), he’s also incorporating early cinema, such as the iconic “Galloping Horse” shown in the trailer.
Jordan Peele’s Impact on Horror
What do recent horror hits like Fresh, The Black Phone, and Ma have in common? In one way or another, these films exhibit elements introduced into the horror genre by Jordan Peele. His impact on the genre has been massive despite his five short years as a horror director. We cannot wait to see what Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) will add to the horror industry. Here are some of the indelible marks Peele has left on the industry:
Commentary on the Black Experience
The biggest differentiator when it comes to Jordan Peele movies is the one prominent aspect that he always slips into his reinvented horror devices.
Peele seeks to reimagine horror tropes from the perspective of a Black man in America, the most noteworthy being the white saviour trope. Commentary on the Black experience can be found in all his work, contained within countless concepts. Some significant examples include Us depicting the fear of the outsider and Get Out digging into white liberal racism.
Horror as Social Allegory
A commonly held notion is that studio and indie films simply cannot cross over. Peele’s work does what was previously considered impossible: the seamless melding of these two worlds. His redefinition of horror began with what he calls a “social thriller”, a genre film that pleases crowds while also taking a no-holds-barred look at hard-hitting issues of racism, classism, and political divisiveness.
While horror is well-known as a subconscious reflection of society’s fears, Peele brings the collective consciousness to the forefront. His films bring to light discussions around whose fears get reflected in horror and the real systems that create fear.
Emphasis on Realism
It used to be that the wildly supernatural and unbelievable were the popular go-to in the realm of horror. Filmmakers seemed to think that the crazier they could make it, the more it would shock and scare audiences. Peele turned this entirely on its head.
Instead, his films are rooted deeply in reality, sometimes even staying faithful to a certain era and location. Peele’s philosophy is, the more real something is, the more it’ll scare. So rather than feeling far-fetched, audiences connect more closely with the world he’s built. This means when the tables turn, it hits close to home, creating realistic fear.
Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) – What We Know
The big talk of this summer is the upcoming horror film Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022). Not much is known about it yet, but Peele promises one of the biggest and most ambitious spectacles yet. Jordan Peele’s Nope takes place on an idyllic ranch and focuses on a sibling relationship as the duo comes into contact with an ominous force. The film will undoubtedly shed insightful light on the social issues Peele plans to explore further. Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) looking to be another unforgettable entry in his horror filmography.
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Looking for some films to watch this weekend? Check out six of our favourite LGBTQ+ films.
By: Kennedy Randall
Though pride month should be every month, it offers us a chance to learn more about LGBTQ+ history and experience. A way that we can do this is by taking a look at some LGBTQ+ films that center queer narratives and characters. Representation matters and we do not mean the one-dimensional gay character who is pushed to the margins of the plot. These six films provide important and captivating stories of queer experience and love in our contemporary climate.
Six Great LGBTQ+ Films
1. Moonlight (2016)
Earning the Oscar for Best Picture, director Barry Jenkins explores masculinity and homosexual repression through his main character Chiron. Moonlight is the epitome of a coming-of-age story, where Chiron is played by three different actors at various stages of his life as he comes to terms with his sexual identity. He wishes to break free from his impoverished upbringing and find his own path in this tumultuous world.
Director Luca Guadagino portrays the landscape of 1980s Italy beautifully in Call Me By Your Name. Even more beautiful though is the relationships he builds on screen. Within the dreamy atmosphere, young Timothee Chalamet and older Armie Hammer fall into a deeply moving-tender relationship. This film has received a lot of attention in the media and we promise it is worth the hype!
Queer filmmaker of colour Dee Rees’s debut film Pariah follows Alike, a teenager navigating her sexuality and adulthood in Brooklyn. Dee Rees expresses the often overlooked experience of queer Black women. Alike finds that the path to living one’s authentic self is not easy, but worth the fight. She navigates first loves, heartache, and her sexual identity framed by the disapproval of her family. An intimate film, Aderpero Odyue’s performance as Alikeis beautifully layered in Pariah.
