Steve Rosenberg; Executive Director and Founder of InFocus Film School
Steve Rosenberg is an award winning writer/director based in Vancouver. He founded Pull Focus Film School in 2009 in Gastown, which later became InFocus Film School. His dramatic shorts, Corona Station, Watching Mrs. Pomerantz, Vannica and Divine Waters have screened at various prestigious festivals around the world. In 2000, Watching Mrs.Pomerantz earned him numerous international awards, including the award for Best Director at The Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival. His films have played on The Sundance Channel, CBC, WTV and Bravo. In 2006, Steve directed his first documentary A Mature Laugh that went on to travel the festival circuit. He also hosted and produced Blink, a weekly TV talk show devoted to obscure films that come and go in a blink. In addition to writing and directing, Steve freelances as a videographer/editor with many of his entertainment story segments being broadcast on ShawTV in Vancouver. Currently, Steve has a documentary project in development.
We met with Steve at his school on Abbott street, a three leveled hive of creativity where his students from around the world busy themselves with cameras and computers, moving energetically throughout the century old building, once a hotel, to birth things of great wonder and innovation.
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am the director at InFocus Film School in Gastown and we started here back in 2009. We offer industry professional programs in film production, 3D + Visual Effects, compositing for VFX, writing for film & TV, and a Summer Film Boot Camp. The school was born in many ways from a trip I made to India in 2008. I was going there to shoot a documentary on child labour titled: “Made with Small Hands”. Upon arriving in Bangalore, I discovered this guy who was akin to a sort of male Mother Teresa named John Devaraj. He took in children that were exiles and runaways from the local factories and gave them a home. Within his sanctuary, he ran The Born Free Arts School in Bangalore, where the children, including those who had been begging in train stations, were given free education and an environment in which to learn and grow. The film took an unexpected turn as I began to focus my camera on John and his students. The film I had intended to make became darkened by the duplicitous nature that I observed in John. I admired his vision and altruistic work yet I discovered that he was a huge narcissist. He paid for the school, and took in additional revenue, by having the children work as performers from town to town. Despite not knowing the language, I ended up becoming the film teacher. I was captivated by the place. India is like a rich tapestry of a thousand different colours flowing in a smoky wind. Everywhere you put your camera there is something fully alive that can captured in a photo or on film. Once, I remember photographing a girl with golden high heels scampering across a volleyball court in the dusk of hot summer evening.
Despite the great volumes of material I had shot, I decided not to continue with the film. The hero of the story was a flawed character and even though that’s always more interesting, I felt the impact of the film could have caused more harm than good to the school. I took what was inspiring – the idea of a school set up to foster creativity on a limited budget and thought why not do something like that here in Vancouver. I had been to Vancouver Film School myself in 1998 and upon returning from India decided to set up my own film school. We started as a non-profit organization called Pull Focus Film School and eventually rebranded as InFocus Film School as a for-profit venture. This transition allowed us to expand our faculty base and footprint in Gastown and outfit the school with the latest in film equipment technology. We saw that if a parent wanted their child to study film, the time and money invested into education needed to translate into a job within the industry.
Gastown is a great historical center of the city. It is a creative and cultural hub – a central spot in the city with a vibrant community of artists and creatives, fantastic restaurants, and independent shops and cafes. We are growing here and the next reasonable step would be to own our own building. Property prices are very high in Vancouver and such an investment would surely yield great dividends yet I don’t want to move away to the burbs. I ride my bike here to work each day from Mount Pleasant and it takes 12 minutes. There is a beating heart here connected to a creative nerve system. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Gastown is a film making hotspot within the Lower Mainland – there is constant location shooting here along with a wealth of professional educational institutions: InFocus, VFS, and an abundance of visual effects and film production companies.
What inspires you creatively?
Right now it’s the medium of TV series. A lot of the faculty here, including myself and many of my colleagues, believe that serial shows are the future. People are looking for deeper conversations that are 10-12 episodes in length with the option to expand the story beyond into subsequent seasons. TV cable services are in decline and Netflix has changed the landscape of the industry where the streaming service is looking for repeat clients as opposed to an often dead end that’s found with single feature films. Sequels prove there’s an audience, which can be built on upon to create further installments in the franchise. They are getting deeper and more interesting with character arcs that can happen over a whole season.
Anything exciting that you’re working on right now?
I have a documentary project in development right now on a topic that I am quite passionate about. Other than that, I am always excited to see what my students create and how their projects evolve into something that grows from a concept into a tangible piece of art.