Writing Grad Finds Success in LA

Richard Manus has been working steadily since he graduated from the Writing for Film & Television program at VFS. It’s a tough industry, but Richard seems to have cracked the code. Starting out as a Production Assistant and Executive Assistant to Mike Sikowitz on Rules of Engagement, his latest gig as a staff writer on the hit comedy Last Man Standing (starring Tim Allen) has him neck deep in comedy and a whole lot of fun.

We had a chance to speak with the delightful Richard about his latest gig, what it’s like as a writer in LA, and what he’s up to next. Check it out!

Tell us about Last Man Standing (if you wouldn’t mind). What is the writing room like?

Richard: Last Man Standing stars Tim Allen (Home Improvement, Toy Story, The Santa Clause) as Mike Baxter who finds himself having to spend more time at his female-dominated household when his wife receives a promotion at work.  We’re in season 4 now, and the show has actually pivoted a little bit since the pilot — a fair amount of current political issues make it into the show, often filtered through the paradigm of Mike and the rest of the Baxter household.

What are your top five tips for writing within the comedic genre?

Richard: Oh wow. Top five tips . . . I don’t know if I’m anyone who should be giving tips on writing the comedy . . . but here are a few things I try to keep in mind:

1) Story and characters are more important than jokes. You can always find more jokes. Get the story first and create characters that will bounce off of each other and the jokes will come much easier.

2) If a joke is not working, punch it. If you can’t punch it, then cut it. There is not much worse than a joke on the page that just dies.

3) Try to avoid a bunch of cute/clever banter . . . typically you just wind up slowing down the story, and 9 times out of 10 the cute/clever banter is not as cute/clever as you think it is!

4) Don’t write jokes/bits that are overly reliant on “awkward looks or moments” in a spec script for a laugh. You’re writing that spec script to get an agent/job/fellowship and it’s probably never going to get shot . . . that awkward beat is not going to be funny to a reader.

5) Setups and payoffs can be the secret sauce to send a script over the top. Obviously, on a larger story level you’ll want to pay off things you’ve setup — but paying off something you setup earlier in a scene can often lead to a great joke/bit to button a scene.

Is there a piece of advice you were given at VFS that you apply to your work today? If so, what is it?

Richard: Hard to say if there is a specific piece of advice . . . but there was a moment/lesson that I definitely remember. I was wrapping up my first mentorship session on a feature with Ita Margalit, and it definitely had issues. Ita’s notes were extremely helpful, but as we were wrapping up she said something along the lines of, “How I was clearly a writer and had a distinct voice.” I don’t know if she was lying, felt sorry for me, or what, but to have a professor tell me that I had a voice meant a lot to me. Hearing Ita say that have me the confidence/stupidity to believe that if I worked hard enough that maybe I could just make a living as a writer. So, as clichéd as it is . . . I’d say the biggest thing I apply to my work today is to believe in myself . . . sorry for not being more original!

What is the LA landscape like for young writers?

Richard: LA is good. It’s really competitive, but it’s competitive regardless of where you are. At least in LA you’re where the action is (in theory). When I moved here, being so close to where everything was happening helped give me the dirve to keep going. Something that has been really huge for me is my writers group. We meet every week or so, and in addition to being really helpful when tuning up scripts, we all help each other survive the ups and downs of trying to “make it” in LA.

What does your writing regime look like? Do you have any rituals?

Richard: When I’m not on a show I make sure I’m in front of a computer no later than 10 a.m. working on something. I know that sounds late, but that is when most TV rooms start up, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

When I’m on a show I do the best I can during the weekdays and really lean in to get some writing done on the weekends. Whatever your ritual is, you have to make time to write everyday . . . that was probably the first thing I realized when I got to LA — how dedicated the professionals are.

If you could be a staff writer on any show, what would it be and why?

Richard: I would have loved to write for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was the first show I really followed and fell in love with.

What television series, in your opinion, is the most progressive in terms of content?

Richard: I don’t know about progressive, but I think Louie is just on another level when it comes to a creator executing on his vision and whatever he feels like. FX has really given him (well deserved) leeway and he’s really doing some cool stuff you don’t typically see in a comedy.

HBO’s Silicon Valley and Veep are some recent favourites as well.

What’s next for you?

Richard: Hopefully lots of Last Man Standing! It’s a great show with great people and I hope we have many seasons ahead of us.

