Jamie Lee Curtis Charms and Inspires VFS Students

Students from Writing for Film & Television, Acting for Film & Television, Entertainment Business Management, Makeup for Film & Television, and Film Production sat down with Hollywood royalty Jamie Lee Curtis. The legendary actress stopped by VFS on April 9 to offer advice to the next generation of filmmakers. Foundation Visual Art & Design  grad and current Writing for Film & Television  student Jonathan Willis attended the special event and shares his experience.

Guest Post by Jonathan Willis

The “Scream Queen,” known from such films as Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies, gave an open and honest talk about her career as an actress. After signing on as one of the last contract stars with Universal, Jamie got her big break when she landed the iconic role as Laurie Strode in the James Carpenter slasher classic Halloween. Filmed over the course of 17 days, with a budget of $300,000, Halloween went on to gross $70 million worldwide.

Students were on the edge of their seats as Jamie recalled stories of auditioning for Francis Ford Coppola, screen testing with Richard Gere, and being Godmother to Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Nobody can tell you what’s special about you.” This was the theme of the night. Jamie encouraged students to “Say no to nothing,” and “Go out into the world and learn.” Anyone who has the drive and passion to make a career in the entertainment industry should “Think, read, and watch as many plays and movies as they can.”

Jamie also recommended students watch The Big Picture and For Your Consideration, both directed by her husband Christopher Guest, for an honest portrayal of the industry.

Before leaving, Jamie offered students one last encouraging thought. Don’t worry about your process; it is not what makes you special. “Do what you want to do wide open.”

It was truly a pleasure listening to everything Jamie had to say. It was an experience that students in attendance won’t soon forget.

A very special thank you to Jamie Lee Curtis for spending time with students at VFS. Also, thanks for sharing your experience with us, Jonathan!

Writing Grad to Pen Adaptation of “Who is Jake Ellis?”

Big news for Seth Lochhead! The Writing for Film & Television  grad is set to adapt the Image comicbook “Who Is Jake Ellis?” for 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment.

Read more about Seth and this exciting new project in Variety.


Happy Stranger Appreciation Day!


Stranger Appreciation Day  may not be a “traditional” holiday, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace it!

The Digital Design  program at Vancouver Film School embarks on a 48-hour slam every 4 months. All classes participate to work on a common brief and tackle a new challenge. This time, students were asked to create a holiday and make it real; hence, Stranger Appreciation Day was born!

The Digital Design team behind the simple – and oh-so-brilliant – idea wants all of us to celebrate strangers. When was the last time you engaged with the person making your coffee? Did you say “hello” to that guy/girl standing beside you at the red light this morning? Today, you’ve got exactly zero excuses. If you visit www.strangerappreciationday.at you can download your very own card (created by some fabulous illustrators and designers), and give one away to a perfect stranger! These Digital Design folks have thought of everything and in style, too.

Check out some of the other ways Stranger Appreciation Day has been making an impression:




For all the Instagram enthusiasts out there, visit instagram.com/strangerfun and see photos of Digital Design students practicing what they’re preachin’.

We hope you all have at least one beautiful and surprising encounter today! Spread the word! #funwithastranger!

After 91 Years, Disney is Still the Maker of Dreams



Antonio Braz Dos Santos graduated from the VFS Digital Design program in December, 2013. It didn’t take long before he landed a dream job at Disney (Club Penguin) in Kelowna, BC. We had a chance to ask Antonio some questions about VFS, design, and his incredible new job. Take a look!

Where are you from? What were you up to before coming to VFS?

Antonio: My name is Antonio Braz and I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prior to moving to Vancouver, I attained my Bachelor’s degree at PUC of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where I developed a set of skills in Adobe Master Suite and Development. I worked in the field as a designer and developer for over four years until I decided it was time to augment my education further.

Were you always interested in Digital Design?

