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Film Festival Tips for New Filmmakers

If you love filmmaking, overdosing on popcorn, and waiting in line ups, then you’ve probably seen a film at a film festival before. Festivals have a certain exciting frequency to them as audience members, celebrities and filmmakers all enjoy the same viewing screen. But for a new filmmaker, festivals can be daunting new territory.

InFocus alumni Sarah Race’s student film, Barbarian Press (2016), has been screened at a dozen festivals around North America. Race felt clueless when she entered the festival world—but even though she spent more money on festivals than on the cost of her film, it was all worth it. “To me, it was all about the experience, about all the amazing people I met, how awesome people were, and all the learning curves,” said Race.

Race was encouraged to submit Barbarian Press (2016) by her InFocus instructors, and her film won official selection at Hot Docs in 2016. The decision to take the festival route has been very beneficial for her networking but has limited the potential audience for her film, as opposed to if she had posted her films on an online platform like Youtube. “Film festivals only have a very small audience of a specific sort of people that go to film festivals,” she said.

One of the biggest factors discouraging filmmakers from entering festivals is the cost. It can be expensive to pay for application fees, and then transportation and lodging in the city of the festival. Race said it was expensive but still important to attend the festivals for networking purposes. “You’re there to network and meet people, and maybe eventually those things will pan out to money making.”

Janalee Budge, another InFocus alumni, also took to the festival scene with her documentary In the Blink of an Eye (2016). She has received multiple awards and screenings, including official selection at the Whistler International Film Festival. She said the festival application process was overwhelming and expensive, but she feels that the ‘award winning’ title has its benefits. “To be able to say that [my film has] gone to a festival seems to have a fair bit of weight when you’re talking to people about future hiring,” said Budge.

Budge entered her film into festivals mostly out of curiosity. “I wanted to know if it was going to be interesting to people that weren’t my friends and family,” said Budge. Once the festival began, she was hooked. “I loved going to all the events and for the first time being part of the industry side as opposed to just the filmgoers,” she said.

Aside from the red carpets and events, festivals can be a very busy time for filmmakers. According to Sarah Race, “You have to do a lot of work when you’re there, like bring postcards or just talk to people.”

Of course, choosing to submit your film into festivals all starts with the daunting task of the application process. It can be overwhelming to sift through hundreds of festivals online, each application with its own expensive entry fee and specific requirements. Setting a budget for your festival applications and applying only to the most relevant festivals to your film is recommended. Race suggests focusing submissions on festivals that have a similar theme to your film, such as festivals that are focused on mountain films or skiing if that’s the topic of your film. She also says to be wary of premiere requirements, as some festivals require a film to be a world, national or provincial premiere and your film only gets one of each.

Not every film is destined or designed to go into the realm of film festivals, but those that do successfully find themselves as an Official Selection at a festival can look forward to the title of award-winning filmmaker and proudly display their laurels.

Shooting Without a Script: Improvised Cinema

Drinking Buddies (2014), an improvised movie

No matter how much care a screenwriter may put into their script, it only takes one rogue actor with a penchant to ad-lib to completely derail their meticulously written dialogue. There are a number of infamous scenes that have come from this process. Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes is in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), when a swordsman, theatrically brandishing a sword, confronts a weary Harrison Ford, who had been recovering from a bout of dysentery on set. With the expectation that an elaborate fight would follow, audiences were surprised and delighted when Ford simply pulled out his gun and blasted his foe away. This improvised moment resonated with fans because it felt fresh and unpredictable in an otherwise polished film.

But what would an entirely improvised film look like?

In the last several years, there have been a number of celebrated films that were shot with only a script outline, giving the actors freedom to explore their characters in an organic way. Mark and Jay Duplass have used this method for many of their films, ushering in what is known as the Mumblecore Movement with their feature-length debut The Puffy Chair (2005). Eleven years later, their experience in this narrative execution culminated in the critically acclaimed improvised film Blue Jay (2016),

The list of directors who work within this world of improv goes on: Joe Swanberg with Drinking Buddies (2014) and the Netflix series Easy (2016), Lynn Shelton with Humpday (2009) and Your Sister’s Sister (2011), and Ben and Joshua Safdie with Daddy Longlegs (2009) and Heaven Knows What (2014), among a host of other directorial talent.