One of the most well-known and mainstream queer films of our time, Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee brought a sensitive and beautiful gay love story onto our screens. Starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, the two men become intertwined for years to come.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s cult novel, Todd Haynes brings a seductive love story between two women on screen. A young shopgirl, played by Rooney Mara, finds herself charmed by an alluring older woman played by Cate Blanchett. The two women form a passionate relationship that brings them joy, despite the other forces in their lives.
Director Kimberly Peirce’s biographical film tells the tragic true story of Brandon Teena. He was an American trans man who attempts to find himself in Nebraska but falls victim to a brutal hate crime perpetrated by two males. When it was released in 1999, it was the first mainstream film to focus on a transgender man. The story is almost entirely shown through Teena (played by Hilary Swank) making it a groundbreaking film for its time.
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Wondering what is the difference between 2D and 3D animation? We have the answers to all of your questions!
By: Sophia Lin
Animation sits at a unique position in the film industry. As one of the few fields to have astronomically advanced in the past few decades, it also holds the record as one of the fastest-growing disciplines. Valued to be a billion-dollar industry, animation’s storytelling can exceed the constraints of reality. Creating the fantastical, the magical, and the out-of-this-world is just another day at work in the world of animation.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, animation is just an umbrella term for the viewing of stills in sequence. For those looking to learn more or get into the industry, it’s crucial to get to know the two main disciplines: 2D and 3D animation. Respectively complex and in-demand in their own ways, there are a plethora of similarities and differences between the two. And there’s no doubt that differentiating between them might bring about some head-scratching questions. Which one should you choose? What is better? Is one easier or harder?
Well, we’re here to boil it down for you. We’ll dissect the ins and outs of both 2D and 3D animation, from the concepts behind the work to the day-to-day processes of animators. From there, we’ll discuss difficulty and suitability, and finish off with top-of-the-line softwares and platforms for animators of every level.
What is Animation?
Despite all the technological advancements, the concepts at the heart of animation have never changed. Animation involves rapidly displaying still images in sequence. Each image differs slightly from the one before, and when they appear quickly in succession, it creates movement. Most often, the frames go by at a rate of 24 frames per second, closely mirroring the speed of movement that we perceive in real life.
The most basic form is the classic stop-motion animation, in which objects are moved in small increments and photographed between each change. These days, animation is digitized, spanning a variety of techniques from keyframing to simulation.
What are the Differences Between 2D and 3D Animation?
2D animation is vector-based, and as its name suggests, characters and environments are created only in a two-dimensional space. Width and height are the only qualities a 2D animator needs to draw. Rather than pixels, 2D animation uses vectors—pathways with start and end points that are connected by lines.
In 3D animation, characters and environments are three-dimensional. Animators use pixels and work to give objects weight and timing. Sometimes, blueprints are created from scanning real-world physical objects. For the most part, 3D animation tends to overlap with the VFX pipeline as well.
What are the Similarities Between 2D and 3D Animation?
The core concepts of 2D and 3D animation are the same: they both place characters and objects into a space and manipulate them to create the illusion of motion. Both disciplines are often computerized and require a great deal of detail-oriented work. All animators working in 2D and 3D must study the principles of motion to convincingly fabricate realistic-looking movements.
Beneath the surface, there are even further similarities.
2D animation is broken down into the 3 stages of pre-production, production, and post-production:
Pre-production builds the foundational pieces. Making storyboards, designing characters, and recording voice-overs make up most of this process.
Production is the central stage, when 2D animators gather the materials they have prepared and make the rough animations. This includes inbetweening, colouring, painting, and tracing.
Post-production simply enhances what’s already been done, adding sound effects and score, before finally rendering the animations.
3D animation is also composed of 3 main phases: modeling, layout and animation, and rendering:
Modeling is the preliminary mapping of an object, using points, lines, and curves to create an approximation of the final shape. Just like in 2D animation pre-production, this stage assembles the foundational pieces of characters, scenes, and objects.
Layout and animation is likewise the central stage of the 3D animation process, and is exactly what it sounds like. Models are positioned and animated into scenes, followed by keyframing or motion capture.
Rendering, just like in 2D animation post-production, creates the finished images.
