ORGANIZATION PROFILE: LIAISON OF INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS OF TORONTO
The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto is dedicated to supporting the independent film community and celebrating the medium of film.
The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto provides an enthusiastic and respectful environment within which members can share their talents, knowledge, and resources in order to express themselves creatively through film.
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LIFT is a non-profit, charitable, cultural, and educational media arts organization dedicated to celebrating excellence in film and the moving image. LIFT exists to provide support and encouragement for independent filmmakers and artists working with film.
LIFT’s mandate has remained consistent during 23 years of operation: LIFT provides Toronto’s vibrant independent filmmaking community with affordable access to production equipment and post-production facilities, workshops, courses, film screenings and a variety of other services. For over two decades, LIFT has played an integral part in advancing and promoting the art of filmmaking in Toronto. Membership is open to anyone interested in the centre and its activities.
LIFT’s mandate has been made more significant by the recent decision by many media arts programs at technical schools and universities to divest their institutions of traditional filmmaking equipment and film training. In 2003, LIFT emerged as the largest artist run film production centre in Canada with the most comprehensive educational services in filmmaking, and with the widest range of film equipment and post production facilities in all film formats.
A BRIEF HISTORY
LIFT was incorporated in 1981 as a not-for-profit corporation. The organization began with 25 members and an annual budget of $1800. The founding meetings were held at the Funnel, an experimental media centre. The organizers established seven committees to address issues of : membership, administration, funding, space, workshop, production and equipment. Many of these committees continue to function today.
By 1983, LIFT provided 16mm production and post-production equipment to members. In 1984, with 37 members, LIFT hired part-time staff and moved to a larger space. LIFT began offering production grants to members, and began to receive development funding from the Arts Councils. By 1987, LIFT published a popular bimonthly newsletter (which included membership information as well as articles on filmmaking techniques and interviews). LIFT began to coordinate a regular workshop series and monthly member screenings. The organization was also successful in obtaining charitable status.
In April of 2003, under the direction of the new Executive Director, LIFT embarked on a mission to revitalize the art of filmmaking by not only expanding our educational services offered to our members and the general public, but also by focusing on the aesthetics and art of filmmaking in more comprehensive courses, artist talks and specialized services that actively promote the art of film.
ARTISTIC POLICY & ROLE
Access to Technical Services, Facilities and Equipment
LIFT’s primary goal is to help provide the resources that independent filmmakers need to make their media artworks. Independent filmmakers are defined as those individuals who exercise at least 51% creative control over their projects. All Associate and Full members in good standing may access LIFT production equipment and post-production facilities.
Supporting Canadian Media Artists – Redefining Our Art Form
Over the past few years, advancements in digital video technology have garnered considerable attention and as a result have displaced traditional filmmaking techniques. Indeed, there exists a common belief that, for example, mini DV has replaced film through a natural progression in the evolution of time-based media.
In truth, the nature of film is being redefined in contrast to media such as video and digital production, which are changing the way moving images are created. This pattern of historical redefinition has occurred before: with the advent of photography, the role of painting was changed forever, and far from becoming irrelevant, painting was a leading art form during the entire modern period.
With the advent of the new media, film must be re-examined in its most basic, irreducible expressive elements, in particular those which it does not share with other media. LIFT has created a number of film events (The $99 No Excuses Film Festival, One Take Regular 8 Film Festival, The Hand Made Filmmaking Course and many more) that explore just those elements which are unique to the medium of film: the film strip itself, the chemical composition of the cinematic image, the division of the film image into frames, the manipulation of the film image by optical means – in short, the “analog” nature of film.
LIFT has created an environment where artists can investigate the unique aspects of film which will become increasingly important as the medium differentiates itself from the other arts of the moving image.
Setting the Foundation
The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto has experienced considerable change in its Board and staff, and in the relationships between the Board and staff, in the last several years. Further change was required to increase the legitimacy and power of the Board to fulfill its responsibilities while encouraging staff and the Executive Director to work toward a vision established by the Board. In 2003, LIFT retained the services of Judy Wolfe to review the organization, provide guidance to the board and re-evaluate LIFT’s mandate.
The consultant’s role was to help LIFT identify the root causes of these issues as well as to facilitate Board processes and to coach the Chair of the Board. In April of 2003, the Board hired a new Executive Director, Roberto Ariganello. The Board and new Executive Director subsequently prepared new mission and vision statements, a new staff grievance policy and updated LIFT’s Constitution and By-laws all of which were accepted by the membership at the Annual General Meeting in July of 2003.
