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! 

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.




VFS Summer Intensives 2014: One Week That Packs an Industry Punch

Vancouver Film School’s Summer Intensives are back this July!

Get a taste of what VFS is all about in one intense week. Don’t believe us? Why not take a little ‘scroll’ down our list of programs? Take your time. We’ll just wait here with our quinoa burger and sassy beach hat.

VFS Summer Intensives 2014:

  • Acting for Film & Television  (July 21 to 25)
  • Animation & Visual Effects  (July 28 to August 1)
  • Art, Film & Design  (July 7 to 11)
  • Digital Design  (July 21 to 25)
  • Film Production  (July 21 to 25)
  • Game Design  (July 21 to 25)
  • Makeup Design for Film & Television  (July 14 to 18)
  • Programming for Games, Web & Mobile  (July 7 to 11)
  • Sound Design for Visual Media  (July 28 to August 1)
  • Writing for Film & Television  (July 14 to 18)

Great, right? Now picture it: You’re in downtown Vancouver (it’s a beautiful day), you can see the mountains, you’re with new Summer Intensive friends — you know, relating to each other and stuff — and you realize something… ”Gaming, designing, programming, writing, acting, filming… I’m doing it!”

This summer just became the one to beat. Are you ready?

Find out more about VFS Summer Intensives 2014 and register today!

By the way…

  • Get a $400 discount on the Art, Film & Design Intensive if you combine it with any second intensive, plus 10% off your total fees.
  • Get 10% off your total fees if you take any two 2014 intensives.

See you there!


2013 – A Year in Review

2013 was a remarkable year for the VFS community. We saw our students bring their dreams to life and we watched with pride as our alumni entertained the world, week after week.

In celebration of the hard work and incredible accomplishments of 2013, we are excited to bring you the VFS Year in Review.

We hope you enjoy some of our favourite moments of the last year.

For more information about VFS and how you can make your dreams a reality in 2014, speak with an advisor today.

L.A. Casting Director Visits VFS

Sara Isaacson can light up a room. The veteran L.A. Casting Director, who has worked on such award-winning series as Gilmore Girls, ER, Fringe, Motive, and Almost Human, and is currently casting Bates Motel, visited VFS recently for a weekend Master Class in partnership with Actors Workshops Canada. Sara shared her knowledge with VFS Acting for Film & Television alumni and spoke about audition techniques, the role of a casting director, and why you should never sacrifice acting classes for headshots. 

Michelle Ferguson, an Acting for Film & Television alumnus, attended the workshop and shares her experience with us. 

Guest post by Michelle Ferguson

As a VFS alumni, I have the pleasure of having access to some exclusive services that I otherwise wouldn’t know about. One such opportunity was participating in the Sara Isaacson Casting Director Workshop, hosted by VFS, in conjunction with the team at Actors Workshops Canada.

Sara was a breath of fresh air in the room with her grounded presence, encouraging us all to not feel nervous as she was here to work and play, rather than to judge. Having that nervous energy (something that can be unhelpful to the actor) dispelled from the room, allowed us to breathe and come to the table with the playful attitude we were meant to.

In addition to Sara, we also got to meet one of the biggest casting directors in Vancouver: Emmy award-winning Coreen Mayrs. They both gave us the opportunity to further expel any ‘in the room’ nerves by reminding us that they are always rooting for the actor to succeed.

Another great feature of the workshop was that not all the attendees were from VFS, which gave us lots of opportunity to get to know other actors and who they work with.

The AWC is hoping that an event like this one to be the first of many hosted through VFS, with a different guest Casting Director each time, from either the American or Canadian market. If we are lucky enough, it may be both!

One leaves a workshop such as this knowing that it is a rare occurrence. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these little rarities. Having those pesky ‘in the room’ nerves combated is nothing but beneficial. And you get to have a little fun at the same time!

Many thanks to Sara for her amazing working, and to Michelle for sharing her experience with us!

Acting Grad Talks Hockey, VFS, and Playing a Werewolf on Syfy’s Bitten

After a serious injury cut his budding hockey career short, Halifax native Steve Lund decided to turn his focus to his first love – acting. He moved to Vancouver and the rest is history. Since graduating from the Acting Essentials and Acting for Film & Television programs at VFS, Steve has found success on the small screen – appearing on Syfy’s Haven, CW’s Beauty and the Beast, CBC’s Being Erica, and more. We caught up with Steve to learn more about his shift to acting, his time at VFS, and his role in the new Syfy series, Bitten.

What led you to acting and VFS? What made you decide to pursue it as a career?
Steve: I was 19, sitting in a doctor’s office, staring at an MRI of my head and neck while a doctor explained that I had swelling on my brain and spinal cord and that I should never, ever play competitive hockey again. I felt relieved. Finally, I had an excuse to abandon the career others had chosen for me, in favour of the one I had wanted to pursue since the first time I watched Indiana Jones. I immediately started researching schools and found out about the Acting Essentials program at VFS. Since I was pretty unsure if I truly knew if this was what I wanted to do, it seemed perfect. Within the first month, I had told myself I never wanted to do anything else.