Neither is definitively harder or easier — it simply depends on an animator’s strengths and interests! 3D animation typically requires rigging, demanding a slightly more interdisciplinary set of skills. Animating an additional dimension and maintaining realism on all fronts are some of the considerations to attend to as well. This is why sometimes having an instructor lead you in your 3D animation journey is helpful when getting started.
On the other hand, 2D animators must familiarize themselves with a variety of strategies too. Losing one dimension means that it can be trickier to achieve natural-looking motion, and as a result, it often demands a closer understanding of anatomy and physics. Inbetweening, which means creating additional drawings between each frame, is another such method commonly used in 2D animation.
Should I Learn 2D or 3D Animation? Which is Better?
As art forms, neither one is better than the other. There are, however, differences in where and how each is used, an important consideration interest-wise. 2D animations are used in social media content creation, such as short-form videos, infotainment, online advertising, and explainer videos. In the pre-Internet days, 2d animations were predominantly used in cartoons and that still continues today.
On the flip side, 3D animators work is most often seen in movies, TV, and video games. From an industry stance, though jobs are plentiful in both fields, 3D animation is on the rise more so than 2D. Nevertheless, 2D animation boasts a few distinct advantages too. Its biggest plus is that it’s cost-effective, demanding fewer platforms and with more manual, artistic work.
Why is 3D Animation More Popular?
For many, it’s simply a matter of the heightened realism that can be created with 3D animation. This enhances its versatility, enabling 3D animators to work in a variety of media. For instance, live-action movies can be smoothly combined with elements of 3D animation. Its overlap with VFX, another burgeoning field, boosts its popularity as well. In our increasingly complex digital landscape, 3D animation might be the better option if you are wanting to work in film and television. At this 3D animation school, you will learn everything there is to know about 3D animation for film and television.
If I Want to Learn Both, Should I Learn 2D Animation or 3D Animation First?
Some say that more artistic minds choose 2D animation, while more technical minds choose 3D animation. It’s short and sweet, but when it really comes down to it, there are a myriad more factors in play. Both disciplines involve a wide-ranging set of skills, and your interests could pull you in many directions. So the best advice? Try them both.
Firsthand experience — and even just working on a couple animations — effortlessly guides you through the tasks. It’s the best replica of a day in the life of an animator there is! From there, take note of what draws your eye, what spurs your imagination, and what makes the time slip, slip away.
Before you go out there, we assembled a handy list of animation software and platforms to help you dip your toe into the field. If you want to learn quickly, 3D animation schools are another excellent launching pad. They give you the resources you need always at your disposal. This means the sooner you can break into the industry and get animating!
2D Animation Software & Resources
Toon Boom Harmony is the industry-leading software. It has all the features a 2D animator will ever need, from compositing to deformers, but is on the pricier side.
Adobe After Effects is part of Adobe Creative Cloud. It’s the industry-standard visual effects and graphics software, with high-quality 2D animating functions.
Pencil 2D is an open-source, free software with a minimalistic user design. It works with both raster and vector, and hails as one of the most commonly used softwares.
The Animation Magazine is an online publication, featuring news, technology, events, and business pertaining to the animation industry.
OpenToonz is another open-source and free software great for both student and professional animators. This software was also used in some Studio Ghibli cuts!
3D Animation Software & Resources
Autodesk Maya is the industry-leading software. It boasts functionality from explosions to cloth simulation — but be sure to note that it is one of the priciest platforms out there.
The Animator’s Resource Kit is a site focusing on 3D animation that includes anything from a job spreadsheet to an animator’s survival kit, all free to access!
Animate, also in Adobe Creative Cloud, allows animation of just about anything. It supports multimedia interests and enables users to publish to any platform.
Blender is an open-source, free software offering a 3D graphics creation suite. It includes animation and rigging tools, as well as an array of modelling tools.
Animation World Network is a journalistic culmination of all things animation, with both digital and print options. Commercial releases and advice from industry experts are just a few of the headlines.
Forums & Networks
Animators’ Reddit is an online forum that keeps users anonymous and features discussions from animators of all disciplines around the world.
Unity Forum: Animation is an accessible hub of online discussion. Its format is question-answer based, with anonymity for users as well.
The Internet Animation Database is an animator-specific compendium that focuses on gathering animation information and research, along with a frequented discussion channel.