At the Board’s first post AGM meeting in August, Judy Wolfe facilitated an orientation for new Board members and established new practices for the Board: expected standards of discussion; decision-making processes; development of agendas and so on.
The overall purpose of this consultation process was to bring LIFT to the point at where it can serve its members and grow. The Board and staff of the organization are now stabilized.
LIFT is Open to Everyone
Over the past twenty years in Toronto, thousands of people from groups who do not traditionally have access to filmmaking resources have been able to pursue their independent artistic vision with LIFT’s assistance. LIFT members produce films of all styles and genres (including narrative drama, experimental, animation and documentary). Our membership is a very diverse group that includes artists practicing in a wide variety of media who share a passion for filmmaking and visual arts. Moreover, LIFT members are often people who have surmounted formidable economic and social barriers in striving to complete their projects.
LIFT’s Membership Policy
LIFT has an open-door membership policy, and our anti-racism and equity policy has been in place for several years. As a result, LIFT is known for its diverse membership. We have members of all ages and skill levels.
The main purpose of LIFT is to offer the Toronto media arts community access to affordable filmmaking equipment, facilities and workshops. LIFT is able to keep membership fees low, as members contribute to the function of the organization through volunteer work. LIFT has ongoing relationships with a large number of cultural and member-based organizations that are dedicated to independent filmmaking. LIFT has worked with other organizations to produce screenings and symposiums, film courses, contribute to festival events and panel discussions and other collaborative activities.
Organizations that LIFT has collaborated with recently, include: ImagineNATIVE Media Arts Festival, the Canadian Filmmakers’ Distribution Centre; Pleasure Dome; Images Festival of Independent Film and Video; Splice This Super-8 Film Festival; Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival; and many others.
CONTRIBUTION TO COMMUNITY
In 2003 and 2004, LIFT took critical steps to improve and transform our services within the community with the following key activities:
Created a new Workshop Coordinator position in July of 2003 through a grant from the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario to administrate the expansion of our educational services to include affordable production courses in regular 8, super 8,16mm, super 16mm and 35mm which translated into a 50% revenue increase in 2003;
Created new partnerships with commercial film organizations such as FujiFilm, Kodak, Deluxe and Medallion PFA to provide the industry standard in service to participants of our workshops and courses and provide service discounts to our membership;
Created Organizational Memberships for non-profit film festivals, exhibition organizations and programming collectives, which provide discounts on ad rates and inserts for LIFT Magazine, free access to exhibition film equipment and e-bulletins notices to our membership;
Created new partnerships with diverse communities, including: ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival, Splice This Festival, Images Festival, Moving Pictures Dance Festival, Harbourfront Centre and the Art Gallery of Ontario;
Upgraded our film production resources to include 35mm production, optical printing to 35mm and telecine transfer systems from super 8 and 16mm to Digital Video;
Completely redesigned the LIFT website to include an interactive forum, and created new self generated revenue streams with our weekly e-bulletins and web site services which include crewlist resumes and actor’s headshots;
Organized an Artist Residency with Lee Krist, a film artist from New York for March and April of 2004 who will explore the realm of 35mm experimental filmmaking;
Created meaningful partnerships with educational institutions to ensure that film is an available art medium and to ensure that students will be able to continue their art work upon graduation;
In addition to the points noted above, LIFT has expanded established programs and services by including additional discounts for members at film organizations in Toronto; introduced new products for our LIFT Store and initiating new services to the membership such as the SUPER 8 CINE CLUB and LIFT OUT LOUD.
Our facilities are located in Suite 301 of the Liberty Building. The custom-built premises house our administrative offices, equipment room, two digital editing suites, two flatbed editing suites, two Oxberry/Animation suites, a Pro Tools sound editing suite, lockers, kitchen, mezzanine (which is used as a members’ lounge and workshop/meeting space), and a fully equipped dark room (total square footage = 4400). LIFT has a fifteen-year lease on the premises. We are currently in the ninth year of our lease.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE, STAFF AND BOARD LISTS
LIFT employs a full-time Executive Director, five other full-time staff, two part-time staff, and a part-time bookkeeper. The staff reports to the Executive Director and the Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors.
The Executive CONTACT _Con-45BE2ECD1 Director is responsible for managing all day-to-day aspects of the organization and oversees the development of all creative projects for the organization. This is a full-time salary position.
