Dedicate One Week to Your Screenwriting Career This July

There are plenty of people in the world who tell themselves, “Someday I’ll write a screenplay,” then stop short when they see the blank page. Finding the motivation is challenging for every writer, but the key to starting – and finishing – a script is a solid understanding of the craft.

In the 5-day Writing for Film & Television Summer Intensive, you participate in a rigorous workshopping process that takes your short film concept and refines it into a ready-to-shoot script. You gain real-world insight into the core fundamentals of screenwriting – including character creation, story structure, and dialogue – along with an introduction to the realities of what it’s like to be a working screenwriter in today’s industry. We’re also pleased to have special guest instructor and VFS Advisory Board Member Susan Beavers (Two and a Half Men, Dharma & Greg) on hand, who brings with her nearly 40 years of experience in television.

Boasting such graduates as Oscar nominee Terri Tatchell (District 9) and Hanna screenwriter Seth Lochhead, the one-year Writing for Film & Television program at VFS has long been the training ground for exciting new writers that go on to work in film, television, video games, and a wide range of rewarding industry positions.

Join us July 29 to August 2 for your opportunity to:

  • Learn from top-flight faculty inside our campus
  • Network with fellow emerging screenwriters
  • Participate in a short film production
  • Discover if VFS is the right school for you

Register now and take the first step in your journey as a professional writer!

A Weekend With Matthew Lillard

VFS Advisory Board Member Matthew Lillard (The Descendants, Scream), was in Vancouver recently for a special workshop with our Acting for Film & Television students. Student Emma Brandrup-Wognsen was there and shared some of the highlights with us.

Guest Post by Emma Brandrup-Wognsen

Two days have gone by since the workshop with Matthew Lillard ended, and I am feeling what I can most accurately describe as a sense of loss.

I went in to the weekend very apprehensive about being face to face with someone so successful, but one of the first things Matt talked about was his belief that he is not more talented than anyone else. He is just a normal person with a very strong work ethic and an endless passion for the craft who just absolutely refuses to give up. He said that if we are all willing to put in the time, each hour another rung on the ladder, we are all enough.

I experienced so much that I feel like I spent a week in that room rather than just two days. When it comes down to it, the most significant thing that I learned was the importance of community – having a place to come back to when the industry is getting the best of you. A place where you can let your light shine when there’s no other outlet, where people thrive and live off of that light, instead of trying to cover it up. Where you get a chance to inspire and be inspired. A place where you are safe to give up all pretensions of who you need to be and where you need get to and just play again, have fun, and be reminded of why you are in this business in the first place – for those simple magical moments of real contact.

However, it is very easy to get caught up in the romantic side of acting, and reading through what I just wrote I realize that I’ve let myself get swept away yet again. The reality is that this is a hard business and the only way to survive it is to keep working, keep collecting those long hours. So let it be this time. Let it be my time, let it be your time, let it be our time.

To quote Matthew Lillard, “All of this is very Kumbaya but tomorrow I want you to actually do stuff.”

Thanks for sharing this with us, Emma. For more photos from the workshop, check out the Acting for Film & Television Facebook Page.

An Interview With Matthew Lillard

VFS Advisory Board Member Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby Doo) was in Vancouver earlier this year to lead a workshop for students and alumni of the Acting for Film & Television program. He sat down with Bill Marchant, head of the department, to discuss his work on the Oscar-winning film The Descendants, his love of teaching, and his foray into the world of directing.

“I love teaching because I love acting – and that’s the God’s honest truth,” shared Matthew. “One of the things I teach is I believe that you’re an individual and the only way you’re ever going to succeed is that you embrace the individuality.”

Watch the entire interview for further insight into Matthew’s process, his unique audition experience for The Descendants, and his hands-on approach to working with students.

Next up for Matthew is Fat Kid Rules The World, an independent feature he directed based on the young adult novel by KL Going.

The Marketing Store’s Creative Director Joins Digital Design Advisory Board

We’re proud to announce that Michael Oliver, the Vice President, Creative Director of The Marketing Store has joined the Digital Design program’s Advisory Board.

