InFocus Film School Blog


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:



So you’re thinking of studying film in Canada. Did you know Canada is home to a billion dollar TV and Film industry? And much of the action happens right here in Vancouver, BC.

Whether you’re interested in directing, producing or cinematography,  Vancouver is the place to be. If you want to study film in Canada as an international student, here is what you need to know.


Because InFocus programs are 6 or more months in length, students require a study permit.  Study Permits are issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

InFocus is on the Designated Learning Institutions list, which means we are authorized to host international students. When you apply for your study permit, you will be asked to provide proof of your acceptance from InFocus. You will also need to provide a bank statement or proof of loan to show that you have enough money to live and pay your bills while you are studying in Canada.

You should apply for a Study Permit as early as possible, as it can take several months to process an application, depending on your home country.


International students may seek a work permit after graduating, and can plan ahead to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident. We recommend you do your research at Citizenship and Immigration Canada or speak to a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). InFocus works with a RCIC that can go over your options with you.


Depending on your country of origin, you also may need a Temporary Resident Visa. Find out if you need a visa here.

*This is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon in such a manner.

Struggling to resist the constant distractions in your home? Find inspiration in new surroundings, and discover some of Vancouver’s finest coffee shops.

Our three key qualities for the perfect coffee shop writing spot are ample seating, plentiful outlets and exceptional hot brew. Find your new favourite home-away-from-home in these rain city gems.

Mink Chocolates Cafe
863 W Hastings St.

If you want to pair your caffeine buzz with a sugar high, Mink Chocolates Cafe not only serves up excellent coffee, but also offers a large array of specialty drinks and delectable treats. Inside it’s clean and bright, with a good number of small tables for writers who are working alone.

Calhoun’s Bakery Café
3035 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC

One of the few coffee shops in Vancouver that is open 24/7, Calhoun’s is inviting and spacious and provides an extensive menu of comfort food and baked goods– not to mention, fresh coffee to keep you going all night long.

Fairview Slopes
Caffe Cittadella
2310 Ash Street

Located in a converted heritage house, Caffe Cittadella is absolutely charming, with two small floors of seating and a multi-level outdoor patio. A few blocks away from the cacophony of Cambie and Broadway, this coffee shop is off the main street and blissfully quiet – the perfect spot for writers.

325 Cambie Street

For the caffeine connoisseur, Revolver truly sets a standard for exceptional service and top-notch pourover brew. You may need to experiment bit to find a time when the shop isn’t packed with people, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Platform 7
2331 E Hastings Street

Cement walls, pipe shelving and a curious row of flame fueled coffee siphons give Platform 7 an appealing steampunk vibe, and the funky decor is worth a visit alone. The ample seating and retro music selection is just icing on the cake– and it’s sure to get your creative juices flowing.

East Cafe
2401 E Hastings Street

Exactly what every neighbourhood cafe should strive to be– vibrant and welcoming with excellent coffee and locally sourced baked goods. The staff goes above and beyond making you feel at home, and their efforts don’t go unnoticed by their very local clientele.

Mount Pleasant

Aperture Coffee Bar
243 W Broadway

With its exposed brick columns, herringbone floor and incredible coffee, Aperture Coffee Bar is definitely an inspiring place to work– and, in case you need a distraction, it hosts an impressive bookshelf of lovingly worn novels.

Riley Park
The Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar
4124 Main St

A favourite of Vancouver writer’s groups, The Grind has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and a deceptively large seating area in the back. Open late, this Riley Park coffee shop is a great choice for a writing session.

West End
Breka Bakery & Cafe
812 Bute Street

Another rare Vancouver establishment that is open 24/7, Breka Bakery & Cafe is warm and unpretentious, with a huge selection of baked goods, soups and sandwiches. The large patio, which is heated during the colder months, is also perfect for people watching.

The Buzz Café & Espresso Bar
901 Homer Street

With a spacious layout that feels like a combination of an art gallery and an upscale living room, The Buzz Cafe has the distinction of being one of the only coffee shops in Vancouver ideal for writing in a quiet atmosphere.

“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:


It’s a beautiful, crisp autumn day in Vancouver and at InFocus Film School our Foundation Film Program, a six month filmmaking intensive, is now in session.