Antonio: Yes, I’ve had a passion for design ever since I was a kid. I always tried to create new things. I had crazy ideas and I always loved technology, so it was pretty easy when I needed to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As Steve Jobs said in one of his speeches, “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

What was your experience like in the Digital Design program at VFS? What were some challenges? What was the best thing about it?

Antonio: It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was surprised by the amount of things I learned in such a short amount of time. I was challenged all the time; therefore, I have gained valuable knowledge in project management, practical colour theory, typography, wireframes, problem solving, team building, and theoretical approaches in design. This has enhanced my workflow and heightened my production capabilities, bringing value to design by identifying how brands, products, and experiences actually serve people and cultures. The exploration of ideas to discover unexpected outcomes, and giving tangible form to an idea, has become the basis for which I think on a daily basis. 

The best thing is that my life at work is pretty easy compared to VFS life – Ha! VFS prepared me for any kind of challenge and it’s awesome to see how far you can go if you believe in yourself. 

We heard about your new job at Disney! Can you tell us about some projects you’re working on? 

Antonio: My life couldn’t be better. It sounds cliché, but my dream came true and I couldn’t have accomplished that without the support of VFS. Currently, I’m working in a guest experience area to create a better online experience for users and support them in Club Penguin and Disney Infinity.

Do you have any advice for new students? For people thinking about a career in Digital Design?

Antonio: It will be a tough year, but worth it. Give your best and don’t hesitate if you have questions or doubts. You will have the best professionals to help you to succeed. They changed my life; they can change yours as well. Good Luck!

Congratulations on your recent success, Antonio! Thanks for sharing with us!

Thumbs up, Soldier!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens today! All the pre-release talk of great action sequences, intrigue, and never-before-seen characters has us extremely excited to see what Steve Rogers is up to this time around. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), this one’s going to hit big, gosh gee golly.

In all the super-hero hype, we wanted to recognize some of our own VFS alumni who worked on the film. Congratulations to 3D Animation & Visual Effects grads Tuba Yalcin (FX Technical Director), Michael Miller (Lead Modeller & Texture Artist), Omar Fernandes (CG Generalist Scanline VFX),  Ryan Lim (Senior Modeler), Chung Yin Hsieh (Background Plate Prep), and Chun-Ping Chao (Digital Compositor). Digital Design (then known as New Media) grad Michael Stewart contributed his talents as Digital Compositor.

Will you be in line on Friday for your tickets? We’ve got ours, Cap.







Fair Winds and Following Seas for “Noah”

Darren Anonofsky’s Biblical epic Noah opened in first place this past weekend with $43.7 million in box-office earnings. This modern adaptation of the old tale stars Russell Crowe (Noah) and Jennifer Connelly (Naameh).

We want to congratulate 3D Animation & Visual Effects  grads Jelmer Boskma (Concept Artist, Art Lead), James Gardiner (Stereoscopic FX TD), and Puneeth Kunnatha (Stereoscopic Paint Artist ) on their contributions to the film. In addition, Digital Character Animation  grad Jiun Yiing Mow worked on Noah as Lighting and Technical Director.

Check out this film in theatres!

Three MIFF Nominations for “Two Married People”

Two Married People is a feature film directed and executive produced by Acting for Film & Television instructor Jim Bates. You may recognize the title from a VFS blog post written about the film in October, 2013. A lot has changed since Jim and his crew, made up of primarily VFS grads and staff, embarked on ”eight crazy days of guerrilla filmmaking”. Two Married People has recently been accepted into the Milan International Film Festival with three nominations in the Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay categories. This is great news for Acting for Film & Television grads Margot Sikabonyi and Shane Twerdun who star in the film.

We had a chance to ask Jim about this recent success, the filmmaking process, and what’s next for Two Married People.

What was the inspiration for “Two Married People”? What is the history behind this project?  

Margot and I stayed in close contact after she graduated and returned to Italy in 2007. We discussed making a film together often. In the summer of 2011, she was in Vancouver and we shook hands and agreed to make a film in December of 2011. At that time we had no story idea.