The Technical Coordinators (I and II) are responsible for maintaining and developing our production and post-production resources. They administer the rental of equipment. Our technical staff divides their responsibilities between analog and digital equipment. These are full-time positions (32 hours/wk).
The Membership Coordinator is responsible for maintaining the membership database, all membership renewals and outreach as well as for coordinating the day-to-day activities of our very large body of volunteers. This is a full-time position (40 hours/wk).
The Communications Co-ordinator is responsible for all communications through our weekly e-bulletins and the administration of the LIFT website. The Communications Co-ordinator ensures that LIFT is able to communicate effectively with its members regarding the full range of LIFT activities (including workshops, artist talks, screenings, and rental of equipment and facilities), the filmmaking community, and the general public. This is a full-time position (28 hours/wk).
The Workshop Coordinator is responsible for the planning and administration of over 75 workshops, 6 courses and other educational services that LIFT provides annually. In conjunction with the Executive Director, the Workshop Coordinator negotiates partnerships with other film organizations, develops the workshop schedule, hires instructors and maintains the workshop database. This is a full time position (32 hours/wk).
The Newsletter Editor and Designer work with the volunteer Magazine Committee to produce the a bi-monthly LIFT Magazine. These are contract positions.
LIFT’s bookkeeper currently works one day/month.
Roberto Ariganello – Executive Director (hired April 2003)
Roberto was hired as Executive Director after working as Technical & Workshop Coordinator at LIFT for the past five years. His passion for independent filmmaking and for LIFT is demonstrated in the new services that he has introduced over the years. Roberto originally organized and taught in the Hand Made Film Course in 2000 to promote hand-made filmmaking in all its forms (hand processing, cameraless animation, optical printing etc) the course has had a profound effect on production and facility use at LIFT
Greg Boa – Technical Coordinator (hired May 2003)
Greg Boa is a Toronto filmmaker with a background in experimental cinema and sound composition. Greg has worked closely with Bruce Elder on two feature length experimental films Crack, Brutal Grief and Eros and Wonder as an editor and sound composer, and has done composition for many short films including Izabella Pruska-Oldenhoff’s Song of the Firefly and Light Magic. Greg’s own films, Papermate and In Light and Motion have screened both in Canada and abroad. Currently, Greg is a Technical Coordinator at the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto. Greg played an integral role in the creation of LIFT’s new sound room.
Vanessa Lam – Technical Coordinator (hired July 2002)
Vanessa Lam is currently working as a Technical Co-ordinator at LIFT. She is an OCAD graduate who won’t be caught standing under the Tabletop during an earthquake. Vanessa enjoys handcrafting film and baking video cakes. In her spare time, she goes out and collects dead moths and butterflies. Vanessa is a tireless worker who has helped countless members with their equipment needs.
Renata Mohamed – Membership Coordinator (hired April 2003)
Renata Mohamed is currently working as the membership coordinator for LIFT and is completing her final thesis year at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Her thesis project, entitled The Transient Series, explores commuting within suburban and urban environments. Renata is the friendly face that greets and guides all of LIFT’s new and visiting members.
Michael Barker – Communications Coordinator (hired March 2003)
Michael Barker graduated with honours from the Sculpture and Design program at the Ontario College of Art and Design. From 2000 – 2002 Michael worked at Bruce Mau Design, a prestigious design studio in Toronto. As a designer with the studio, Michael worked on a wide range of projects for an international stable of clients including ZONE Books, The Gagosian Gallery, and Phaidon. Michael overhauled the LIFT website and redesigned our print materials.
Shenaz Baksh – Workshop Coordinator hired (July 2003)
Shenaz Baksh is a graduate of Humber College for studies in Film and Television Production. Over the past 10 years of her film and television production career, she has developed a passion for cinematography and picture editing. Shenaz is organizes seasonal workshops and provides instruction and technical support for the Media 100. Shenaz not only organized our many workshops; she taught several as well.
Larissa Fan Newsletter – Editor (hired October 1998)
Larissa Fan is a filmmaker and writer who studied at the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design. She currently works at the CFMDC as the Filmmaker Liaison and was previously the Festival Coordinator at the Images Festival. Larissa transformed our local newsletter into a national magazine.
Franci Duran – Newsletter Designer: (hired April 2001)
Lisa Valencia-Svensson – Bookkeeper (hired February 2004)