I’m working on a TV pilot and a feature, but the big thing on deck right now is a short film I’m producing that I co-wrote. We’ll be shooting in September and right now we’re crewing up and wrapping up casting. It’s called The Rough Part and it’s about a girl who can’t work up the courage to break up with her boyfriend so she hires a call girl to seduce her boyfriend so she can catch them in the act.

We will follow Richard through the producing process of The Rough Part in a 4-part blog series to be released monthly. Stayed tuned, all.

Last Man Standing returns this fall to ABC — check it out! Thanks and all the very best, Richard!



Emmy Fever!

The 2014 Emmy nominations were announced this morning and yes, beloved HBO series Game of Thrones leads the pack with 19 of them. Is anyone really surprised, though? I mean . . . it’s Game of Thrones.

Tangent: If you happen to be part of the 1% not up on this show, you really should start watching. It’s like everything your eyes ever wanted to see (and sometimes don’t want to) stretched over 4 mindblowinglyawesome seasons. You’ll start talking about the characters like they’re you’re old college pals gone rogue. So, what are you waiting for?

The Children, GOT’s infamous season 4 finale, has been nominated in the Writing (for a Drama Series) and Outstanding Special and Visual Effects categories. Aldo Martinez3D Animation & Visual Effects grad, worked on the episode. Fun Fact: The Children was the only script D.B. Weiss and David Benioff submitted. They have described it as one of the “finest hours” in the show’s history.

CW’s The 100 was also nominated for an Outstanding Special and Visual Effects award. The episode We are Grounders, Part 2 features the talents of 3D Animation & Visual Effects grad Kornel Farkas.

In addition, Calgary shot Fargo landed an impressive 18 nominations. For a full list of nominees, click HERE.

Catch the 66th Primetime Emmy awards airing Monday, August 25. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

The Closer

Funded by Public Records and Telus, The Closer is a song by Mike Edel and a video (see above) that combines the talents of Digital Design and Classical Animation grads Jorge R. Canedo Estrada, Henrique Barone, Thanat Sattavorn, Cesar Martinez, and Breno Licursi.

Inspired by his home town and love of baseball, Edel describes the touching story behind the song on his website:

It’s a story about a pitcher in a small town, a lot like the one I grew up in, who is pitching a perfect game into the 9th inning. But his mom runs onto the mound and tells him that he needs to leave the game because his dad has had a farming accident. So the coach brings in the closer with a 2-0 lead in the 9th inning.  He gives up a walk.  Then a single.  Then a home-run.  They lose the game 3-2 in the 9th.

I think that sometimes we think that these small moments in small towns don’t matter, but the truth is that they do.

The Closer is available for purchase here.

Congratulations, all!



The Duet


Okay, we had to share . . .

Synonymous with Disney, the legendary Glen Keane shows off his latest masterpiece Duet as part of Google’s Spotlight Stories. Watch these adorable infants grow up, intersect, and fall in love. You’ll be carried away in Keane’s movement, colours, and storytelling. Try not to feel – we dare you!

Keane spoke about the process of making Duet at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco last week.

Watch it here:

Transform and Roll Out!

Transformers: Age of Extinction opens in theatres today! This Transformers reboot will reportedly kickstart a brand-new trilogy and make Optimus Prime fans very happy. And if that weren’t enough, Mark Wahlberg is stepping in to play the title character. With a mega-budget of 165 million, this film looks all kinds of crazy — the good kind. I mean, have you seen those Dinobots!? Needless to say, we can’t wait.

Among the talented artists involved in bringing our favourite robots to life are grads from 3D Animation & Visual Effects and Classical Animation, including:

Alberto Landeros, Digital Compositor
Joao Bogossian, Compositor
Kaelen Cohen, Digital Compositor
Marteinn Orn Oskarsson, Head of Pipeline
Shivas Thilak Anthikkat, Digital Artist
Katie Williams, Paint Artist

Watch the trailer below and don’t forget to check it out in theatres!

Avelline’s Window

The Cannes International Film Festival is one of the most celebrated film festivals in the world. We’ve all seen the photos — glitz, glam . . . is that Brad Pitt?

