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Andrew Barnsley Takes Centre Stage at Canadian Screen Week Panel on Virtual Production

Image of TFS President Andrew Barnsley.

Toronto Film School President Andrew Barnsley recently took centre stage during Canadian Screen Week, leading a discussion on how recent strides in Virtual Production have revitalized the screen industry.

Presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, the Merging of Minds: Integrating Virtual Production roundtable featured an impressive panel of DGC Ontario members, including: Sumeet Vats, Motion Graphics/VFX Supervisor (Rabbit Hole, The Expanse); Matt Middleton, Emmy-nominated Production Designer (Annedroids); Alison Reid, Director (The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, The Baby Formula); and Dan Briceno, Picture Editor (Halo, Billy the Kid).

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“For us to have been invited to this event is important for Toronto Film School (TFS),” Barnsley said of the panel, which was organized as part of Members Lounge 2023 – four days of dynamic panels led by industry leaders and Canadian Screen Award nominees.

“It means TFS is being recognized as a training leader in Canada, and that our students, graduates and alumni are being recognized for being valuable professionals when it comes to virtual production, visual effects, and video game production.”

Acting as moderator, Barnsley led the panelists through an hourlong conversation about how Virtual Production – a “cutting edge” production technology that combines virtual and physical worlds to create movies – is now being intricately woven together with more traditional techniques throughout the entire filmmaking process, creating compelling new opportunities for producing content.

Acting as moderator, Barnsley led the panelists through an hourlong conversation about how Virtual Production – a “cutting edge” production technology that combines virtual and physical worlds to create movies – is now being intricately woven together with more traditional techniques throughout the entire filmmaking process, creating compelling new opportunities for producing content.

Image depicting a Virtual Production set

“It’s super cool! With virtual production, instead of green screens, you film in front of these enormous LED light walls that create what looks like a hyper-realistic environment, but really, it’s a digital world that’s run using video game software,” explained Barnsley, an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning winning executive producer whose slate of projects includes Son of a Critch, Jann, The Kids in the Hall and Schitt’s Creek.

As an emerging technology, however, Barnsley said the available pool of skilled labour in virtual production is not currently keeping up with demand – a predicament Toronto Film School is uniquely positioned to help address, especially with its Video Game Design & Development and Video Game Design & Animation programs.

Image of a student at a computer. 

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“These virtual production worlds are created using video game technology and video game software, so the skills learned in our video game programs transfer seamlessly to a virtual production environment,” he explained

“The job opportunities for our video game graduates have also grown, because now, not only can they access the video game industry, but they also have the skills and expertise to move into film and television production, which wasn’t the case before.”

Toronto Film School is also actively working to incorporate more virtual production curriculum into its other programs – from Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre and Film Production, to Writing for Film & TV and Graphic Design & Interactive Media.

“We’re looking to build partnerships with industry partners who are experts in virtual production, to make sure that when our students graduate, they have state-of-the-art training to make sure they’re set-ready – whether it’s a virtual set or a regular film set,” he said.

“I think there’s enormous opportunities for all TFS students and graduates as they start thinking of virtual production and where it fits in their career plans.”

Toronto Film School

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