So, what drives a director to want to create an unscripted film? The budget and condensed timeline can be equally enticing draws for the independent filmmaker. The majority of unscripted films are made on micro-budgets, often within a matter of weeks. Another factor is having a story outline that is driven by strong characters and naturalism, where dialogue may feel more authentic if improvised.

If this process intrigues you, here are a few pointers on making your own unscripted film:

 

  1. Start With a Strong Outline

Identify what your film is about, who the characters are, and what is at stake for them. Outline each scene with the location, cast, and ultimate purpose. Each major cast member should have a written backstory to help guide and justify their actions. The more preparation you do ahead of time, the more freedom the actors will have on the day of the shoot.

 

  1. Find Your Collaborators

Even more so than traditional filmmaking, improv cinema is an intensely collaborative process, and it takes a flexible and open-minded person to truly excel at it. Recruit your cast and crew with that in mind.

 

  1. Schedule Time for Rehearsal

A strong actor isn’t necessarily a gifted improviser, and it’s important to leave time for your cast members to develop trust and a sense of familiarity with one another before you go to camera. Consider having your actors improv scenes that won’t appear in your film but are significant parts of their back story. A scene that explores where the characters first met, or shared a secret, or had their first big fight will contribute to the depth of their performance during the actual shoot.

 

  1. Have a Multi-cam Setup

One of the greatest assets of improvisational cinema is also its greatest challenge: every take is going to be different. Shoot with a minimum of two cameras to ensure you get enough coverage and options for editing.

 

  1. Get Creative with Financing

Fundraising for an improvised film can be tricky. In Canada, most funding sources require an extensive outline of the project, including a completed screenplay. The bulk of unscripted films are made with minimal budgets, a reality that has filmmakers cutting corners and utilizing unconventional practices during their shoots. Brian McGuire shot his feature Prevertere (2013) by dollying his cinematographer through downtown in a wheelchair to avoid purchasing a filming permit and by posing as a wedding videographer to capture a cinematic scene.

 

Unscripted filmmaking takes a fearless director and a cast and crew who are willing to break the mold to create their next big project. Do you have a favourite improvised film? Let us know in the comments!

Women in Film: Where They Are and How Far They’ve Come

InFocus celebrates Women in Film

by Renee Sutton

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, cultural, and economic achievements of women around the world, and an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on some of the most badass women in film, both in history and today.

The role of women in the film industry has changed dramatically since the early days of Hollywood, when most women on set were on-screen bombshells or at least deemed marketable by the big studios. While film is statistically still a male-dominated industry, more and more women are moving into key creative positions and making highly acclaimed and celebrated films in both the independent and studio world.

Despite the adversity, there have always been women who persevered and shone in the film industry. Even during the early decades of Hollywood’s first century, there was Dorothy Arzner, the only working female director in America in the late 20’s and 30’s. She made 3 silent movies and 14 ‘talkies’ during her 15-year career as a director, and was the first female member of the Directors Guild of America.

The modern film industry has many more women working behind the scenes, but still at a ratio of five men to every one woman, according to the New York Film Academy. In the entire 89-year history of the Academy Awards, only four women have been nominated for Best Director; Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1975) in 1976, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003, and Kathryn Bigelow who was the first and only woman to win Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2008.

Originally from California, Kathryn Bigelow began her creative career as an accomplished painter before studying film theory. She started by making short films, and had early success directing features with Point Break in 1991 and, more recently, the acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. Bigelow was the first woman to win a BAFTA award for Best Director and to win the Directors Guild of America award for directing a feature.

While less than 30 percent of all key creative positions (directors, writers, producers cinematographers, and editors) are held by women today, according to a 2013 study by Sundance Institute and Women in Film, the number of female documentary directors and producers is drastically higher now than it was in the past. Women are much more prominent in the production of documentaries than in that of narrative films. Women make up nearly 50% of documentary directors and producers but less than a quarter of narrative feature producers and directors.

Even though their numbers comprise a lower percentage of filmmakers in the industry, female filmmakers are constantly breaking new ground. American director, screenwriter and distributer Ava DuVernay began working in film publicity to market movies to African American audiences in the 90’s. The documentary This is the Life (2008) was her directorial debut. Her second narrative film, Middle of Nowhere (2012), won DuVernay the Best Director Award in 2012, making her the first female African American to receive this award. In 2014, she was also the first female black director to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her film Selma (2014).