Film Production grads Alexander Cichon and Janene West took in the fancy sights and sounds of the festival this year. Their short film Avelline’s Window was accepted into The Short Film Corner program, a proud announcement they made on their Facebook page in March. Founded in 2004, this incredible Cannes event allows creators of short films to screen their projects (out of competition), pitch new ones, attend workshops, conferences, and create important industry connections, among other exciting things. We have the inside scoop from Avelline’s Window director Collin Kortschak. Check it out!

Guest Post by Collin Kortschak

If you had told me in September of last year that the movie we were slaving and sweating over would make it to the Cannes Short Film Corner, I would have laughed in your face. I think a lot of film school students dream big, but going to Cannes is something that seems years down the road and a place reserved for the elite.

Yet, here we are; three stooges boarding a plane to the most prestigious film market in the world. We’d been prepped, prodded, and preened with what we thought was enough knowledge to at least bob along the surface of thousands of filmmakers trying to have their show watched.

Oh how quickly you learn.

You begin to feel the buzz of the festival before you even land in Nice. The plane is full of filmmakers, most of them just as excited as you regardless of whether it’s their first, fifth, or fiftieth time. You meet, shake hands, and exchange cards. When they say, “have your 30 second pitch memorized to perfection”, they certainly mean it. It’s quick and dirty.

I met a producer and a director on the flight. They were both from San Francisco and had just met on their flight over. They were talking and joking like they’d worked together on multiple pictures. It literally happens that fast. I introduced myself, gave them my pitch, and arranged to have drinks in the near future. You know it may never happen, but a drink can lead you to an after party and a job opportunity, so you just keep on pitching.

I was and still am amazed by Cannes, France. Palm trees and beautiful beaches are nestled against old stone buildings and cobbled alleys, which are all juxtaposed by the most expensive shops and massive theatres I’ve ever seen located in one small area. It really is a sight to behold.

As we walked down the Croisette to the Palais (the building where all the screenings take place), we began to see the scale of the festival we were about to experience; food vendors going up, kiosks and beach-side dance floors being hammered in place. It seemed to stretch on for miles – splendor to the utmost degree.

When we finally got our badges and our little bags filled with schedules, magazines, and how-tos of the festival, we wandered over to our spot in this world: the Short Film Corner. This is where hundreds of short films are archived for your viewing pleasure. Everyone is like you, just trying to get noticed, whether it’s their first film or not.

We met a few people, making more dinner and drinking plans. It’s very easy to mingle in Cannes. There’s a sense of community, at least in the Short Film Corner. You feel the agendas of some people but, by and large, it’s a great sense of fellowship stemming from a mutual love and respect of your respective art.

Our film was shown as part of the Short Film Corner program for a handful of people, which is surreal when you think about it.

The most exciting thing was when we got feedback from those that watched it on their own time. It was actual, honest feedback from someone who took 26 minutes out of their busy schedule to watch our movie. Honesty can be difficult to come by when it’s friends and family watching your work. I enjoyed the reactions, good and bad. Sometimes it’s tough to take, but you never feel hostility. As I said, it comes from a place of respect and that’s all you can ask for as an artist.

The first weekend was insane. I mean, legitimately insane. I have never seen that much money and extravagance in a 2 km strip; expensive cars, celebrities, 50-60 twenty million dollar yachts just sitting out in the harbour. It gave us a perspective on our place in the film business. We just took it in, put on our confidence suits, and kept on going.

The most surreal experience for me was meeting Nicolas Winding Refn (the director of Drive). It was brief and slightly awkward, but nonetheless mind-blowing. He gave a speech before a screening of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While introducing the director, Refn gave words of wisdom on filmmaking that will stay with me for as long as I make movies. He said, “Always, always make the audience feel”.  If it’s just moving pictures with soulless characters going from one place to another, who cares? If you get someone to invest in your story and feel how you felt while telling it, then you can feel complete.

As our trip wound down, we felt a burning desire to start creating again, despite the exhaustion and sleep deprivation. It’s easy to get caught up in budgets, crew, story, etc. You can get worn down by your own thoughts. Cannes was a chance for us to get inspired by fellow artists. I found myself remembering what it was like to make our movie, telling all the set stories and reminiscing about the 6 months of blood, sweat, and tears it took to make something we love. We all went away from the festival knowing we had to make more, be better, and pour our whole selves into doing what we love.