The Animation Cafe is a safe space for questions and debate on aspects of the animation industry. Many experienced professionals pitch in, making it a valuable destination for insight into the art and business of animation.
At the end of the day, 2D and 3D animation each have their particular processes and demands, with differing pros and cons depending on who you are! Some might take pleasure in the fine-grain work of inbetweening in 2D, while others are ready to mix in some motion capture with their days at the drawing board.
So, the name of the game is to follow your interests. Dip you toes into 3D animation courses. Try both 2D and 3D animation, and take a stab at each of the phases along the way. In short, explore, explore, explore! Then you’ll know when you’ve found the one.
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We sat down with the founder of InFocus Film School on his experience being queer in the film industry, some of his career highlights, and his favourite queer filmmakers!
By: Kennedy Randall
In January of 2010, founder Steve Rosenberg opened InFocus Film School’s doors to the public. For the past 25 years, Steve has been working as an independent filmmaker in Canada. He is an alumni of The Canadian Film Centre, one of Canada’s most prestigious film institutions.
His dramatic shorts, Corona Station,Watching Mrs. Pomerantz, Vannica, Divine Waters, and Shanti Baba Ram have screened at various prestigious international festivals and played on the Sundance Channel, CBC, WTV, and Bravo. Watching Mrs. Pomerantz earned numerous international awards, including the award for Best Director at The Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival.
Steve has followed up his 25 years as an independent filmmaker by sharing his knowledge with his students at InFocus. He took the time to share his experience as a queer filmmaker. As well, he shares advice for young LGBTQ+ filmmakers making their way in the industry.
Q: What made you want to become a filmmaker?
A: I grew up in Toronto, Ontario. I have always been drawn to the film industry and always wanted to be a part of the creative industry. It was all so disappointing for my parents to have a gay son and secondly to find out that I am not going to take over the family lumber business.
Q: Did you face any challenges being queer in the film industry?
A: I grew up in an era when if you announced to your family that you were interested in a career in the arts, they would be worried you would starve. I am making light of it now, but at the time, it was a huge struggle to come out one as gay adolescent and a second time as a budding artist.
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: I think this may sound strange, but I believe not having kids is a huge regret for me. At the time, fatherhood for gay couples was extremely rare. Children are such a huge endeavour and not having them left a void in my life. In turn, I was able to really embrace my creative work and feel a huge sense of accomplishment.
Q: In what ways has your sexuality influenced your creative work?
A: My films are not overtly queer, however, my first short film Watching Mrs. Pomerantz has a queer subtext. It follows a nine-year old boy who is in love with his glamorous neighbour Mrs. Pomerantz. In contrast to my mom, who ate chicken with her hands, Mrs. Pomerantz drove a fancy car, dressed in chiffon evening gowns and ordered take-out Chinese food for lunch. From a young age, I related to the strong female role models and wanted to feature them in my work.
Q: Who are your favourite queer filmmakers?
A: My attention to strong female characters is a reason I am drawn to Pedro Almadóvar’s films. I also admire is Ang Lee, a straight filmmaker who was brave enough to tackle a very outwardly queer films like Brokeback Mountain and The Wedding Banquet. I also love the camp of John Waters and the TV work of Ryan Murphy, both queer giants in the film industry.
Q: What are things you notice about queer film before and now?
A: The gay films I watched in my early twenties, which seems like yesterday, featured themes like coming out, overcoming shame, and eventually leads to self respect. I can relate to all of that being queer in the film industry. I believe that these stories are still relevant today, everywhere in the world. In today’s age, however, I am really happy to see gay characters who are depicted facing challenges and having storylines that are not limited to their sexuality.
Q: Any advice for young people who are queer in the film industry?
A: Gay cinema is here to stay and not just marked to the LGBTQ+ community anymore. These stories and identities are important for everyone to hear, not just people within the community. If I could give one piece of advise to queer filmmakers, it is just to keep exploring their own experiences. Their work will feel authentic. This is something that has always worked for me.
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Here are seven Indigenous filmmakers located across Canada that you need to explore!