Looking a little closer to home, Canada also has many inspiring and successful female directors. Alanis Obomsawin has been directing films since 1971 and has nearly 50 directing credits with the NFB. While originally born in New Hampshire on Abenaki Territory, Obomsawin was primarily raised in Quebec. Before her film career, she toured as a singer/song writer and activist, eventually moving on to make films that address the struggles and perspectives of aboriginal peoples living in Canada, including 270 Years of Resistance, her best-known film from 1993.

Canadian actress Sarah Polly also shifted into directing films and is leading a very successful career as a director. Her 2006 feature film debut, Away from Her, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and won multiple Genie awards, including the first female to receive the best achievement in direction award. Her films Take This Waltz (2011) and Stories We Tell (2012) were both named one of Canada’s top ten features of the year by the Toronto International Film Festival.

Vancouver-based Julia Ivanova is a passionate director, editor and cinematographer committed to making documentaries that break individual and social perceptions. She has directed and edited multiple full-length feature documentaries, including Family Portrait in Black and White, which won best Canadian feature at Hot Docs in 2011, and Limit is the Sky (2016), which premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival 2016 and will be screening in Vancouver at DOXA this year.

You can celebrate women in film at the 2017 Vancouver International Women in Film festival from March 8-12 at the VIFF Vancity Theatre, or you can check out any of the films on this IMDB list of 200 films directed by a woman.

 


Renee is a Vancouver-based freelance videographer and editor.  Since graduating from InFocus Film School, Renee spends most of her time editing video projects and creating social content for online platforms, but she also enjoys creating environmentally-aware short documentaries and travel videos.

Prompt Your Way to Better Screenwriting

 

Margaret Atwood eloquently captured the struggle of many emerging writers when she said: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Although it’s much more romantic to imagine screenwriting as a god given talent rather than an acquired skill, the truth is that the key to becoming a skilled screenwriter is to take risks, make mistakes, and practice, practice, practice.

The hardest part of improving your screenwriting skills is mustering up willpower to dedicate some time each day to work on it. The easiest part is finding screenwriting prompts online. There is a wealth of free and easily accessible exercises that will help cut through even the most stubborn writer’s block.

Here’s a few of our favorites:

One Word

Only have a minute to unlock your creative genius? One Word gives users a single word to use as a prompt, and sixty seconds to write about it. After the time has elapsed you are invited to submit what you have written, and to read what others managed to come up with in the same span of time. It’s exposure therapy for perfectionists, and after a few rounds it may prove to be both addictive and liberating.  

Sample Prompt: Pawn

Think Written

This massive list of 365 writing prompts will save you from clicking through pages to find something that inspires you to write, or give you enough material for an entire year worth of sessions. Stretch your writing muscles and try to fill these prompts through a variety of writing styles– with poetry, prose,, lyrics, screenwriting and creative non-fiction.

Sample Prompt: Go to Wikipedia and click on Random Article. Write about whichever page you get.

r/WritingPrompts

Reddit proves that it has more to offer than an endless scroll of memes. This writing community has nearly ten million subscribers and dozens of creative (and frequently humorous) prompts daily. There is quite a lot of content to sort through, so consider sorting by the top links of all time.

Sample Prompt: A friendship between a time traveler and an immortal. Wherever the time traveler ends up, the immortal is there to catch him up to speed.

Writing Prompts

If you prefer the text of your writing prompts to be accompanied by images, then this Tumblr site is for you. With an extensive collection of prompts rich in humour and focused on pop culture, this site may make your daily exercise a little more fun.

Sample Prompt: Unsinkable + Undead: A zombie plague breaks out on the Titanic.

Writer’s Digest

Posted weekly, with a back catalogue of hundreds of prompts spanning from 2011, Writer’s Digest is an excellent resource for varied and interesting prompts that are sure to kickstart any story.

Sample Prompt: Write a story about three people who are on a road trip together, only to stop off at a gas station and pick up a fourth person whom they don’t know. Why did they pick this person up? Where are they taking him/her? What happens?