A very special thank you to Collin for sharing your experience with us! A very special thank you to Collin for sharing your experience with us! I encourage the filmmakers that read this to do one thing: go to Cannes. Yes it’s expensive, yes it’s difficult to get noticed, and yes you will drink more wine than you ever thought possible, but it’s something you need to experience for yourself. I think the sentence I heard the most before we went was, “you have no idea what it’s like until you get there”. I do not refute that statement.

Our hope is to get into many more festivals and to never stop trying. Cannes was, in my opinion, the best first festival. If you can learn what it’s like to navigate a market like that, you’ll never get lost again.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Collin!

And a big congratulations to the rest of the VFS team who worked on the film, including: Anthony Vani, Riley Hastings, Travis Heath, Marc Sander Montant, Kirk Langer, and Tyler Deck.

We can’t wait to see what’s next, all!

Modern Love

Ah, love. Whether you have it, you’re looking for it, or you’ve lost it, love is a universal truth that has us all connected. The New York Times has a tremendous column called Modern Love that combines personal essays, illustrators, and animation. All work in beautiful harmony to communicate some powerful storytelling. The honesty of these authors will disarm you – promise!

We are head-over-heels in love with the June edition of Modern Love and wanted to share it with you on this Wednesday afternoon. Check out why NYC-based designer/animator Freddy Arenas has us swooning over here!





Film Night with The Two Pauls

Fireside with Paul and Paul

If you haven’t heard about Film Night with the Two Pauls yet, well, let us introduce you! This 22 minute series — available for your enjoyment on YouTube – is the brainchild of Writing for Film & Television grad Nick Carey and stars fellow writing grad Paul Donnett and VFS writing instructor Paul Jensen. Discussing themes like blood, guts, God, superheroes, and fine wine, these two Pauls will reel you in with their sincerity, keep you watching with their effortless dynamic, and leave you pondering some pretty big questions. It’s clear: Paul and Paul love films. And we suspect they’ll have you loving them too.

We had a chance to speak with Nick, Paul J, and Paul D about the series, their time at VFS, and what’s next. Check it out!

What was your experience like in the Writing for Film & Television program at VFS, Paul D and Nick? What were some of the challenges? What was the best thing about it?

Nick: My experience at VFS was invaluable. Not only did the program force me to write more than I ever have in my life combined, it introduced me to some very important people to my career: Paul Jensen (and through him Paul Donnett), as well as my partners at Popkin Media, Patrick Do and Jake Stevens.

Like any intensive program, the challenges are getting the work done, meeting deadlines, getting along with your peers. Coming from a three year acting school, I had a good idea of what an intensive program like this would be, but yet it really was a struggle to write a screenplay, a Television pilot, a web series, and read 25 scripts for Paul Jensen’s class. Not only that, but as Jake and Patrick and I were putting together Popkin Media, Michael Baser gave us the great opportunity of collaborating with Bob Woolsey to help produce the Web Pilots and Port Shorts for our own class. It was a lot of work, but wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Paul D: The decision to come to VFS was both a no-brainer and insanely difficult. I grew up in Vancouver, but I was living in Alberta at the time and making great money with four kids at age 40. It’s not like we had a big nest egg to sail west on, so I had more than a few heart-to-hearts with writing department head Michael Baser, believe me. But I knew that if I didn’t take a leap of faith and follow my dream of becoming a professional writer at some point, I’d shoot myself in the face one day. That’s what happens when you get older: your unfulfilled dreams either shrivel up and die (god forbid), or drive you completely mad (god help me). There, you’ve been warned.

Personally, I loved every second of my experience and would do it all over again. My department head and teachers bent over backwards to do what they could to help us, but it was clear from the beginning that if I was going to succeed post-VFS, I’d have to do the work. Get my own business cards, build my own web presence, shmooze with other filmmakers, show up at every networking event. And I started doing all those things in term one and it has paid off to this day.

Best thing about VFS? The teachers, the workshops, the instant feedback from fellow writers, the networking, but mostly, the sense of infinite possibility I got to breathe in every day.

What is it like teaching in the Writing for Film & Television program at VFS, Paul J?

Paul J: For me, teaching at VFS is a similar experience to when my parents would go shopping in Ikea and leave me to play in the ball room for hours. But it’s even better than that because they’re not coming to take me away.

We had a chance to watch all three episodes of Film Night with the Two Pauls. Are you having as much fun as you appear to be having?

