Getting your Film in Festivals

Posted on July 25th, 2014 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

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Toronto is a world-renowned host of filmmaking and film festivals, supporting numerous productions and events each year. Besides the film production programs throughout the GTA, there are over 50 cinematic competitions and showcases, representing almost every cultural community and artistic genre. There’s the Inside Out Film Festival, which celebrates queer cinema; Toronto After Dark, which appeals to Cult, Sci-fi, and Horror enthusiasts; and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival – just to name a few. And of course, arguably one of the city’s most well-known events – the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Students attending film school in Toronto have a virtually endless array of options when it comes to enjoying cinema in the city, all year round. But what if you’re trying to enter your own original project into a showcase?

Whether you’ve set your sights on Toronto, or beyond – here are few tips for getting your film onto the big screen:

Determine Where Your Film Fits

Applying to festivals takes energy, time, and in many cases money. If would be ill-advised to randomly submit your film to each and every festival you can track down online. Although you’ve studied at one of the best film schools in Canada, consider there are thousands of other filmmakers flooding festivals with projects each year. So, be strategic and take the time to compile a list of showcases and competitions that host content similar to yours. Examine themes, genres, where films are typically sourced from, whether or not the festival encourages unknowns – the factors that determine whether your project would be a good fit, and have a fair chance of being accepted.

Read The Fine Print

Reviewing instructions sounds like a no-brainer, but each festival has its own particular requirements when it comes to the submission process, and failing to follow them to the letter may result in a swift rejection. Some cost more than others, and while one festival may require you to fill out a simple application, another may ask for more details – like a film synopsis, resume, brief bio, press kit, etc. Don’t make assumptions about what you need to send in. Another key point to remember is that every festival has its own submission deadlines. Set up a calendar to keep track of these dates, so you don’t miss the boat (or waste time applying past the due-date).

Consider How You Send Your Copy

Video sharing sites like Withoutabox and Vimeo have made sending your film into festivals easier than ever – and certainly cheaper than registered mail. However, if you’re interested in raising your chances of acceptance, going old-school may be better. It’s important to consider the quality of that crucial first screening by festival decision makers. How high is the quality of your electronic submission? Do you mind that it will no doubt be viewed on a laptop or tablet? DVD or Blu Ray submissions are much more likely to get screened on a nice, flat screen TV – and although format alone may not be a deciding factor, there is something to be said for optimizing presentation. Ensuring festival screeners have the best experience possible while watching your film is just one more way of helping your entry stand out, and make it to the next round.

What tips do you have for getting films into festivals?

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The Art of Foley

Posted on December 13th, 2013 - Written by: Josée Daigneault

In a perfect movie-making world, perhaps every sound recorded during principal shooting would pristinely match the director’s vision. In reality, the live sound initially recorded doesn’t always match the video and insufficiently captures the subtle details that vividly brings a film to life. This is where the Foley artist comes in, filling in the footsteps, crashes, wing-flutters, creaking doors and an endless array of sounds. Foley artists work behind the scenes in filmmaking, TV, radio and increasingly video games, recreating physical sounds using props and their own ingenuity.

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Jack Foley never received a screen credit for his work but many of his pioneering sound effect techniques are still used today. Instead of reshooting a scene of the massive Roman army to capture the sound of shields and swords clashing during Spartacus (1960) as Stanley Kubrick wanted, Foley jingled some keys before a microphone and called it a day. Foley artists today work in post-production to not only save the cost of replicating difficult or impossible sounds but also inventing never-before-heard noises for newly imagined characters.

Microphones on set tend to only capture dialogue, which renders all other sounds absent or too quiet. Foley artists create almost all sounds in a separate studio, and while there are numerous established techniques for common sounds, innovative thinking is always required to achieve the perfect mix. A typical day may begin by reviewing cue sheets that specify the timing of movements in a scene to determine the sounds required. A collection of props accumulated over the course of a career may be spread out on display to encourage creative solutions, along with a fridge full of noisy foods, such as frozen lettuce to mimic breaking bones.

Foley artists generally work in teams, studying the raw footage of a film to slip seamlessly into the mood and get into character. They must walk in their character’s shoes, literally, from ballerina slippers to combat boots, recreating footsteps depending on the character’s mood and setting of the scene. Some scenes require several simultaneous sound effects, such as a gate opening, keys jangling, cat scratching and coat shuffling. These are usually recorded separately before being blended together. Sharing the workload for a project might mean dividing up a show’s characters, each receiving their own track, or working in tandem to recreate the sound of rainfall on an umbrella, for example, by one pouring water and another flapping a plastic sheet.

A good feel for rhythm, coordination and timing are prerequisites for the job, with a great ear and the creativity to experiment with sounds from unlikely sources, learned during audio courses. For example, a common trick for trotting horses is banging together coconut shells. While there is significant autonomy in determining optimal sound creation, a director may have distinct preferences for developing surreal moods that transcend natural environments.

Connections definitely help to break into the industry, and many have gotten their start by working with an established mentor or through networking in film production programs. Jobs will always exist because movies and TV shows are in constant need of customized sounds. Recent Trebas Institute graduate Katie Zadorozniak landed a Foley job at a Toronto studio, working on high profile shows such as “Bones”, “Parks and Recreation” and “Parenthood”. The work can be physically demanding and a challenge to meet deadlines, but it is ultimately a fulfilling career choice. The skills learned in sound engineering school can be turned into dream jobs working on major motion pictures.