What is your go to cure for writer’s block? Comment on our Facebook page and join the conversation!

Starting Your Own Film Production Company

Running your own film production company is an appealing prospect: being your own boss, hand-picking projects and being intimately involved in all aspects of production. Whether you are striving to make a living, or creating a launching pad for passion projects, here are a few factors to consider.


CHECK YOURSELF

It’s a question that can get swept under the rug in all the excitement and possibility: do you have what it takes to run a film production company? Are you ambitious? Dedicated? Driven? You will develop and gain new skills throughout the process, but you must be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses.

Michael E. Gerber, author of the E-Myth series on small businesses identifies the three personalities that are vital for every company to succeed: a visionary, a manager and a technician. It’s likely that you have qualities of each of these roles, but it takes a balance of creativity, reliability and logic to be truly successful.

 FOCUS ON CONTENT

With your first business venture it’s easy to fall into the territory of the classic quote: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” While you should consider every opportunity that comes your way, choose what your creative focus is going to be and build your portfolio accordingly.

Take an inventory of your own skills, experience and connections and decide what you’d like to pursue. A good rule of thumb is to choose one lucrative field (promotional videos, commercials, event cinematography) and take part in passion projects you have the time for. And always consider your clientele – if your company focuses on wedding videos, it might not be a good idea to highlight your slasher zombie flick in the same space.

 BUILD A PORTFOLIO

Never underestimate the power of a solid portfolio. Although the film industry is built on networking, connections and self-promotion, eventually it comes down to your body of work. A word of warning: finding a balance between making money and making a good product will be difficult when you first start out.

There are always going to be people who ask you to work for free, and you should consider it from a business perspective before making your decision. Will the job be a positive addition to your portfolio? Will it provide immediate benefit – promotion, connections or the opportunity to work with someone you admire? Will it just be something you’ll enjoy doing with your friends?

You will have to compromise to establish yourself in the industry, but always remember the value of your time and capabilities – and don’t undersell yourself.

PROMOTION IS KEY

The amount of time you spend establishing a professional presence online, contacting potential clients and promoting yourself is going to be proportional to the amount of work you get. As the legendary businessman P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”

Make a website, print business cards, go out to shake hands and kiss babies. It may feel a little strange at first, but unless you already have an established list of clients, you need to do what it takes to get your company’s name out there.

Connecting to other industry professionals is fantastic way to do this, and there are a ton of resources to facilitate this. Join every film industry club you can find, go to networking events and don’t be afraid to let people know what your company is working on. Be confident, professional and enthusiastic and people will remember you.

 CASE STUDY: GEORGIA STREET MEDIA

 Clayton Goodfellow, founder of Georgia Street Media and an instructor at InFocus Film School has grown his film production company exponentially in the seven years since it was established.

“We started very small – it was just me working out of my apartment initially.” Clayton remembers, “ I was the producer, camera operator and editor. We added two contractors and…moved into a very small office space. How small? Basically it was like 80 Sq Feet with ceilings under 6 feet in height. We lovingly called it the ‘seven-and-a-half floor’ like the one from Being John Malkovich.”

Georgia Street Media now resides in Coal Harbour – “with higher ceilings,” Clayton notes. Through his company he has worked with a number of high profile clients, including The Vancouver Canucks, Best Buy and CTV. Clayton cites hard work, professionalism and approachability as factors that have led to his success.

Providing a piece of advice for emerging filmmakers who are interested in starting their own company, Clayton suggests learning everything they can about business. “Take a night class, read some books on organizational behaviour, develop some routines for regular processes and workflows. If you have the right work ethic and a vision for the future, success is sure to follow.”

Four TV Shows That Got Their Start Online

image of broad city stars ilana glazer and abbi jacobson

With networks like Comedy Central, HBO and truTV now picking up webseries as full length shows, the race to produce marketable content is on. Here are four tv shows that got their start online:

Drunk History
On August 6th, 2007 Mark Gagliardi drank a bottle of Scotch…and then discussed a famous historical event.

True to its name, the premise of Drunk History is based on an inebriated narrator attempting to retell an historic event in American history, with dramatic recreations shot to illustrate the story. The webseries was launched by Funny or Die in 2007 and featured an impressive rotating cast of comedic talent.