Advisory Board Members are integral to VFS’s mission to bring students the most relevant skills and knowledge that will prepare them to succeed in the industry. Their input can vary from guest speaking engagements to recommendations on aspects of VFS curricula.

With extensive experience as a creative executive, Digital Design students will surely benefit from Michael’s enthusiasm for design.

“I believe we’re all designers in some respect, capable of shaping the lives we live and the world around us,” he says. “Whether it’s designing interfaces or designing the relationships we have with others, opportunities exist at every turn for passionate, engaged people to co-create the future together. This optimism and passion for design is alive and well at VFS, so I jumped at the chance to contribute to the program; one of the best in the world, responsible for shaping the future of our industry.”

Welcome, Michael!

Find out more about the VFS Digital Design program.

Cinema Audio Society Recognizes VFS Advisory Board Member

Craig Berkey, an Academy Award-nominated Advisory Board Member for the Sound Design for Visual Media program, has been nominated for a Cinema Audio Society (CAS) Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing. The awards ceremony will take place on February 18 in Los Angeles.

The honour is for his work on Hanna, a feature film scripted by Writing for Film & Television grad Seth Lochhead.

With his frequent collaborator Skip Lievsay, Berkey has been nominated for three Oscars for sound editing/mixing on True Grit and No Country for Old Men. He has also previously been recognized with BAFTA and Golden Reel nominations.

Congratulations, Craig! VFS students and faculty are lucky to have such an acclaimed mentor.

Head of Acting Bill Marchant on Coaching Matthew Lillard

In what’s been described as a “bracingly honest” interview with BlackBook, VFS Advisory Board Member Matthew Lillard spoke about his career and what being cast in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants meant for him:

“Nobody ever comes to me. Nobody in the history of filmmaking has ever gone, ‘You know who we need for this? Matt Lillard.” That’s the truth. It was an audition. I read the audition and I was like, ‘Dude, there’s no way I’m going to be this guy. There’s no way I’m George Clooney’s wife’s lover. That’s not happening.”

And yet it did happen. According to this behind the scenes video shot on set in Hawaii, Lillard said he did the audition quickly with his kids waiting in the car, which actually played a part in him landing the role, according to Payne. Once he was cast in “one of 2011′s best” movies — a role that could potentially blow the doors off of the legacy of successful franchises like Scooby-Doo! and Scream — Lillard turned to his friend and colleague, Head of Acting for Film & Television Bill Marchant, for coaching help leading up to production.

Considering the many hours Lillard has dedicated to weekend workshops with VFS Acting alumni, not to mention his previous guest speaker engagements, working with the passionate veteran actor seemed like a no-brainer for Bill, who was kind enough to share his thoughts on the entire experience:

On Matthew Lillard, the Actor

“Matthew Lillard is very much an actor’s actor. He is classically trained and very professional in his attitude toward the work. Because he spent most of his youth and early adulthood immersed in the slacker oeuvre, he is too often dismissed as being a slight character, a goof, a man-child. Yes, he is all those things but they represent a very small part of his palette. He is very much  a masculine force of tremendous power and charisma with a surprising depth of sensitivity. He is also like mercury, silvered and quick and electric, ultimately impossible to pin down.”

“I think it is Alexander Payne’s great genius to recognize this wild cactus flower, the outrageous beauty of bloom where we expected none. What a remarkable eye to know that behind the archetype that Matthew represents, lies an actor of extraordinary substance.”

The Coaching Process

“Matt was excited about The Descendants, obviously, but he was calm compared to me. I am a huge fan of both Lillard and Payne. I knew that this bit of inspired casting was akin to the masterstroke of using Paul Giamatti as the hero in Sideways. I am sure Matt did have his concerns about flying to Hawaii and doing the gig but he remained fairly casual through out the process. It is never wise to do a project of this scope without working on it with a coach. It was my honour to play that role.”

“[VFS instructor] Matt Fentiman and I flew down to the Lillard home in Pasadena ready to work. But we didn’t get right to it. We talked over the script and major scenes casually during the course of the next few days as Matt [Lillard] took care of his kids and wrangled busy schedules with his wife. I was chomping at the bit to play. Matt Lillard prefers to simmer. Slow.”