Tell us about your time in the two programs.
Steve: There were many highlights during my time at VFS. It’s been nearly five years and some of the memories fade with time, but one thing I will never forget was the change that VFS helped me make. With the work of Bill Marchant (Head of Acting at VFS) and the other amazing instructors, I realized that I had to make some radical changes in my life and how I lived it, in order to be a better actor and a better person. I will always credit the work done at VFS for the making me the man I am today. Although it’s a lifelong road, they certainly set me on the right path.

Check out the trailer for Bitten:

You’ve been busy since graduation – what were the first few months like after leaving VFS? Was it challenging to find work? Did you feel prepared to enter the industry?
Steve: The first few months were mostly focused on finding an agent, continuing my studies, and adjusting myself to the intimidating “real world.” I lived with actors, was graciously taken under the guidance of the lovely Andrew McIlroy, and within a few months, I found a great agent. A few months later, I booked my first job; a web series that filmed in the Yukon. I hadn’t realized how prepared VFS made me until one of the producers mentioned to me that I navigated myself on set as though I had been acting for years, as opposed to months. I am eternally grateful for the lessons everyone at VFS gave me and thinking back, I have no doubts that I would be much further away from where I am, had I not made the choice to attend. It will forever be near, or at, the top of my list of “Best Decisions of Steve’s Life.”

You’ve got a role on the new series Bitten. Tell us about your character and the show.
Steve: I play the role of Nick Sorrentino. The series is centered around Elena Michaels, the only known female werewolf. Torn between living a normal, human life, and her allegiance to the only family she has with the Pack, Elena is summoned back to help stave off an all-out assault by a band of rogue werewolves, hell-bent on overthrowing the current order.

Nick is the grandson of the former pack alpha and he is a fun-loving guy who runs his own bar. Although he may come across as the “playboy” type, when the body count piles up and the threat becomes imminent, Nick steps up and assumes the role he has to in order to save his family and his race. Had the absolute time of my life filming this series. Really was my dream come true.

Any advice to aspiring actors looking to follow in your footsteps?

Thanks for speaking with us, Steve! Bitten premieres January 11 on the Space Network (Canada) and January 13 on Syfy (United States).

Acting Grads Make Peak Performance Project Top 20!

VFS Acting for Film & Television grads Missy Cross and Patrick Spencer have found success in the ever-competitive world of music with the band Coldwater Road! The five-piece folk band from Vancouver is made up of Missy (vocals) and Patrick (lead vocals/guitar) together with Alex Hauka (cello/vocals), Ben Reichart (bass), and Steven Beddall (drums, guitar).

Coldwater Road is dedicated to musical storytelling and is driven by the dual forces of “campfire smoke and country blood.” Their music is self-described as “lyrical folk songs with cowboy tendencies” and is available as an 11-song acoustic album, Street Side. 

Not only did Coldwater Road win Ceili’s Acoustic Battle of the Bands in 2012, but they have also won a coveted spot in the Peak Performance Project’s Top 20. The Peak Performance Project has been an important addition to the music scene in Vancouver over the past five years by increasing radio and online exposure for indie bands as well as providing them with the tools to stay ahead in the rapidly changing music industry.

We caught up with Missy recently and got to hear first-hand what the Peak Performance Project has been like so far and how the VFS Acting program has influenced the band.

First off, congratulations! What was it like when you found out that Coldwater Road made it into the PPP Top 20?

We were completely shocked because, honestly, we thought next year was going to be our year. The way we found out was indicative of our last year, because we were playing a gig at the time and had totally forgotten that the PPP announcement was that day. Our phones suddenly started to buzz like crazy. It was a huge surprise and we had to instantly switch gears for the next six months.

What has the journey been like so far? 

The journey has definitely been a roller coaster ride. The biggest high being the opportunity to be considered peers amongst bands that are much more developed and experienced than we are. Bootcamp was an amazing experience; gruelling days starting with a 7:30am revelry, followed by insider seminars about the music industry, showcases with the bands every night, and then recording a collaboration project in the wee hours of the morning. It really tested us in many ways. Since then, we have been put into a pressure cooker and it has really helped us define our roles within the band, and work as a team more so than we ever have had to before.

Both you and Patrick are VFS Acting grads. Is being on stage as a musician different from being on stage as an actor? 

Our experience and training in acting heavily influences us! We believe that many aspects of acting and music compliment each other perfectly, which may explain why we are considered a “storytelling band.” Everything in acting is applicable when giving a live performance as well as recording vocals: with singing, we focus on phrasing, cadence, and enunciation of the text, as well as letting it have an emotional connection. In performance, we focus on being grounded and present, singing every word with intention.