In honour of our class of new students who have travelled to the Pacific Northwest from all around the world, here are five tips on how to become a better filmmaker, and unleash your inner cinematic genius:

1) Recognize the Importance of Play

As children, we could dip our hands into a carton of paint and smear it on a canvas without much thought to what our soon-to-be-masterpiece would become. The worry of whether or not our work was any good is something that came much later in life, and it can be detrimental to the creative process.

If you find yourself stuck on a particular idea, or in a never ending struggle with perfectionism, take a moment to consider how you might approach your work if you were eight years old. Trust your impulses, put a pin in ideas, move past them when you get stuck, and do your best to practice openness.

2) Make Weekend Movies

It can be tempting to wait until conditions are perfect to start making films– when you have a generous budget, top-of-the-line cinematography equipment and seasoned actors. The truth is, is that money and technology are never a good substitute for talent and experience.

Grab your cellphone, a DSLR or even that old camcorder that is buried in your garage and start making movies. Enlist some friends to help out, operating the camera, dressing a location or standing in as actors. Remember that these films don’t have to be exceptional, but they should contain something in them that you feel represents your point of view, or your sense of humour.

3) Watch Bad Films

It may seem counterintuitive to include b-movies in your film studies, but they’re not only very entertaining – they can also teach you a lot about film production and story structure.

From cliched dialogue to overdone movie tropes, these films can act as a visual textbook on what not to do in your own cinematic endeavours. Use these as a guide to the mistakes many filmmakers make, and you’ll become better at identifying these issues in your own work.

4) Don’t Take it Personally

Here’s the truth  behind creativity — as you’re working towards mastering your craft, you’re going to have to work through a whole mess of mediocrity. The films you make in the beginning of your career aren’t always going to look how you want them to — in some cases you’re going to feel the impulse to trash an entire project after the final cut.

In order to become a better filmmaker you’re going to have to keep practicing, filming, writing and putting your work out there. Don’t look at your limitations as if they are a direct reflection of your worth as a person. Take pride in your dedication to improve as a creative talent.

5) Repeat

The most important thing you can do to continually nurture your creativity and skill is to keep making things. Write alone, or write with a partner. Recruit friends to meet up once a week and spend the afternoon filming. Edit that footage on your computer. Find other people who are making their own films, and help them with their productions.

Creativity is a muscle. To strengthen it, you must work on it daily. In order to become a masterful filmmaker you will need the ambition to succeed, the practice to refine your skill and the dedication to push yourself towards greatness.

Nearly fifty years ago George Romero changed the landscape of the indie horror films forever with his debut feature Night of the Living Dead. This tradition has continued as emerging directors have used horror to launch their careers, consistently breathing new life into the genre—from Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1980) to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

This generation introduces a new wave of indie horror films that play with cultural influences, horror clichés and self-awareness within their work. Here are ten indie horror films that are redefining fear.

The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Budget: $2 million
Summary: The Babadook is about a troubled young boy and his mother, who find themselves tormented by a nightmarish creature that appears in their home via a mysterious pop-up children’s book. Following the film’s release, William Friedkin, the legendary director of The Exorcist, announced: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film.”

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Director: Eli Craig
Writer: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson

Budget: $2 million

Summary: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is an incredibly entertaining twist of perspective, following two hapless rednecks that are mistaken for backwoods killers by a group of preppy college kids. This film is a romp in ‘meta-horror’ territory, slashing its way through tropes and emerging covered in blood and gore and a whole lot of heart.

Creep (2014)

Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Budget: Unknown

Summary: Creep is unlike anything you’ve seen before: a mumblecore found footage endeavour that treads the water between comedy and psychological horror. Director/writer Patrick Brice plays a naive videographer who answers a cryptic online ad, and begins documenting the charming and increasingly unhinged Mark Duplass, who produced and co-wrote the film. This film truly a testament to what two people can do with talent, a camera and a rubber wolf mask.

The Orphanage (2007)

Director: J.A. Bayona
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Budget: $4 million

Summary: If you prefer your horror films to come with a pedigree, rest assured that The Orphanage not only opened at the Cannes Film Festival, but also received a ten-minute standing ovation from the audience. The film centers on a woman who moves her family into the orphanage that she grew up in, her hopes to reopen it abruptly halted when her son goes missing under mysterious circumstances.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall
Budget: $2 million

Summary: Before director Neil Marshall released his critically acclaimed feature The Decent (2005), he first tested the waters of horror with Dog Soldiers, a film that wholeheartedly celebrates the low-budget comedy-horror genre. In the Scottish Highlands a group of soldiers is forced to barricade themselves in a farmhouse and fight off a wave of bloodthirsty werewolves.