Paul J: We really are. Paul and I are cut from the same cloth when it comes to our passion for film. Our discussions fuel our insights. Then Popkin Media’s unwavering support is an added bonus, not to mention our Director Nick knowing how to steer us in the right direction. The tough part is when the cameras stop — Paul and I will often want to keep discussing and Nick yells, “Save it for when the cameras are rolling”!  And I don’t even have to mention the wine (though, I do feel a pang of guilt that the crew can’t drink along with us).

Paul D: Absolutely. We’re peeing ourselves constantly. It’s just wine, craft services, and diapers – that’s all we have on set.

Are the episodes scripted or spontaneous?

Nick: The episodes have a loose structure but are not scripted. The Two Pauls and I will settle on a theme (and subsequently the title of the episode), and then build the episode around that topic, gathering related (or seemingly unrelated) films to discuss. The curveball of course is the wine, which not only adds a touch of class (and also provides some comedy), but allows the Pauls to loosen up and not hold anything back. Even though I know loosely what they will discuss, I am always thrilled, entertained, and surprised by their discussions.

Paul J: The episodes are completely spontaneous. Both Paul and I come to the set with certain points we want to make, but we have no idea what the other Paul will say. It makes for a very free and improvisational approach. Our debates end up being far more genuine and not as contrived as scripted discussions might come across, which, I guess, is the appeal of the show . . . especially when we’re a couple of glasses in.  Half the time I’m forgetting the cameras are even rolling. The other half I’m thinking, “Does anyone even care about what we have to say”?

Paul D: Nothing is scripted. Nick just pretty much says “go” and we start making fools of ourselves.

There are three videos available on YouTube. When can we expect the fourth edition of Film Night with the Two Pauls?

Nick: The first three episodes were a resounding success considering our budget and the time constraints. But Jake, Patrick, and I really think the show has some potential and we’re now focusing on the business side of this production. With the Two Pauls, we will be designing a new pilot and format. Together, with a professional pitch package, we will be shopping around to networks. So to answer the question, it might be a little while before you see another episode, but hopefully when you do, it will be on your TV. We also plan to do some webisodic content (shortet, bite size episodes) to feed the web audience.

Paul J: We’re hopefully shooting the 5th episode this month (June).  It’s going to be bigger and better. As far as subjects go, any requests?

Paul D: We’re in the process of figuring out which direction to go next after the success of the first three episodes. Getting picked up by a major network is something that’s on all of our radars, so we shall see!

Do the titles of your episodes influence your film choices or the other way around? And who chooses the wine?

Paul J: We look at what new films are coming out. Based on what’s relevant, we springboard from there and come up with subjects that compliment what’s in theatres now. We love incorporating trailers and comparing new films with older classics, like Nolan’s Interstellar with David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.  And I choose the wine with recommendations from Marquis Wine on Davie Street.  They love their movies and vino and get a kick out of matching wines with the general theme of an episode. They have helped me discover some really wacky labels.

Paul D: We spend most of our time bandying about themes and then finally settle on one that vomits up a suitable title.

What inspired this project?

Nick: One day I was sitting in Paul Jensen’s class and John Meadows walked in and proceeded to engage in a hilarious and engaging debate with Paul over Star Wars. Being a film nerd, I absolutely love the passion and encyclopaedic knowledge that they were both espousing, so I thought, why not film this? I would give them a topic (like Star Wars or Indiana Jones or Stanley Kubrick, etc.) and also give them a bottle of wine. I thought, not only could they discuss film and its cultural impact, but review new movies, and while they’re at it, review the wine. As the discussion would progress, the more wine would be consumed, and with a mix of intelligent discussion and acute drunkenness, I felt like that would be a show that I (and others) would love to watch. I originally envisioned Meadows as the second host, but due to his very busy schedule, he declined. Then Jensen suggested Paul Donnett, and a day later we met, and three days later we shot the pilot! It all happened very quickly (and rather smoothly I might add).

Paul J: Nick — it was all his idea. He enjoyed my lectures and wanted to create a lifestyles show that featured good movies and good wine. He felt there was a void since Siskel and Ebert ended, and I wholeheartedly agreed. Plus, who doesn’t like to enjoy some fine wine with a quality movie at home?

How long does it take to film each episode? Can you describe the process?