By: Sophia Lin
With National Indigenous Peoples Day around the corner, we are spotlighting some of the incredible Canadian Indigenous filmmakers in the business today. Working as directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors, these talented artists have lent their skills and unique voices to some of the best work in Canadian film.
1. Tracey Deer
Tracey Deer is a Mohawk director and screenwriter. In her words, she seeks to better the world “one frame at a time.” Her feature film Beans (2020), is a coming-of-age tale set during the Oka Crisis. Recently, it was screened and honoured at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Additionally, her work was screened at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. As well, she has been broadcasted on CBC. With her own production company, Mohawk Princess Productions, Deer plans to produce fiction shorts.
2. Jeff Barnaby
A Mi’kmaq filmmaker from Quebec, Barnaby has two acclaimed feature films under his belt. His first film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), premiered at TIFF. It tells a harrowing story in the context of the residential school system.
A year later, Barnaby was contacted by the National Film Board of Canada. They reached out for him to film a short documentary. His film Blood Quantum (2019) showcasing Mi’kmaq voices,putting a twist on the classic zombie genre.
3. Loretta Todd
Loretta Todd began in TV and documentary work, before getting into directing. Her debut narrative feature was Monkey Beach in 2020. Adapted from Eden Robinson’s eponymous novel, it opened to much acclaim at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
She is a filmmaker of mixed Cree-Métis and European ancestry and has worked in a variety of media, including animation and interactive. In 1998, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Taos Talking Pictures Festival.
4. Bretten Hannam
Hannam is a Two-Spirit L’nu screenwriter and director. With their latest film Wildhood (2021), they sought to tell a never-before-seen Two-Spirit story of a young man rediscovering himself. He embarks on a road trip through Eastern Canada and reconnects with his heritage. It received six Canadian Screen Award nominations, marking a historic moment for queer BIPOC Canadian artists.
Their work, both shorts and feature-length, focuses around themes of community, culture, and LGBTQ+ identity, and has been honoured at festivals around North America.
5. Amanda Strong
A multiple award-winning Michif filmmaker, Strong’s work lies mainly in the realms of stop-motion, animation, and virtual reality. She takes an interdisciplinary, multi-layered approach to her work, creating some of the most innovative projects out there — including Biidaaban (2018) and Four Faces of the Moon (2016).
Her production company Spotted Fawn Productions is a large part of her mission to reclaim Indigenous histories, lineage, and culture.
6. Danis Goulet
Sundance, Berlin International Film Festival, and MoMA have all screened many of Danis Goulet’s films. Of Cree-Métis descent, she is one of the foremost emerging Indigenous filmmakers today. Most recently, she won the TIFF Emerging Talent Award with her debut feature Night Raiders (2021).
She got her foot in the door as a casting coordinator, then dove into the directing side of the industry. By doing so, she honed creative control over Indigenous stories. In 2021, she completed production on a thriller film for Netflix.
7. Christopher Auchter
Chris Auchter grew up in Haida Gwaii, BC. An animator, illustrator, and documentary filmmaker, his work deeply roots his storytelling in the Haida people and their land. His 2017 short, The Mountain of SGaana (2017), creatively combined traditional animation with elements of Haida art.
The films he creates are often hailed as innovative and integrative. How People Got Fire (2009)was an animation film he made, entirely using charcoal, for the National Film Board of Canada.
These seven Indigenous filmmakers are incredibly influential in the Canadian film industry. Their work is redefining Canadian film and we cannot wait to see what stories they share next.
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Film has been home to queer and LGBTQ+ people, visibly or not, for the entirety of its history. Here are eight LGBTQ+ filmmakers still paving the way today!
By: Kennedy Randall
From pioneering gay director John Waters, to Canadian LGBTQ+ filmmakers making waves in the film festival scene, trans filmmakers, and queer filmmakers of colour, here are eight LGBTQ+ filmmakers to check out.
1. John Waters
With a wide variety of work, John Waters’ iconic musicals and comedies have gained a cult following since the 1970s. He is the man behind the original Hairspray (1988) which found even further popularity as a Broadway musical. His fabulous sense of humour continued with classics like Cry-Baby (1990) and Serial Mom (1994).
One of the first openly LGBTQ+ filmmakers, Waters has inspired many filmmakers through his oeuvre. His creativity doesn’t end with moving images either; he experiments with photo-based art and installations.