What was the process of making this film?

We developed a few story ideas and finally landed on the idea of two international married people at a sales conference having an affair. In December 2011, we shot the film with less than $5,000 and a Canon 5D and one 650W light. I had a 50 page script that we developed through improvisation and rehearsal while we were shooting. The post production was slow and arduous as I had no money and it took forever to get things done. For example, I had to go to Rome to ADR about 100 lines of Margot’s dialogue. (ADR is hard – Margot’s skill at this is amazing – a lot of time and money was saved because of this). Back in Vancouver, we did Shane’s ADR, we had to find a sound mixer, colourist. It was all very slow and difficult to pay for.

What have been some of the challenges of directing and producing a new feature film?

See above. When it comes to the actual shooting on set – that is a pleasure.

The two actors featured in this film are VFS grads. How did this team come together?

I had great relationships with both of them when they graduated. I had directed Shane in Julius Caesar in 2004, and saw his work in other projects and wanted to work with him. I knew they were both the perfect match for this project. The chemistry between them was fantastic.

As an actor, was there ever a time in the process that you wanted to jump in front of the camera?


You spoke about writing an outline for the script and using improvisations from the actors to flesh out the story. What was the biggest revelation in working this way?

I have been working this way for 25 years, so I am quite comfortable with it. I use this method a lot in my Scene Study on Camera Classes. Shane and Margot were very familiar with how I work from their days in our school.

How did it feel to be nominated for three MIFF awards? What can this kind of recognition do for a new film?

It was a great feeling. We had already been rejected by a handful of festivals – they all receive so many submissions – thousands of  films. It is very satisfying to get a little bit of recognition and attention for your work. I am also glad for Margot and Shane receiving nominations for their performances.

What’s next for Two Married People?

Hopefully, a distribution deal. I would love to get it on pay television in Europe and North America, or even Netflix. The wider the audience, the better. I doubt we will ever make our money back, though.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Check out the new St. Vincent album!

Congratulations, Jim! 

Sci-Fi Thriller Gets Picked by Vimeo

It isn’t every day your video gets a Vimeo staff pick, but for recent 3D Animation & Visual Effects  grad Daniel Beaulieu, it just did. “It is so amazing to have poured your heart and soul into something for the better part of a year, release it out into the wild, and have such positive feedback,” said Beaulieu.

His final project has created a substantial amount of buzz on the internet recently and it’s not hard to see why — this is one short film that packs a serious punch.

Beaulieu was inspired by some old Sci-Fi favourites like “Solaris” and “Barbarella” to achieve the look in his short film “Malaise”.  It’s a thrilling ride you’ll wish kept going, despite the terrifying premise.

What’s next for Daniel? He just recently accepted a job at Nerds Corp Entertainment Inc. and says, “I think the overall plan is to continue learning as much as possible every day and become the best animator I can be.”

Congratulations, Daniel! We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Sound Design Grad Finds Success Freelancing in Mumbai


Kartik Kulkarni always dreamed of studying at Vancouver Film School. Looking back, he remembers his year in the VFS Sound Design for Visual Media program with great fondness and gratitude. Kartik is currently working non-stop as a freelance sound designer in Mumbai and loving every moment.

We asked Kartik to share some of his experiences as an international student at VFS, some recent career highlights, and what his life looks like now.

Where are you from? What were you up to before coming to VFS?

Kartik: I am from Pune, India, which is a 3-hour drive from Mumbai. Before coming to VFS, I was working as a recording and mixing engineer in the advertising industry in Mumbai for three years. I used to record and mix Radio jingles and TV commercials. Apart from that, I was also teaching at the School of Audio Engineering (SAE), Mumbai, and was an associate sound designer with POGO TV (Turner Inc.). In addition, I used to design sound for mobile games. I did sound engineering at SAE, Chennai, as well.

Were you always interested in sound design?