Nick: We’ll usually have one or two meetings to nail down the theme. Once we have that set up, we generally turn an episode in seven days, which is an extremely tight turn around for a show with so much improvisation. The shoot will be six hours, which is the easy part. The difficult part comes in the editing room, which has been made a real pleasure with our editors Ben Gaumond and Patrick Do. Paul Jensen and I will often sit down with them and mix things up and experiment until we find the perfect balance for each episode.

Paul J: Nick prepares the team: 2 camera men, a sound guy, make-up person, catering, gaffer, and Nick the director himself. Paul and I show up and start talking film. Filming lasts for approximately 8 hours. A few days later we meet with our fantastic editors Ben Gaumond and Patrick Do to finalize the cut. I really can’t express how much of a contribution the editors make. They make the Two Paul’s smarter and funnier. Without them, the show just wouldn’t be half of what it is. Then we deliver the final cut online. I’m always filled with anticipation and trepidation; will it be funny and interesting or simply humiliating?

Your love of films is palpable! When did this begin? Was it a particular movie?

Nick: For me, it all started in 1994. I was seven years old, and the first movie that made me sit on the edge of my seat for 120 minutes was Speed with Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, and Keanu Reeves. I have never been so thrilled by a movie. That year The Lion King came out, which is the first movie I can remember seeing in theatres. Even at a young age, I remember almost being moved to tears by that film. Also, the explosion of Jim Carrey that year was huge for me. I became literally obsessed with his movies and have seen The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, and Ace Ventura probably one hundred times. As I got older, my tastes progressed into drama and thrillers. Now I count Casino (Scorcese), Tetro (Coppola), Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder), The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella), and The Edge (Lee Tamahori) amongst my favourite films.

Paul J: Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was 8 years old.  After seeing the movie in the theatre, I turned to my mother and said I want to be just like him. My mother got excited asked, “Oh, an archaeologist?” “No, an actor!” I replied. You can imagine her disappointment. That passion for film never left.  As I got older my interest evolved into behind-the-scenes type stuff.  That’s when I discovered Akira Kurosawa and his films taught me the importance of screenwriting. I studied writing for many years, until I finally discovered John Cassavetes. My mind near exploded — Cassavetes’ films showed me the power of the human experience as illustrated through cinematic art. For him, film was a tremendous responsibility and something to be taken very seriously. It represented the human condition in all its complexity, flaws and all. He loved people. This passion took a hold of me too and never left. It fuels me to spread the love and reveal the possibilities of cinema to students who are exploring it for the first time.

Paul D: I grew up an only child in a single-parent home. Movies served as my friends, family, nanny, emotional playground, and therapist. I was a teacher for a while, so getting people to talk (and even fight) about film always gets me hopping.

What makes the ultimate film experience?

Paul J: For me, the ultimate film experience has to tell a good story, create a cinematic experience, move me emotionally, create a thought-provoking idea, and leave me wanting to see it again. A good score is a huge bonus too. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, Lawrence of Arabia and Kurosawa’s Ran, all do this expertly. But hey, the Toy Story trilogy is phenomenal too. There is just so much beauty in movies and part of the reason we want to do this show is to spread the love of movies. It brings people together; a good healthy discussion on what movies mean to us is an important and rewarding part of our lives.

Paul D: A moving story, great acting, good production, and someone to enjoy it with and talk about it after, which for me is my wife (Sorry, Jensen).

The episodes keep getting better and better. What’s the next step?

Nick: Like I mentioned above, the next step for Film Night is making it more accessible. YouTube simply isn’t the medium for a 22 minute show. Finding a home for the show is key, as is opening up the show to a bigger demographic and including more reviews (movies, wine, perhaps even food) to make it a must watch show. I’d love to make Vancouver a character in the show, and highlight the best of what this incredible city has to offer. I’ve always liked the finer things in life, and I want the show to reflect that.

Paul J: To continue to push the envelope and make them better still.  A proper network TV show like Siskel & Ebert would be ideal and would attract a larger audience.

What other projects are you working on?

Nick: The Two Pauls is Popkin Media’s premiere project at the moment and is currently our priority. We shot a video for an emerging Richmond gym called Ampfit recently and Jake Stevens (both Jake and Patrick are former VFS students, I met them in WR42), is currently down in Los Angeles taking meetings and plugging himself into the film community. As for myself, I’ve currently re-entered the acting scene (I took a two year break from) and I’m ecstatic to see all of the productions coming to Vancouver. As far as I know, this will be Vancouver’s busiest summer on record.

