“It gets easier” and other advice from breakout Canadian directors

By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● January 25, 2018 09:00

Two men engaged in a conversation sit on a stage.

Panellist and CFC alumni Kyle Rideout and TIFF Programmer Steve Gravestock at the Canada's Top Ten Film Festival Industry Forum.

On Friday, January 12, we spent the day at the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival Industry Forum at TIFF. The Forum explored a series of themes and topics relevant to today’s entertainment industry through five panels comprised of various screen industry professionals, including CFC alumni.

The final panel of the day celebrated the work of four breakout directors with films in the festival: CFC alumnus Kyle Rideout (Adventures in Public School), Sadaf Foroughi (Ava), and brothers and co-directors Jason and Carlos Sanchez (Allure). TIFF Senior Programmer Steve Gravestock sat down with the filmmakers to discuss the paths to their features and what is next for them. Here are some of the insights we learned from listening to the filmmakers speak about their experience creating their first or second feature. If you’re a budding or emerging filmmaker, some of their stories and experiences might be particularly interesting to you.

Trust your instincts and stay true to your vision.

All of the filmmakers had a very clear idea of the film they wanted to create from the beginning (all are the writers/directors of their respective films) and they trusted their instincts and their vision to tell their stories. Don’t let the naysayers dissuade you because it’s your first time making a film – everyone has to start somewhere.

Don’t get discouraged if the filmmaking process takes longer than expected.

It took Foroughi three to four years to make Ava – from finding crew to shooting to post-production. She travelled a lot between Tehran and Montreal trying to find crew, meet with people and trying to secure the necessary permissions. It took Foroughi nearly a year alone to find the right actor for the role of Ava. But she didn’t give up on her vision or her goal of bringing her story to life.

A woman looks straight on into the camera.


Don’t be afraid to go after the talent that you want.

Rideout and Epstein knew that they wanted Judy Greer to star as Claire in Adventures in Public School, so they took a chance and sent her the script. Her response was a text saying, “Judy = Claire” with a dancing woman emoji.

Similarly, the Sanchez brothers wanted Evan Rachel Wood for the lead role in Allure, so they sent her the script. She really responded to the material and came on board quickly. They had also wanted to work with Denis O'Hare since seeing him in Michael Clayton, so they sent him the script and he came on board as well.

Two women touch foreheads while sitting at a table.

Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone in 'Allure'.

Don't be afraid of notes or feedback. Hear out your team.

Creative input from various members of your filmmaking team can be very beneficial. For example, the Sanchez brothers began writing the script for Allure four or five years before pre-production and it was originally a story between an older male and a younger female. It wasn’t until they started casting that their casting director suggested she might have an easier time casting the role of the lead if it were a woman instead of a man. They immediately agreed that was a good idea, so they halted pre-production and took a year to write a new film.

It can help to work with people you know on your debut feature.

Carlos and Jason Sanchez worked with a lot of people they knew on Allure – they had known cinematographer Sara Mishara for 20 years and knew they wanted to work with her from the beginning. Their cousin was one of the editors on the film. The costume designer was an old friend. Outside of that, they relied on their producers to set them up with the right people. They expressed that knowing the people you’re working with was beneficial because filmmaking is such an intimate process, so the more comfortable you are with the people around you the better off you’ll be. That way you [the writer(s)/director(s)] are not worried about stepping on any toes and they [the crew] are not worried about taking chances.

Rewrites – they happen.

After the Sanchez brothers rewrote the script to reflect the change in their lead character, they also rewrote the ending mid-way through shooting after seeing Evan bring that character to life. They felt the rewrite was necessary to better suit the character and give her a stronger arc. It was a highly stressful situation, but they expressed that you do what you have to do to address something that’s missing or not working in the film – and it ultimately makes the film better.

Find ways to work within your budget that don’t compromise your vision.

The Sanchez brothers had a very specific look in mind for Allure. They wanted to shoot on film but didn’t have the budget for it, so they used the ARRI 65 large format digital camera. It brought a photographic style to their film that didn’t compromise their vision. Similarly, Foroughi had a limited budget for shooting Ava, so she worked around it by spending 45 days rehearsing with the cast and making sure everyone was prepared before the 19-day shoot.

A woman and son dance at a home school prom.

'Adventures in Public School'

Make the most of festivals.

Rideout suggests to target the people that you want to meet, target meetings and come prepared. And if a festival offers a filmmaker boot camp, go to it and get prepared. For Foroughi, coming prepared to a festival means having your next pitch ready to talk to people about.

It gets easier.

Rideout explained that it was easier to get going on his second feature because he was able to show people his first feature, which illustrated that he had a vision that he can see through. The Sanchez brothers have also seen some progress since completing Allure; they have signed with a production company in Toronto on their second script, and have seen an increase in meetings and interest.

Keep hustling, filmmakers!

PANEL # 1: Read our post (Ethical Programming and the Duty of Audiences) from the first panel HERE.

PANEL # 2: Read our post (The Rise and Evolution of Digital Content) from the second panel HERE.

PANEL # 3: Read our post (The Art of the Edit) from the third panel HERE.

PANEL # 4: Read our post ('Unarmed Verses': A Masterclass in Documenting a Community) from the fourth panel HERE.

Cory Angeletti-Szasz

Manager, Communications (Mat Leave)