In 2010 the episode titled Drunk History: Douglass & Lincoln, starring Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle, screened at the Sundance Film Festival and took home the award for Best American Short.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay came onto the series as executive producers, and Comedy Central picked it up for a series, which premiered in 2013. The show is currently in its third season.

 Jake and Amir

In 2007 two CollegeHumour writers Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld began shooting short comedic videos in their office where they played exaggerated versions of themselves, Jake as the sensible straight man, and Amir as his obsessive and socially offensive co-worker.

The series grew in popularity and ran for eight years, gaining around half a billion views over its seven-hundred and fifty episodes. In 2015 it concluded, with the final eight episodes airing online. After a plan to launch the webseries as a show on TBS fizzled out, a social media campaign #GreenLightJakeandAmir prompted truTV to order a pilot of the Jake and Amir TV show.

Broad City
Upright Citizens Brigade alumni Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson first introduced Broad City as a webseries in 2010, following their misadventures as two young women living in New York City. Playing fictionalized versions of themselves, Glazer is a marijuana-loving slacker and Jacobson is a struggling illustrator.

The webseries gained popularity and attracted the attention of Amy Poehler, who became an executive producer on the show and acted as a mentor to Glazer and Jacobson, helping them develop the show into a television series, Broad City premiered on Comedy Central in early 2014, and was received with praise from both critics and the public. The show is currently in its third season.

High Maintenance
In 2013 High Maintenance was launched as a partnership between show creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfiel and Vimeo, as the site’s first original series. The show follows an unnamed drug dealer as he delivers marijuana to a diverse host of clients in New York City. Each episode features a new cast of characters.

While the first several episodes were released for free, the show retuned for a second season via Vimeo On Demand with a longer run time and a price tag attached. This proved to be a lucrative play, as High Maintenance quickly became one of the all-time top-selling releases on the site.

The webseries made the final move to television when it was announced in 2015 that HBO had acquired the series. Along with a new season they re-released past episodes of the show on their network as well as HBO GO and HBO NOW

Bonus round! Here are four other tv shows that got their start online:

  • Web Therapy – picked up by Showtime in 2010
  • Ugly Americans – picked up by Comedy Central in 2010
  • The Annoying Orange – picked up by The Cartoon Network in 2012
  • Children’s Hospital – picked up by Adult Swim in 2009

Ten Best Romantic Comedies Of The Past Ten Years

By Kryshan Randel

Most of these romantic comedies are not typical additions to the genre. They all feature romance and comedy as central plot points, but beyond that, anything is fair game. The best love stories are the most unexpected ones!

1. LA LA LAND – Starts out as a clever tribute to classic musicals, then finds its own voice and rhythms, breaking free from tradition while simultaneously honouring its inspirations. Emma Stone is incredible as a wannabe starlet, selling both the intoxicating fantasies and stark realities bouncing playfully off of each other, complete with drastic lighting and music cue changes.

2. FRANCES HA – Hilarious, playful and neurotic like the best Woody Allen films. Greta Gerwig is contagiously charming, and the black and white New York stories that surround her are constantly bursting with no-budget romance, innovation and joy.

3. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD – Michael Cera fights off his girlfriend’s seven evil exes, viewing life as a video game and winning his lady’s love as the ultimate hero’s journey. More fun than a dozen superhero blockbusters, Edgar Wright’s love letter to the pop culture he grew up with is a dizzyingly fast paced and consistently inventive ride.

4. GREENBERG – I agree with Roger Ebert’s review of this one in which he states that a hero doesn’t always have to be liked, but he has to be understood. Ben Stiller plays a selfish bastard who refuses to grow up, meeting Greta Gerwig who is trying to figure out her role in life. Together, and apart, they create scene after scene of awkward comedy gold.

5. YOUNG ADULT – A former popular high school girl returns to the small town where she grew up, determined to win back her old flame twenty years later, who is now happily married with children. As her behaviour gets worse – denial, narcissism, extreme immaturity – the comedy gets better and better. Diablo Cody’s best script to date.

6. RUBY SPARKS – A lonely writer’s female creation comes to life. Everything he writes initiates her actions, until she turns against him. This high concept film starts routinely, then becomes brilliantly subversive when it deconstructs the romantic comedy genre, and its lead’s fragile male ego, during the emotionally raw and volatile third act.