Paul J: A film book and a feature-length film script.

Paul D: I’m working with a team on a 20-issue graphic novel that I’m really proud of set to begin publication next year, as well as a children’s book and a feature script. I score music for film as well, so a couple of projects in the works there, as well, but I’m not allowed to talk about those yet.

As a writing instructor at VFS, what is the advice you give your students most often, Paul J? What is the best advice you have received, Paul D and Nick?

Nick: Paul Jensen said this to me on our last day: “Never stop learning about film. Your film education should not stop now that you are leaving film school. Continue to watch movies (both good and bad), read screenplays, write screenplays, see plays, listen and read about film. The only way to be an artist is to surround yourself with what you love and make no apologies for it.” Well said, Paul.

Paul J: Follow your bliss. If you fall in love with something (like film) and you pursue it, don’t apologize or make excuses for it. Commit yourself to it and your belief and passion will grow. If you stay true to your path, doors have a habit of opening where you least expect them. So keep following that passion. Watch as many movies as possible and see a variety of films — Hollywood, independent, international, classics, etc. Don’t limit yourself. When you know your stuff, people have a tendency to gravitate towards those who have done their homework.

Paul D: The difference between winners and losers is that winners are simply willing to do the work and losers are not. So true, but it sometimes takes years for the truth of that to really sink into your daily disciplines. I’m just glad I’m getting a handle on that now rather than when I’m 70. Better late than never, I suppose, but, man, would that suck!

Check out their latest episode above! We can’t wait to see what’s next!



Edge of Tomorrow might just be the blockbuster surprise of the summer. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, this is high concept science fiction at, apparently, it’s best. With a time-looping conceit, sassy sense of humor, and grand action sequences, Edge of Tomorrow has earned lots of pre-release praise. We’re definitely excited to see Tom Cruise repeat this kind of a day over and over again!

Grads from 3D Animation & Visual Effects and Film Production worked on the film, including:

Will Towle (Digital Compositor)
Taylor Lenton (Lighting Technical Director)
Puneeth Kunnatha (Stereoscopic Paint Artist)
Woojo Jeon (Visual Effects Coordinator)
Oded Granot (Digital Compositor)
Nicolas Freeston (Previsualization Artist)
Hugo Brunet Gauvreau (Visual Effects Artist)
Priya Ayengar (Lead Stereoscopic Paint)
Rene Allegretti (Track/Matchmove Artist)

See Edge of Tomorrow in theatres! Congratulations, all!

“The Fall has Become the Game I’ve Always Wanted to Play.”

3D Animation & Visual Effects grad John Warner always wanted to create atmospheric games that were a little different. With the help of Acting for Film & Television grad Caleb Allard, he accomplished just that. ”Game development is an interesting balance of creativity and technical strategy, ” says John. ”Being able to create and come up with ideas is one thing, but you’ve also got to have a feasible strategy for making them work and making them fun.”

Once John realized that the writing, story development, and characters needed the next level of work, he hired Caleb for his writing and directing talents, honed during his time at VFS. “The Fall has a lot of voice acting,” said John. ”Thanks to Caleb, we got some really great performances.” 

Set in a dark, distant sci-fi universe, The Fall is about ARID, an artificial intelligence on-board a futuristic combat suit. One day, she is activated and finds the human pilot of the suit unconscious and in desperate need of medical help. However, as she struggles to take control of the suit and help her non-responsive friend, she finds herself in a unique situation that causes her to question her rigid relationship to protocol.

The project was successfully funded through the support of a Kickstarter campaign that launched in October, 2013. The whopping $38,155 total allowed John to explore — and deliver — some really cool features. They include:

  • A unique story set in a rich, atmospheric world.
  • A blend of point and click adventure games, platformers, and shooters to make a compelling experience that’s centred around environment exploration.
  • Fun and creative adventure-style puzzles.
  • A full voice cast, including a unique female protagonist.
  • Episodic structure in 3 acts. The first episode is 3 hours of playing time, if not more.

The Fall has become the game I’ve always wanted to play, but could never find,” says John. There’s no better feeling, we’re sure.

The game was officially released online and available via stream on May 30. Click HERE for more details about The Fall and how you can play.

In the meantime, check out the incredible trailer below!

Congratulations and best of luck!