A history of the Film Farm

philLookingDownThe Independent Imaging Retreat began in the summer of 1994 as a pro-active response to the increasing cost and commercialization of film production programs, professional development opportunities for artists and filmmaking workshops.

Frustrated with federal and provincial cutbacks to education and limited creative opportunities for independent filmmakers, Canadian experimental filmmaker Philip Hoffman set out to create a context in which film could be taught and explored with integrity, innovation and compassion.

Scott Berry

The workshop would place an emphasis on experimentation, personal expression and the use of hand processing techniques. The Retreat began with a modest budget at Hoffman’s home in rural Mount Forest, Ontario. With the most basic film materials, an antiquated film processing machine, a makeshift darkroom and screening facility, and a small group of dedicated volunteer artists (including filmmakers Rob Butterworth, Tracy German and Marian McMahon), the workshop facilitated the filmmaking of six participants.

With such limited resources, it quickly became evident that imperfections and surprises were to become a critical source for creative and aesthetic possibilities and a philosophy for the workshop was born.

From 1994 to 1998 the Retreat received institutional support from Sheridan College in the form of a basic administrative structure, cameras, tripods, light meters and related filmmaking materials.

From Deirdre Logue's 'Enlightened Nonsense'
From Deirdre Logue’s
‘Enlightened Nonsense’

In 1999, however, Hoffman began teaching at York University, losing essential support from the institution. From 1999 onward the Retreat has been fully and truly independent.

Libby Hague
Libby Hague

The Retreat continues to operate on a not-for-profit basis. It is artist driven and remains focused on the development of individual artists and the production of experimental film works.

For a decade, the Independent Imaging Retreat has initiated and enhanced the work of local, national and international independent filmmakers and has expanded the traditions of experimental filmmaking in Canada.


192 of them have been from Ontario
65 from across Canada
50from the USA, and
3from Finland, and
10from London,Australia, Cuba, Germany, Ukraine, Palestine and the Netherlands.

30 participants have attended the Retreat from parts of Ontario outside of the major centers for film production.

Karyn Sandlos
Karyn Sandlos

There have also been over 25 Ontario filmmakers who have worked during the Retreat, in various artistic capacities, to ensure its success. The benefit to the public of the Independent Imaging Retreat is realized through exclusive local, national and international screenings showcasing the independent, autobiographical, hand processed aesthetic of the Retreat.


From Jen Reeve's 'We Are Going Home'
From Jen Reeve’s ‘We Are Going Home’

Screenings of participants’ films have taken place at Lux in London (2015 & 2002), Pleasure Dome in Toronto (2015), WYNDX in Wimmipeg (2014), the MIX Festival in New York City; Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto; the Other Cinema in San Francisco, California; Blinding Light in Vancouver, the Saskatchewan Film Pool; the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; the Trivandrum Film Festival in India (2003); and at the Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film in collaboration with the Durham Regional Art Gallery in rural Durham, Ontario (2003).

cover_POV_thThe Film Farm will be featured in the upcoming book, Process Cinema: Handmade Film in the Digital Age (Marchessault/MacKenzie (2017), as well critical essays and articles about the workshop and the films made there have appeared in numerous publications POV: The Harvest of Philip Hoffman by Janis Cole including LUX: A Decade of Artists Film and Video (Toronto, 2000); Cantrills Filmnotes (Australia, 1998); Release Print (San Francisco Film Foundation, 1999); Landscape with Shipwreck — First Person Cinema and the Films of Philip Hoffman(Insomniac Press, 2001) ; The Journal of the Moving Image Archive (2004 forthcoming); in newspaper articles (NOW, Toronto Star) and in various newsletters (LIFT, IFCO). In addition, the Independent Imaging Retreat has maintained an important collaboration with the Images Festival of Independent Film and Video (Toronto).

The Independent Imaging Retreat acknowledges the generous support of:

CanadaCouncil OntarioArtsCouncil