2. Lee Daniels
Lee Daniels is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. His work spans from arthouse film to hit twist-filled television as producer and director of FOX’s Empire and Star. His 2009 film Precious, went on to receive great critical acclaim and received nominations at the Academy Awards, Screen Actor Guild Awards, and many more.
Growing up, Daniels had pushback from his father about being gay, with many of those experiences inspiring the narrative of Precious. Though his father did not provide emotional support, Daniels’ grandmother supported him and his career.
3. Xavier Dolan
French-Canadian actor and director Xavier Dolan has gained international acclaim for exploring complicated relationships between friends and family, often revealing the ingrained homophobia present in society. He was born in Quebec, Canada and has been busy making 9 films in his 11-year career. His Canadian LGBTQ+ films have received widespread recognition, in particular his 2009 film J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) which he wrote, starred in, and directed.
With a semi-autobiographical narrative, I Killed My Mother explores the love-hate relationship between a young man discovering his homosexuality and his mother. The film’s coming-of-age narrative reveals the raw experience of growing up gay in a thought-provoking film style.
4. Kimberly Peirce
Prominent American indie filmmaker Kimberly Peirce operates through a feminist lens in her directing, writing, and producing. Her first feature film Boys Don’t Cry (1999) analyses the life and tragic death of a trans man, Brendon Teena.
She went on to direct an episode of the popular series The L Word, influenced by her own experiences being openly lesbian. Throughout her career, Peirce has remained a prominent activist with many other LGBTQ+ filmmakers for feminist movements and beyond.
5. Chase Joynt
Trans and gender diverse individuals haven’t always been represented in a fair light. The documentary film lens can sometimes be inaccurate portraying some things as true. Further, often the individuals on-screen are not involved behind the lens. Trans Canadian filmmaker Chase Joynt aimed to remedy these issues in his documentary Framing Agnes (2022) which explores the buried case files from a 1950 study led by sociologist Harold Garfinke at UCLAl.
In Framing Agnes, a cast of trans actors turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a trans woman (Agnes) being forced to choose between honesty and access. The documentary-turned-feature film defies genre boundaries and was screened at Sundance 2022 and Hot Docs 2022. Though Joynt was the only transgender director featured this year at Hot Docs, Framing Agnes achieves their mission of widening trans history and getting trans voices heard.
6. Dee Rees
Screenwriter and director, Dee Rees started her career with the feature film Pariah (2011), which went on to gain international acclaim. Inspired by her own experience as a queer filmmaker of colour, Pariah follows a young black woman named Alke. The main character grapples with her sexuality and the world’s response to it. The movie won many awards, notably the N.A.A.C.P Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. Also, her series Bessie with Queen Latifah earned an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie.
Rees also acknowledges the need and desire for content aimed specifically at black consumers. She has said “We’re the consumers and we’re the producers” which she expresses in her LGBTQ+ and black characters, creating an intersectional picture of contemporary experience in America.
7. Isabel Sandoval
Recently, trans Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval has made a splash in the indie film scene. In 2019, she was the first transgender woman of colour to compete at the Venice Film Festival with her feature Lingua Franca. This film, starring Sandoval herself, follows an undocumented Filipina trans woman who falls in love in Brooklyn. Lingua Franca was bought by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY and released on Netflix, bringing Sandoval a widespread audience and recognition.
As a trans filmmaker, she is trying to bring trans characters and narratives out of the periphery. In so doing, Sandoval creates layered, complex and multi-dimensional characters who convey the reality of living as a trans individual in our political climate.
8. Goran Stolevski
Macedonian-Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski took the 2022 Sundance Film Festival by storm with his feature debut You Won’t Be Alone. His folk horror film brings together questions of genre, queerness, and human connection in 19th century Macedonia. At Sundance, Stolevski took home Best International Short.
Stolveski often favours female protagonists and outsider perspectives. In You Won’t Be Alone,a young witch shape shifts and learns how to be human in the 1800s. Informed by his experience as a queer filmmaker, Stolveski’s work meditates on feeling out of place. However, he reminds us that we are never truly alone.
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.