“The day before we left for home, we finally got down to it. We started by walking for miles in beautiful suburban Pasadena down tree-lined avenues, just going over the lines, over and over again, letting them seep deep into the tissue of the actor’s body. On breaks we would ramble and debate about the truth of love and relationships and betrayal and getting caught. These are all the major hurdles his character faces in The Descendants.”

“Finally, we took it back to the ‘work’ room of Matthew’s house and got the scene up on its feet. Matt Fentiman took on the Clooney role and we let it fly. Lillard is all animal impulse. He censors nothing as he repeats the scene, honing and tweaking and pushing at the edges of the scene until the ragged but glorious truth emerges. It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. But it is outrageously fun. Within a couple of hours we were done and wisely let it go. I knew Matthew could remain constant in the scene while adapting to all change regardless of the circumstance. His key strengths are energy, permission, and the connective sinew of love that defines the great actor. He brings it every time. That’s who he is.”

Thanks for the insight, Bill! And a big congrats to Matthew Lillard on a wonderful performance!

UPDATE (1/16/12): The Descendants has won the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama).

UPDATE (6/13/12): Watch Bill conduct a fascinating interview with Matthew here:

Talent Agent Tyman Stewart Visits VFS Acting

“You should always have an agent who thinks you can do everything,” VFS Advisory Board Member Tyman Stewart told a packed room of Acting for Film & Television students this week.

As the Senior Vice President of The Characters Talent Agency (West), you could say he’s well-versed in the inner workings of the film industry. He’s one of the reasons Acting grad Adam DiMarco has had such an incredible year, having made the behind-the-scenes connections that resulted in getting Adam seen by dozens of decision-makers.

Seated comfortably for a moderated Q&A, Tyman also reflected on signing Head of Department Bill Marchant: “I remember seeing you. I remember to this day: I am repping you.” Over an hour and a half, he shared a lot of promising stories and hard lessons, as current Acting for Film & Television student John Connolly has been kind enough to recap for us.

Guest Post by John Connolly

The classroom was filled to the brim with students waiting for Bill Marchant and our guest speaker, Tyman Stewart, to arrive. It was an unprecedented event for the Acting for Film & Television program, and our current three classes were the fortunate ones to be present for it. Tyman Stewart is the Senior VP of The Characters Talent Agency, the second largest agency in Canada, which currently represents VFS faculty members Bill Marchant and Jennifer Clement, as well as quite a few VFS alumni. The agency has branches in Los Angeles and Toronto as well as here in Vancouver. Tyman has also produced a few films, including Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, and the upcoming A Little Bit Zombie.

Over the course of an hour and a half, students asked about anything they could think of: outside influences on the industry, work in the US, even haircuts. The questions varied from personal to inclusive, and Tyman would respond with stories and examples from his personal experience as well as the general standard among other agencies. He made it very apparent that he wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything for our benefit. It may have made some students uneasy at first, but that soon passed as they realized how his personality visibly reflects his attitude toward his job: professional, yet personable.

The recurring theme throughout the session seemed to be stereotypes, or the fear of being pigeonholed into one specific character. “If your talent surpasses that,” Tyman answered, “then you shouldn’t worry.” Build a reputation as a great actor and possess great skills, then there will be no boundaries. Focus. Make sure you continue your training, learn techniques, and always keep an ear to the ground as to what’s happening in the business. He also made it clear that “you can be as good as you want, but if you’re an ass, no one will want to work with you.” While it may seem obvious, there are indeed actors in the world who may disregard that advice.

From beginning to end, the evening was a constant outbreak of overwhelming information and each of us left with something valuable to bring into our future endeavours.

Thanks, John!

Visit VFS on Flickr to see photos from Tyman’s visit.

VFS Welcomes Google’s Peter Jin Hong

We’re pleased to welcome Peter Jin Hong, a Digital Design program Advisory Board Member (and alumnus) currently working as the UX Lead for Google+ Photos.