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Careers in Film and Television Productions in Canada

Posted on October 25th, 2013 - Written by: Josée Daigneault

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Film and television broadcasting is one of the most collaborative mediums, requiring the interaction of many creative people to make the magic happen that entertains us all. From the writing process to the final editing, there is a fascinating path that takes ideas to the screen and numerous career opportunities for motivated and talented individuals. Hollywood gains the most attention in this industry but Canada is a force in itself as a producer of top international quality film and television content. The Canadian broadcasting and production sectors are growth industries in the Canadian economy, providing employment for thousands of people in dozens of rewarding occupations.

Every production hinges on the quality of the story behind it all, and there are specific screenwriting skills necessary to evoke powerful reactions from audiences. Dramatic pacing and sharp dialogue combine to trace engaging character arcs, sometimes integrating multiple storylines and adapting from various sources. Careers can be found in film, television, shorts, interactive media, and even assistant directing.

The production process takes the help of many people to realize a director’s vision. Producers and production assistants organize the many moving parts to meet the budgetary limitations. Props and costume design work to prepare sets under supervision of the art director and construction manager. Grips or stagehands take care of miscellaneous errands. Set dressers, make-up and production designers ensure that everything is in place before the lighting crew and cinematographer arrive. Most movies have a cast of marquee talent, character actors and background performers or extras to give the impression of reality, and the casting director is essential to recruiting this team.

For operational roles such as camera operator, formal qualifications are not as important as experience, but skills acquired in college will help to gain that experience. Assistant camera operators check the equipment, load and position cameras and other general duties. Gaffers or lighting technicians set things up for the director of photography, who plans all lighting needs. Sound engineering technicians with skills from audio engineering schools, film recordists and boom operators record dialogue, sound, music and special effects during filming, and are very important to the overall quality of a production.

Multimedia artists and animators are increasingly used to create special effects and graphics, requiring a special knowledge of computer technology. After film has been shot, video editors select and assemble the best footage while assistant editors or dubbing editors select the soundtrack and sound effects to be used in the finished product, in collaboration with the director.

The quality of a production depends heavily on the motivation of reliable operators and the talent of the crew as a whole. Even independent productions can’t be done completely alone – it can be accomplished with the help of students in film production programs if cost is a key concern. Film school in Toronto shows the many rewarding career possibilities available in these exciting industries!

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Choose the Film School that is right for you!

Posted on October 31st, 2012 - Written by: Josée Daigneault

At present, there are many different film schools that have various concentrations and in general, are expensive to attend. Therefore it is very important for someone thinking of studying film, to do their research before applying and enrolling. Certain schools may teach you how to use a camera but that’s not the point of film school. The major point of a film school education should emphasize the ability to tell stories in the visual medium of film and/or video and should cover the aspects of screenwriting, producing, directing, cinematography and editing as well as film/TV distribution. Some schools teach the aspect of production; but post-production such as editing and sound effects, is equally important.

Very few schools cover the aspect of film distribution which can be critical when you go to sell your work. Unfortunately, few film professors are aware of the way in which the financing, sale or distribution of film/TV actually works. Most academics that simply study films are more into the world of film criticism and have simply not had the opportunity to sell their own films, which makes it even more important to attend a school with instructors that have real-world film industry knowledge, connections and production/distribution expertise. It is usually because of that connection with the industry that instructors can offer their students, networking opportunities when they graduate.

So when searching for a film school, don’t choose a school because of its name or ranking; instead, read up on the various programs that the school offers and choose a school that is appropriate to the kind of films you want to make. Some specialize in documentaries, animation, some experimental film and some strong narrative or dramatic filmmaking. Pick a school that has a pleasant, fun atmosphere because you will be spending a ton of time thinking, creating, writing and shooting, and it should really be the best year(s) of your life!

 by Kalman Szegvary, Producer & Head of Film/TV Production, Trebas Institute

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The History of Film Schools (part two)

Posted on October 18th, 2012 - Written by: Josée Daigneault

It was definitely after the pack of graduates from Southern California film schools such as Steven Spielberg (Cal State, Long Beach) and George Lucas (USC) that the perception of a film school education would change for the better. Most of these young filmmakers did not have a whole lot to say about the world, but all of them knew how to show an audience a good time.  Their first films where not especially deep but they were enormously entertaining, and audiences responded by making them into blockbusters. It is difficult to appreciate today how astonishing the joyful energy of Lucas’s American Graffiti was, or how invigorating the genre twisting the story in Spielberg’s Jaws. The movies of these film students, all of sudden made money, more than anyone in Hollywood had ever imagined was possible; and so they began to realize that that filmmaking could be taught at a college or university. And it then became the norm to hear about the latest graduate who was signed by Hollywood to make films on the studio lot.

Universities and colleges then began to realize the benefits of turning out students who could create such hugely popular entertainment. These successful graduates gave their schools free publicity as well as ‘gave back’ in the way of donations and their time.

Suddenly, young filmmakers were allowed to experiment, use film cameras and lights usually reserved for film directors moving up the ranks in the studio system. These filmmakers began to show the world that it was possible to learn the craft of storytelling using the film medium and thus inspired the film school boom in the late 1960’s, early 70’s, which has continued for a few generations now and seems to constantly evolving.

by Kalman Szegvary, Producer & Head of Film/TV Production, Trebas Institute

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