7. I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS – Jim Carrey portrays a con artist working his way into dozens of fake-it-til-you-make-it situations. During jail time, he falls for fellow convict Ewan McGregor before his release, then creates more deceptions in order to get them back together. A relentlessly astounding farce, based on a true story, featuring one of Jim Carrey’s most outrageously committed performances.

8. THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Director David O. Russell has a gift for taking potentially cliched scenarios and making them feel so alive, spontaneous and possessed with manic reinvention that they seem brand new in his hands (see also THE FIGHTER). Rooting for two romantic lead characters with mental health challenges played by Hollywood stars is not an easy feat to pull off, but here even the most sentimental moments feel remarkably honest, or at least fully lived in.

9. KNOCKED UP – Goes further than most rom-coms before or since. The reluctant turn to romance after accidental pregnancy makes everything seem fresh and twisted in more ways that one, and the laughs come from very unexpected places.

10. ADVENTURELAND / SING STREET (tie) – Two ’80s tributes that really know their era. Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg are perfectly matched in ADVENTURELAND, and The laughs stem from character, time and place in equal measure. SING STREET is a pitch perfect coming of age musical love story that doesn’t stray far from formula (start a band to impress a girl), but who cares when it’s this well executed?

TEN MORE:

BRIDESMAIDS, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, WANDERLUST, THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, FUNNY PEOPLE, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, UP IN THE AIR, GHOST TOWN, and WHAT IF aka THE F WORD.

Top 10 Vancouver Film Festivals and Events – 2017

Vancouver is home to a large and bustling film industry, but there is a community beyond set life and the grind of production. There are an extensive number of local festivals and events dedicated to honouring films and the people involved, from all avenues of local and international stages.

Within these events is a community of people that deeply appreciate film. There’s always an excited buzz in the air at film festivals as crew members and audiences mingle, and a glowing pride at local award ceremonies that recognize talent in the community.

The best way to get involved and immerse yourself into the industry is to submit to your passion of filmmaking. Get excited and get out there, attend festivals and networking events or enter your work into local contests. See below for a list of Vancouver’s top recommended film festivals and events for 2017.

1. Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival – February 10-18, 2017

Now, in its twentieth year, VIMFF is a week-long event that highlights the culture and community of an outdoor lifestyle. The festival includes instructional seminars for those looking to improve their own skills, as well as films that give a unique perspective on experiences and culture from around the world. Per their website, VIMFF “brings communities together to promote positive values and active lifestyles.”

2. Vancouver International Film Festival – September 28-October 13, 2017

One of North America’s largest film festivals, VIFF is not one to miss. With multiple venues screening local and international films over the span of two weeks, this festival could be considered a temporary lifestyle for avid festival goers. Industry and interactive events are held throughout the festival, and are open to the public.

3. The Leo Awards – June 3-4, 2017

The Leo Awards celebrate achievements in British Columbia’s film and television industry. This annual award ceremony, presented by the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia, recognizes categories such as best dramatic series, best music video, best web series, and best animation among others.

4. DOXA – May 4-14, 2017

Presented by the Documentary Media Society, DOXA is focused on independent documentaries from around the world. The festival includes panel discussions that are  open to the public, and engaging forums and programs.

5. Vancouver Short Film Festival – January 17-28, 2017

The VSFF is short and sweet, as it celebrates the community of short films, video, and animation. It is focused on BC-based productions, and strives to connect filmmakers with the broader industry.

6. Crazy 8s – Gala Screening on February 25, 2017

This 8-day filmmaking challenge will drive you crazy. That’s because Crazy 8s finalists are expected to produce their film from start to finish in just eight days of production and editing. The contest was created to provide funding and support to emerging filmmakers, and has launched more than a few careers. You can also enjoy the final films stress-free, at the Screening Gala.

7. Vancouver Latin American Film Festival – late August 2017

The VLAFF is an annual event that provides “audiences with the unique opportunity to watch inspiring films and interact with guest filmmakers from across Latin America and the diaspora,” according to their website. The festival encourages conversation between cultures, and promotes Latin American cinema in Canada.

