Lifting Canadian filmmakers to new heights

By: Noella Ovid The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) is a non-profit, charitable organization that’s devoted to providing access to independent filmmakers.

The artist-run centre by working filmmakers organizes over 150 workshops per year along with supplying affordable production equipment and facilities for people who want to make films.

According to executive director Chris Kennedy, not everyone is interested in being the blockbuster filmmaker as many people using their services simply want to learn and gain experience out of their passion for filmmaking.

“It’s really about access, as we know, not everyone gets easy access to things and so we’re there, just makes it easier for people,” said Kennedy.

LIFT started off as a film co-op for a handful of filmmakers who got together to share resources and since then it has grown its membership to approximately 500.

“We continue to grow because we continue to have new members who want to make stuff. The main point is to be sustainable and to be there for filmmakers and artists for years to come and so we’ll continue to support artists and get more equipment as it comes and just be there for people,” said Kennedy.

The organization has been around for about 35 years and has transitioned into a production center supported by various councils including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.

Kennedy attributes this success on Toronto being an amazing town for filmmaking. He said part of the reason why they are able to provide more and more options for people is because there are so many people wanting to learn how to make stuff, be it documentaries, experimental films or small narratives.

For some people, LIFT is a resource for them to work their way up, while for others it is an entry level support network for them to learn by doing. The centre serves as a community hub for filmmakers and artists by providing a space of diversity irrespective of film genre or level of experience.

This upcoming summer, LIFT has 50 workshops including everything from production management, directing, lighting and camerawork. The next workshop season will be running from the end of May until August and it will feature artist residencies from out of town.

The workshops provide each participant with an opportunity for hands-on learning through offering practical knowledge that focuses on specific skills in small class sizes. They supply media artists with individual iMac stations, filmmakers with camera and lighting,  and screenwriters with personalized feedback from industry professionals.

“We have one person coming from Iceland and one coming from Portugal,” said Kennedy. “The Portuguese filmmaker will be teaching workshops on processing film using the plants that you would find in a backyard garden so that’s kind of an exciting project that we have coming up.”

Through providing access to equipment, education and space, LIFT has been able to facilitate the sustainability and production of media art in the city of Toronto and has become one of the foremost centres of its kind globally.