Peter will be spending a few days with students in Digital Design, reviewing their work and sharing his high-profile experience. (Check out his schedule at VFS, as well as a full background on his career, on Oomph.) His much-anticipated visit begins with an upcoming talk on design, where he’ll focus on the role of mentorship and human-powered solutions. If you’ll be in Vancouver and you’re passionate about design, we encourage you to come!

“Remembering That We’re Human – Elusive Perspectives On a Career in UX”
A special talk from Google’s Peter Jin Hong
VFS Main Theatre, 420 Homer Street
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
4:30pm-6:00pm

RSVP with your name (and those of any guests) to leslie@vfs.com.

OVERVIEW
Peter will discuss his career in user experience, focusing on his time with Google and also his volunteer work as Creative Director for WellDone.org. Peter has helped the non-profit develop empowering and positive strategies to get people involved with social good (WellDone.org helps developing communities source clean drinking water.) The team recently won the top award at AIGA’s and CauseEffect.org’s 2011 Do-Gooder Awards for transformative design for social change.

ABOUT PETER JIN HONG
Peter Jin Hong has been a professional innovation catalyst and story collector for over 10 years. Most of his career has been as an award-winning Creative Director and pioneer of User Experience innovation/strategy business units at Blast Radius, Tribal DDB, and for clients such as KAYAK, CarMax, AOL, Nike, EA, Sony, Honda, and BMW. Valuing mentorship, Peter has guided many promising individuals, who themselves have become successful creative directors for other renowned agencies.

Space is limited! RSVP soon to get a seat. Email neesha@vfs.com.

(Please note that current VFS students will be given preference.)

Sound Design at BioWare

The last few years in gaming have belonged to BioWare. With multiple game of the year awards, and the Studio of the Year nod from the 2010 Spike TV Video Game Awards, the company has also become a major recruiter of VFS talent, not only from Game Design but 3D Animation & Visual Effects and Sound Design for Visual Media as well.

We were given exclusive access to BioWare’s Edmonton campus as part of a series of interviews with VFS Sound Design grads Mike Kent, Jeremie Voillot, Jordan Ivey, Patrick Biason, Steve Bigras, Joel Green, Audio Lead and Advisory Board member Rob Blake, and Project Director Mark Darrah.

In the following video the team, nominated for a 2010 Game Developer’s Choice Award in Audio for Mass Effect 2, talk about BioWare’s approach to audio, the creative challenges of working on very different franchises (Mass Effect and Dragon Age), the role of audio in gaming, and life at one of the largest game companies in the world. “We’re trying to make a really memorable and immersive experience,” says Rob Blake. “And I’ve always thought that our job as sound designers is to tell the story better.” Based on the continuing accolades, and the anticipation around Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3, we’d say they’ve succeeded.

Check out more exclusive content and student work on the VFS YouTube channel.

2010: The Year in Review

Wow. What a year.

As we head into the holidays and then 2011, we can’t help but look back a little.

A lot of graduating classes at VFS do the same: nostalgic montages, video yearbooks, gag reels, before-and-afters. They take stock of the seemingly impossible communities they formed in 12 short months and the endless variety of incredible things they’ve created. A story emerges: of triumph, of challenges, of stressful times and good times.

Here at the VFS Blog and behind the scenes at VFS, we get to do that too. Every year, we watch our students do amazing things and our graduates make waves around the world. How amazing is that? We’re lucky.

2010. What a year.

We try to chronicle and celebrate those stories and those people – to the tune of 321 posts this year. It’s still not as many as we’d like, a small fraction – and yet, we take a step back, and it thrills us just the same. From the Oscars to the Olympics, the traditional to the cutting edge, singing chickens to sinister sirens, 2010 had everything we could possibly ask for.

That’s why we decided to put it together in one place: vfs.com/2010. It’s a collection of some of our best memories from 2010, as well as incredible student work, grad accomplishments, and much more. We hope you enjoy.

To all of our readers: have a safe and happy holiday, and we’ll back to posting on the VFS Blog in January. But we won’t be far – you can still connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and enjoy our YouTube channel. We’ll be out there with you.