Resolution (2012)

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson
Budget: Unknown

Summary: A disarmingly funny genre-twisting film that opens with a man’s aggressive attempt to help detox his meth-addicted best friend, and switches gear when a mysterious entity begins targeting them. Exploring a barrage of classic horror-film clichés, Resolution is a breath of fresh air for those who feel they have thoroughly OD’d on the genre.

Lake Mungo (2008)
Director: Joel Anderson
Writer: Joel Anderson
Budget: $1 million

Summary: Presented as a faux-documentary about the death and secretive live of a sixteen year old girl, Lake Mungo feels like something you might stumble across while watching late night television, blurring the line between reality and nightmare. This is a gem of a horror film that blends the complexity of grief, memory and the afterlife.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Budget: $1 million
Summary: The critically acclaimed A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a stylish cross-cultural black-and-white feast for the eyes that can be summed up by its tagline, ‘The first Iranian Vampire Western’. The result is a film that was clearly made with excitement, passion and a true love of the cinema.

Honeymoon (2014)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak
Budget:   $1 Million USD
Summary: A newlywed couple finds their brief marital bliss shattered when the bride begins sleepwalking and acting increasingly erratic. This film plays on the very relatable anxiety that goes along with intimacy and commitment, taking it to a chilling extreme.

The Loved Ones (2009)
Director: Sean Byrne
Writer: Sean Byrne
Budget:   $4 million
Summary: A future cult classic, The Loved Ones feels like an absolutely horrific mashup of Carrie (1976) and Misery (1990). When a socially awkward young woman is turned down for a date to the prom by the high school heartthrob, she and her father take things into their own hands to give her the night that she so desperately desires.

Tonight I left the movie theatre wishing the directing and writing credit had my name instead of the name Sanna Lenken. It’s one of a handful of narcissistic fantasies that every filmmaker experiences. It’s how I felt after seeing the early works of Todd Solendz. “My Skinny Sister,” is a Swedish drama about a pudgy neglected twelve year old girl who witnesses her older sister’s ongoing struggles with figure skating and anorexia.

A triangle emerges as red headed tween Stella, (Rebecka Josephson, granddaughter of Bergman regular Erland Josephson), falls for her sister Katja’s forty-something skating coach. The lengthy dialogue scenes have moments of magic as Stella is a resourceful liar who can lie beautifully in a pinch. Her genius lies directed to both her parents and the chiseled skating coach are the only laugh-out-loud moments in this sobering film.

Obviously talent is abundant for this young actor whose understated performance includes a variety of brooding stares and giggling meltdowns. She has the unenviable task of her viewing her sister’s skating demise while keeping silent for fear of betrayal. The scenes unravel slowly with minimal cuts and the close-up stares are Bergmanesque. Most appealing about this film are Lenken’s storytelling choices: the anorexia breakdown is less relevant than the story of a young sister trying to behave like an older wiser sister. In this textured portrait of sister envy, not everything is solved, but a certain raven haired adolescent ends up with an awkward life affirming kiss.


I just saw my first VIFF film, “Vincent”, a minimalist comedy from France. Director-performer Thomas Salvador plays Vincent, a sinewy introverted construction labourer who exhibits supernatural powers. When he is wet he swims butterfly faster than a motorboat and can power-lift a cement mixer but when he is dry he is an unassuming labourer.

Vincent’s prowess in the pool impresses Lucie (Vimala Pons) his beautiful girl-next-door love interest (think Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island). His scorching love scene with her is memorable for the camera angles that reveal everything and nothing all in the same shot. But their romance goes nowhere; she’s in the script just to give witness to his abilities. Vincent’s impulsive petty crime puts him at odds with the law.

This laconic comedy works best when Vincent finds water in the most unlikely settings. When running from police a splash in a culvert can mean a huge escape advantage. Salvador is a gifted stylist with the ability dazzle his audience with breathtaking rocky coastal waterscapes and memorable French sex. This is an elegant Superman tale without the righteous overwrought victories that litter Hollywood films.

The 77 minute debut film may have worked better as a 19min short as the story feels shallow, and flounders with lack of purpose. However “Vincent” is pleasing to watch for it’s cinematic craft from a nascent auteur who will no doubt soar with better material. And if I may be shallow as well, Thomas Salvador’s smouldering good looks don’t hurt the film either.