Being on stage as a musician is different from acting on stage, because there is the freedom of being yourself as a musician, and with more rehearsal time on the songs, you can feel a little more free to be taken by the moment. In acting there are more variables, and perhaps there is more asked of you, in order to portray a role convincingly within the ensemble. They compliment each other because when you grow in one, you can’t help but grow in the other. Performance is always about coming from an honest place with ease, no matter what genre you are performing in, whether acting or music.

Thanks Missy for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your insight with us!

You can see Coldwater Road live November 23rd at the Winter Craft Fair at Simon Fraser University, with all proceeds being donated to the Saint James Music Academy, a free music program for children of the Downtown Eastside.

Many congratulations to Missy, Patrick, and all the members of Coldwater Road, and best of luck with the Peak Performance Project! 

The Peak Performance Project Top 5 will be announced tomorrow, November 5, 2013, on air at 102.7 FM, the PEAK FM.




VFS Instructors and Alumni Team Up and Strip Down

A group of VFS instructors and alumni have teamed up for the ABCs of Death Search for the 26th Director Competition! “M” is for Messiah was created by Borrowtime Films, an independent production company formed by VFS grads (and current VFS instructors) Bob Woolsey (Writing for Film & Television) and Darren Borrowman (Film Production).

“This is the kind of thing you can only do as an alumni project,” says Nicholas Humphries, who directed much of the film while also playing a naked cult member. “Luckily, I knew we had access to all the right people from my time at VFS as an instructor.”

Other grads on the project include Lindsey Mann (Entertainment Business Management), Sarah Elizabeth (Makeup Design for Film & Television), Jesse Hill (Sound Design for Visual Media), Amanda Roop (Foundation Visual Art & Design and 3D Animation & Visual Effects), Victor Matanawi (Foundation Visual Art & Design & Film Production), Mark Hogan (Film Production), and Michelle Ferguson, Romuald Hivert, and Mayumi Yoshida (all from Acting for Film & Television).

In total, that’s 11 VFS grads from eight programs!

“M” is for Messiah is currently in sixth place based on audience votes. If the film maintains a top six placing through the end of voting on November 14, it could be included in the final anthology feature film, The ABCs of Death 2, and receive international distribution courtesy of Magnet Releasing. M is for Messiah was shot overnight on location in Chilliwack, BC and is currently the only submission in the competition from Vancouver.

We warn you, the film is for mature audiences only – complete with cult sacrifice, mass suicide, and full frontal nudity. You can watch and vote for the film here.

Best of luck, guys!

Update: January 8, 2014M Is For Messiah has been announced as one of the shorts being showcased in the ABCs of Death 1.5 lineup, a spin-off of the competition that features the producers’ favourite submissions. Read more on Fangoria and Bloody Disgusting. Great work, everyone!

VFS Actors Unite Two Married People

Two Married People is a new feature film directed and executive produced by Acting for Film & Television instructor Jim Bates. An actor, director, and teacher with over 20 years experience in theatre, film, and television, Jim’s credits include Da Vinci’s Inquest and The Dead Zone, where he spent six seasons as Sonny Elliman.

Featuring a cast and crew made up almost entirely of actors, the film was shot over eight days in Vancouver, BC for less than $5,000, using only a Canon 5D camera and a 1000W lamp. Jim wrote an outline of the script, which was further developed, improvised, and embellished with the actors during rehearsals and shooting.

The film features Acting for Film & Television grads Margot Sikabonyi and Shane Twerdun in front of the camera and Andrew Moxham behind the camera – as director of photography. Other VFS grads and staff also lent a hand to the production in various ways.

“Andrew, Shane, Margot, and I are very proud of this film. Eight crazy days of guerrilla filmmaking in downtown Vancouver. I am looking forward to shooting another, more ambitious alumni feature early in 2014,” says Jim.

About Two Married People

Lucia and Peter meet at an international sales conference in Vancouver. Lucia is Italian, Peter is American and both are married. A one-night-stand becomes an intimate three day affair. As the conference nears its end and the reality of returning to their separate lives approaches, they are forced to make a difficult decision.

Check out the trailer:

Update: Two Married People has been accepted into the Milan International Film Festival and has been nominated for three awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. Way to go!

Get Your Exclusive All Access Pass to the VFS Open House Weekend!

This November, join us for the VFS Open House Weekend and experience what it’s like to be a student at VFS! Go behind the scenes and learn everything you need to know about kick-starting your entertainment career.

For two full days, we’ll be opening up our campuses in Downtown Vancouver and sharing what makes VFS so special and how YOU can be a part of it.

Don’t miss this opportunity to:

  • Meet alumni, current students, faculty, and staff
  • View student work
  • Watch live demonstrations
  • Explore our campuses
  • Learn how you can get the career you’ve always wanted

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Makeup Design for Film & Television
Foundation Visual Art & Design
Film Production
Animation & Visual Effects

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Writing for Film & Television
Digital Design
Sound Design for Visual Media
Acting for Film & Television
Game Design

For more information on the VFS Open House Weekend and to register, visit us online or call 1.800.661.4101.