8. Vancouver Queer Film Festival – August 10-20, 2017

As one of Vancouver biggest film festivals, the VQFF celebrates the best in queer cinema. For decades, this festival has been creating social change through film, workshops, panels, and parties.

9. Vancouver International Women in Film – March 8-12, 2017

The VIWIFF features an impressive range of work from established and emerging women filmmakers. The festival highlights women from around the world, and provides room for conversation with networking events and Q&As open to the public.

10. Just Film Festival – March 31-April 1, 2017

The Just Film Festival focuses on creating an understanding of other perspectives, through exploration of Vancouver’s diverse justice community.

Honourable mentions: there are many more than just ten film festivals/events in Vancouver, please also check out the BC Student Film Festival, Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, Vancouver Italian Film Festival, and many more!

Three Screenwriting Contests That Can Launch Your Career

It is famously difficult to break into the film industry as a screenwriter, especially if you don’t have a network of connections to point you in the right direction. Luckily there is an alternative to peddling your unproduced scripts around town: entering (and winning!) screenwriting contests is an excellent way to gain the attention of agents, managers, and film industry influencers.

There are hundreds of screenwriting contests from around the world to choose from, but if you are serious about securing an agent or getting your work produced, here are three you have to check out:

ACADEMY NICHOLL FELLOWSHIPS

An internationally renown screenwriting competition, the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting has a fantastic record of emerging writers who were able to launch their careers after winning.

Type of Script:

  • Feature Film

Qualifications:

  • The contest is open to screenwriters who have not earned more than $25,000 writing fictional work for film or television.
  • Entry scripts must be the original work of one writer, or of two writers who collaborated equally.
  • Scripts must be submitted in English.
  • Adaptations and translated scripts are not eligible.

Prizes:

  • Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded each year.

Deadlines:

  • March 7th: Early Entry ($40 USD)
  • April 18th: Regular Entry ($55 USD)
  • May 2nd: Late Entry ($75 USD)

Notable Winners:

  • 2010 – Destin Daniel Cretton – Short Term 12
  • 2008 – Jason A. Micallef – Butter
  • 2000 – Doug Atchison – Akeelah and the Bee

 

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL

The Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition is well known for consistently lining up a fantastic panel of judges from major agencies and production companies, and drawing the attention of agents.  

Type of Scripts:

  • Feature Film
  • Short
  • Teleplay

Qualifications:

  • The contest is open to emerging and established screenwriters.
  • All scripts must not have been optioned or sold prior to October 28, 2017.
  • Scripts must be submitted in English.
  • Screenplays/teleplays must be the original work of the applicant.

Prizes:

  • Cash awards range from $1,000 – $5,000 depending on the category.  
  • Winners will be reimbursed for round trip airfare and hotel to attend the AFF.
  • A Producer’s Badge to attend the AFF and Conference.
  • The AFF Bronze Typewriter Award

Deadlines:
Feature Screenplay:

  • March 31st: Early Entry ($45 USD)
  • April 20th: Regular Entry ($55 USD)
  • May 15th: Late Entry ($70 USD)

Short Screenplay, Teleplay, & Digital Series

  • March 31st: Early Entry ($35 USD)
  • April 20th: Regular Entry ($45 USD)
  • May 15th: Late Entry ($60 USD)

Notable Winners:

  • A huge number of winning writers have been hired on television shows, including: Bojack Horseman (Netflix), Silicon Valley (HBO), Empire (Fox), Community (NBC/Yahoo), and many others.
  • 2010 Finalist Christopher Cantwell went on to sell his series Halt and Catch Fire to AMC.
  • 2008 Finalist Edward Ricourt sold his script Now You See Me to Summit Entertainment.

 

SUNDANCE SCREENWRITERS LAB

The Sundance Film Festival is a prestigious event for indie filmmakers worldwide, and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab is no different. Twelve projects are chosen to participate in a five-day workshop, where writers are mentored by notable creative industry professionals.  

Type of Script:

  • Feature Film

Qualifications:

  • Applicants must be developing their first or second narrative feature film.
  • Those who have previously had more than one narrative feature produced are not eligible to apply.

Prizes:

  • Admission to the five-day Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
  • One-on-one sessions with creative advisors and industry professionals.

Deadlines:

  • TBA – Details will be posted soon on the website.  