Kartik: Yes, I have always been fascinated by film sound, the filmmaking process, and the awesome soundscape I experienced in a lot of movies. While pursuing sound engineering, I was introduced to basic sound designing and the filmmaking process and that’s when I decided that I wanted to specialize in sound design. I liked recording and mixing music, but playing around with sounds always got my heart pumping.

What was your experience like in the Sound Design program at VFS? What were some challenges? What was the best thing about it?

Kartik: Coming to Vancouver was the first time I had ever stepped out of my country. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was finally getting to do what I wanted. Joining the VFS Sound Design Program had always been my dream and I was very lucky to live it (a big thanks to my parents and grandparents for making it possible)!

The experience at VFS was way more than what I had expected. I was blown away by the efficiency and dedication of the entire staff. David Raine always made sure everything was on time, helped us with whatever we wanted, and made our lives easier. I loved the fact that we got hands-on experience in all aspects of sound for films and game audio, and the instructors pushed us to achieve more. I really liked how the course translated to real life working environments with team projects, collaborations, briefs, and deadlines. I enjoyed working in all the facilities of the campus.

There were a few challenges, such as the immense work load, handling multiple projects at once, meeting multiple deadlines and – the most important – no sleep! All of these things were always met with a smile and never felt like challenges; all thanks to the amazing instructors and my awesome classmates. I always enjoyed working at school and never asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” Work was always fun at VFS.

The best parts about the Sound Design program at VFS are the Instructors and my class. I connected with almost all the instructors at school and never felt like they were my teachers. They interacted with us like colleagues or friends, even. I got to learn a lot from everyone’s extensive experience. I would like to credit all the instructors for the skills I have acquired after one year at VFS. They encouraged us to think outside the box and helped us to make creative decisions. Professionalism is one thing you can learn from these guys. I want to mention Steve Smith, Brad Hillman, Curtis Wright, and Jenn Lewis for sculpting the way I perceive sound now and making me a better professional. It goes without saying that I really miss the entire VFS Sound Design staff!

What do I say about my class? They were my family away from home. Leaving your home and coming to a completely different continent is not easy, but it was made easy by my classmates. We used to spend our days together and did this for the entire year. There were no ego clashes, arguments, or any sort of negative energy in the class. I can proudly say that SD61 is extremely talented and everyone is a complete professional. I feel very lucky to have had been part of such an international class. I had the privilege to interact with amazing and diverse personalities from all around the world. We learned a lot from each other and I can say I have made friends and future colleagues for life. I seriously miss them all and wish I could relive the last year.

What does your life look like now? We heard about your work as a freelance artist in Mumbai. Can you tell us about some projects you’re working on?

Kartik: Life looks really interesting right now. My career is taking the right turns. I moved back to India in November, 2013 and have been busy with work since December, 2013. I was the head of an advertising sound studio for two months, handling recording and mixing radio jingles, and TV commercials. Currently, I am working as a freelance sound designer and mix engineer for ad films and short films. I have also been doing location sound for ad shoots.

Some of the projects I would like to share are:

1. United Arab Bank FC Barcelona Platinum Cards theatrical ad. I did the sound design, music edit, and a theatrical 5.1 mix, which is being played in all the theaters in Dubai.

2. DIL Sachin Silver Coin commercial. I did the sound design and mix for this commercial.

3. Bhendi Bazaar: a short documentary on Moharram 1435 H, which took place last year in Mumbai. I did the sound design, dialog edit, and the mix for this film.

4. WIFT National Anthem. I had the honor of doing a theatrical mix of our national anthem in 5.1. It has been produced by WIFT (Women in Film & Television) to celebrate women’s day and women empowerment in India. It was shot on the leading female personalities of the Indian film industry and sung by some of the leading female singers. It’s currently playing in theaters before movies start, across Mumbai.

