Focus on Education

POV’s 8th Annual Education Survey: Turn and face the strange

A baker’s dozen of Canada’s film schools take digital developments in stride

Filming in a green screen studio at the Vancouver Film School
Courtesy Vancouver Film School


POV is pleased to be offer a special education database on our website. We’ve been enjoying education specials for the past seven years and feel that it’s time to expand our content online. When you look at our site, you’ll be able to see many more schools than we’ve ever been able to cover in our print editions. And we’re covering not just film but also photography, new media and journalism—fields related to documentary.

Among the many things we’ve learned while producing our education editions is that the film industry is perennially on the cusp of change. These days, the changes revolve around high-definition formats, smartphone apps, virtual reality and other immersive experiences—and that’s just to name a few. The goal of film schools is to stay on top of change and evolve with it. How do the country’s best film schools deal with change and bring it into the classroom? That’s the key question we posed to school directors and instructors this year.

Part 2: University of Calgary, York, Seneca, Ryerson

Part 3: UofT, Carleton, Concordia, NSCAD

Capilano University’s Bosa Centre for Film and Animation

Vancouver, BC

The School of Motion Picture Arts at the Bosa Centre opened just four years ago with state-of-the-art equipment. Since that time, it has continued to introduce students to new equipment and develop new programmes.

Director of the Centre Bill Thumm says the school is in the process of developing a 3D Visual Effects degree and “putting effort into developing technology around virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality. “We’ve found an increased use of virtual reality in documentaries, so we’re looking for ways to allow the students to experiment with it. My conversations with film festival and industry reps make it clear that VR technology is close to becoming a standard, but it’s understanding ways to tell stories with it that counts, and that’s what we’re really excited about teaching.”

To that end, the school has developed “a convergence of programmes in third year, where we have students from the motion picture programme, the acting programme, costume, visual effects, 3D animation and other departments come together and work on a sci-fi project. So it’s all green screen, it’s visual effects—and this is where we can implement a virtual reality component, as well. It’s a comprehensive experience. We think this is where the education of digital technology is going in the future.”

The Bosa Centre currently offers a Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts, as well as diplomas and certificates. The Documentary Film Certificate is modeled after a professional production cycle, from story concept and development to pre-production, production, post-production and distribution phases.

Vancouver Film School

Vancouver, BC

Known for being quick and expensive, Vancouver Film School (VFS) offers students intensive courses on the key disciplines of filmmaking. As the one-year programme progresses, students choose to specialise in two of those disciplines. Each of the six terms focuses on different film production projects, including documentaries, episodic shows and a final high-quality short film. The result is a solid professional reel to launch a career as a professional filmmaker.

When asked about technology upgrades at the school, Ted Jones, director of VFS’s Film Production programme, first mentions the Game Design programme’s brand new virtual reality lab. But he’s more excited about his department’s developments in high-definition 4K production. “Although it’s not really a 4K world yet, in terms of post and deployment, we’ve introduced the RED EPIC 4K camera to keep in line with industry standards. We’ve done a lot of homework as to what we think the industry would like us to do as far as the 4K platform. We’re going with RED because the industry tells us if students can run a RED camera platform, they can run any program.

“But it’s one thing to say we have RED EPIC 4K cameras; it’s another thing altogether to be able to handle the large amounts of data that a 4K camera produces—to be able to edit the footage and post-produce it. We’re in the testing phase with that.

“As a technical school we want to have a certain leverage on technology. But we don’t jump on new equipment right away,” Jones says. “What we do really well is focus our learning on storytelling, and it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have in that sense.”

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, BC

During the four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts programme in Film Production, students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) learn the theory and techniques of motion picture production in lectures and technical seminars and through working on collaborative digital film projects completed to professional standards. For their theses, MFA students collaborate on original films. These projects have screened at film festivals across the globe.

In an email, UBC Film Production Administrator Sarah Crauder writes: “UBC has always focused on storytelling (whether documentary or narrative), rather than technology, because a good story is never made obsolete by the next format that comes along.

“We support our students telling their stories through whatever medium they prefer. While most students focus on a short film as a project, and some use that short film as a proof of concept for a feature, more and more are also making their short film with an eye on turning it into a web series, and we had alumni do very well in the StoryHive competition last year.

“Our core strengths are our people, both the instructors and the students. We have new tenure-track faculty and hire adjuncts who are working industry professionals. We know students also learn from their peers, so we take pride in our diverse student body representing a huge range of skill levels, interests and backgrounds.”

Emily Carr University students filming on location

Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Vancouver, BC

At Emily Carr University, graduates not only pursue careers in film and video production, but also sound art, visual communications, 3D film and animation, integrated media and interactivity. A BFA major in Film, Video + Integrated Media (FVIM) combines studio work, theory and professional practices. The course aims to give students real-world experience; nine credits of the degree can be obtained through co-op placements.

Harry Killas, assistant dean of the Dynamic Media department, which includes the FVIM programme, emailed us about big changes at the school. “With Emily Carr’s move to a brand new facility in the fall of 2017, we will roll out two new Bachelor of Media Arts programmes, one in Film + Screen Arts and the other in New Media + Sound Arts. These programmes will offer students myriad opportunities for crossover between the majors, with courses in music composition, sound design for games, interactive media and performance and experimental cinematography, which will introduce students to S3D, VR and 4K capture. “We will have brand new studios, editing rooms, flexible digital spaces—right in the middle of the city. We will also be right next door to the Centre for Digital Media. So, a media hub and start-up incubator, basically. It’s going to be awesome.

“Our strength will continue to be our commitment to developing each student’s voice and practice as an emerging artist. Every student is expected to make her own capstone or fourth-year project as an artist, auteur, or however you wish to call it. This differs from other programmes where students, for instance, compete to write and direct their final projects, and their colleagues must crew on them. We aren’t having any of this. We want each person to experience for themselves the creation of their own body of work.”

Simon Fraser University

Vancouver, BC

While most students enrolled in Simon Fraser University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Film Major specialise during the course of their studies, devoting themselves to areas like screenwriting, directing and editing, the programme aims to train students capable in all aspects of filmmaking. The programme’s technical training is combined with cinema studies and history.

Associate professor Christopher Pavsek tells us via email that, “the school’s entire workflow is digital (though it still teaches 16mm production and students do make films on 16mm regularly), with the capability to produce at 4K. Our programme’s orientation is mostly toward theatrical exhibition, but more and more we have students producing works for presentation as installations, on the web, and in other digitally based formats, and we encourage a diversity of approaches.

“Exciting collaborations are possible with the School of Interactive Arts and Technology in our faculty, if students are interested in VR and new media in particular.

“We have hired two faculty in the past two years with exceptional CVs as cinematographers, sound recordists and as auteurs. Noé Rodríguez has been very successful as a fiction and doc DP (cinematographer) and recordist, and Simone Rapisarda is one of the most exciting rising filmmakers in the world today. We expect to hire additional faculty in the next two years who are willing to experiment with new forms of filmmaking (experimental, hybrid doc-fiction, new forms of documentary) and to expand the bounds of narrative filmmaking.”

Part 2: University of Calgary, York, Seneca, Ryerson

Part 3: UofT, Carleton, Concordia, NSCAD

h3. Visit the Education Database for more film, media and photography programs in Canada!