Notable Participants:

  • 2014 – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Swiss Army Man
  • 2013 – Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station
  • 2004 – Ryan Fleck and Ann Boden – Half Nelson
  • 1999 – Darren Aronofsky – Requiem for a Dream

If you’d like submit your work to even more competitions, some honorable mentions are: The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Competition, The Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellowship and the Script Pipeline. Good luck, and happy writing!

The Big Five: Canadian Short Film Funding

How To Fund Your Short Film in Canada

Canada has a wealth of film funding opportunities for emerging and established filmmakers. On a national level there are five major agencies that are the go-to for creators who are working to greenlight their next short dramatic or documentary project.

BRAVOFACT

Established in 1995, BravoFACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent) is a fantastic resource for filmmakers who aspire to create short form scripted projects.

Eligibility

  • Projects with a Canadian producer and director
  • New projects that are not yet in production
  • Projects with a running time of up to 10:00 minutes
  • The project must be considered as Canadian Content according to CRTC guidelines

Funding

  • You may request up to $50,000

Deadline

  • 2017 Deadlines TBA

Click here for more information.

BRAVOFACTUAL

In 2013 Bravo introduced BravoFACTUAL awards for the production of short form documentary projects. With the same mandate as scripted BravoFACT shorts, BravoFACTUAL is commitment to seeing short Canadian docs gain a greater prominence worldwide.

Eligibility

  • Projects with a Canadian producer and director
  • New projects that are not yet in production
  • Projects with a running time of up to 15:00 minutes
  • The project must be considered as Canadian Content according to CRTC guidelines

Funding

  • You may request up to $50,000

Deadlines

  • Friday, February 24, 2017 (Future deadlines TBA)

Click here for more information.

CANADA COUNCIL: EXPLORE AND CREATE – RESEARCH AND CREATION

The Canada Council for the Arts was established in 1957, and acts as an interdisciplinary major public arts funder within Canada. A new funding model is due to take effect this year, simplifying the application process.

Eligibility

  • Canadian artists with basic training in their field
  • Artistic productions that result in public presentation, publication, exhibition or digital production
  • To determine further eligibility create an account with the Canada Council Portal

Funding

  • You may request up to $100,000, although most projects receive no more than $60,000

Deadlines

You may apply any time before the start of your project, with projects assessed twice yearly: April 15th & November 15th, 2017.

Notes

  • You can only apply to this component twice per year (March 1st – Feb 28th)
  • You must register in the Canadian Council Portal at least 30 days before you wish to apply

Click here for more information.

HAROLD GREENBERG FUND: SHORTS TO FEATURES PROGRAM

An initiative of The Harold Greenberg Fund in association with The Movie Network, the Shorts-to-Feature Program was created to provide emerging Canadian filmmakers with film funding for the production of a short narrative, to be used as a calling card for a feature film currently in development.

Eligibility

  • Emerging Canadian filmmaker who has not had a feature film produced (with the exception of the producer who can have a maximum of one feature credit as producer)
  • Short film scripts 10 pages or under
  • Writer, producer, director must be Canadian
  • Projects must be in English

Funding

  • You may request up to $32,000

Deadlines

  • 2017 Deadline TBA

Notes

  • The grant provides $5000 of guaranteed script development support for the feature film version

Click here for more information.

THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA

An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB has produced over 13,000 productions since it was established in 1939. They work with creators from across Canada in the production of POV documentaries, auteur animation and original interactive digital content.

Eligibility

  • Anyone who is a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant
  • Projects with an unique perspective, and social and cultural relevance
  • Productions that utilize technology to expand the scope of storytelling

Funding

  • Budgets are determined by your experience, and the project’s need

Deadlines

  • Proposals are accepted throughout the year via e-mail or regular mail to your closest studio

Notes

  • The two main models offered by the NFB are:
  • 100% NFB productions: productions that are financed and produced entirely by the NFB. NFB retains 100% of the copyright and also holds the distribution rights.
  • National co-productions: productions that are in partnership with established, independent Canadian production companies. NFB will be involved as a minority co-producer.

Click here for more information.

Have you received funding from any of the sources listed here? Please share your own experiences, and any advice you can give to other filmmakers who are working on their application!