5. Currently I am working on a short Sci-Fi film from the U.S., doing the dialog edit, Foley, and mix. I am also doing the sound editing and mix for a 100-minute Indie feature from Vancouver. For these projects, I am collaborating with my classmate from SD61, Aditya Yadav, who is also in Mumbai working as a sound designer.

6. There are two more short film projects coming down the pike.

What is the industry like in Mumbai?

Kartik: The industry in Mumbai is constantly evolving, whether it’s the film or advertising industry. Bollywood is one of the highest producers of feature films; hence, there is constant work in Mumbai for sound professionals such as location sound, post production for films, sound for ads, or music for films and ads. There is a lot of regional film work happening in Mumbai. The Indian film industry is constantly making a mark in the international circuit. The animation and VFX industry has also evolved a lot in the last 2-3 years, and so has the sound industry. Mumbai has 3 Dolby ATMOS mix stages. It’s a bit different how things are done here compared to Vancouver, but it’s fun and challenging to work on two different levels.

Do you have any advice for new students? For people thinking about a career in sound design?

Kartik: If you are passionate about sound, and want to learn from the best, take up the VFS Sound Design program. It’s one of the best things that could happen to you. It will not only give you the tools and skill set to make a career out of what you love doing, but you’ll have the chance to make awesome friendships with future work partners. Always have an open mind and a positive attitude – it really helps in this industry. The field of professional sound is vast. It will need dedication and a lot of hard work to make a career in this field. Yes, there are sleepless nights and crazy deadlines, but it is worth it if you love what you do.

For students who are currently studying at VFS in Sound Design, make the most out of this year – you won’t get it back. Squeeze out as much knowledge and experience as you can out of your instructors – TAKE NOTES! One year worth of notes from VFS will become your go-to source when you are working. Keep meeting new people and interact with professionals. Don’t be shy to ask questions; there is a lot to learn from everyone. Be humble, true to your work and profession – what goes around comes around. Make as many connections as you can. You never know who you will work with, or who will need your services in the future. Just have fun at VFS and enjoy Vancouver. It’s a beautiful place.

Thanks for sharing, Kartik!

Check out Kartik’s latest projects here.

Passion and Community Spirit Earn Two Students the Brandon Flock Scholarship

Matt Button and Naazneen Esmaeli are the recipients of this year’s Brandon Flock Foundation/VFS Acting Essentials Scholarship. The committee has chosen to award the full BFF scholarship to Matt, and the partial scholarship ($5,000) to Naazneen.

“We selected Matt due to his incredible love for giving back to the community,” the scholarship committee said. “In five years’ time, Matt would like to be running community programs in Winnipeg focusing on the arts.” Originally from Hastings, ON, Matt has always loved performing and sees the Acting Essentials Program as a chance to “give it a shot”. “The opportunity to work with professionals definitely excites me. I trust the instruction and training will prepare me, not only for the 12-month Acting for TV & Film Program, but for the industry in general. I am totally excited to be a part of the entertainment community.” When asked about his reaction to winning the BFF scholarship, he said, “I felt like I had won the lottery and was given another shot to pursue my dreams. My passion was instantly re-ignited. I am very grateful.”

Naazneen demonstrated a commitment to following her dream; something the committee felt compelled to recognize. “We were very impressed with Naazneen’s burning passion to continue her education in the Arts. After becoming the first person in her family to attend post-secondary, she is taking the leap of faith to pursue her love of acting.” Although Naazneen spent the first eight years of her life in Toronto, she considers herself a “Vancouverite”, and a die-hard Canucks fan. She is excited and grateful to the Brandon Flock Foundation for giving her a chance to start this next step. “Life is about being vulnerable, passionate, and honest. There’s always a little voice in our heart that goes unheard because of all the other voices in our head. Dig deep, listen, and you’ll hear it.”

The Brandon Flock Foundation “BFF” was established in 2013 as a living memorial for Brandon Flock by his family, friends, and colleagues. This scholarship is designed to help passionate young artists pursue an education in the field of fine arts. Brandon believed that art in all forms contributed to a better well being.