Histories & Pictures

Film Farm History


The Independent Imaging Retreat, co-founded by Philip Hoffman and Marian McMahon, 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.

1994 group

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 Miller Berry 2004

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.

David Gatten’s Hardwood Process 1997

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’ shot in 1999 workshop
Ricardo Leite, `Green Alchemy”‘ 2016

In 1999, however, Hoffman began teaching at York University, losing essential support from the institution.

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.

Crashing Skies by Penny McCann 2012


133 of them have been from Ontario
47 from across Canada
54 from the USA, and
5 from Finland, 2 from Turkey and Holland
26 from London,Australia,Cuba,Germany,Ukraine,Palestine, Ireland,Belgium,Sweden,Brasil,Spain,Switzerland, Barbados, Denmark,and Austria

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

2/3’s of the Film Farm’s attendees have been women

Karyn Sandlos
Karyn Sandlos

There have also been over 26 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’

Retrospectives of participants’ films have taken place at Alchemy in Scotland (2017), Lux in London (2015 & 2002), Pleasure Dome in Toronto (2015), WNDX in Winnipeg (2014), the MIX Festival in New York City; Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto; the Other Cinema in San Francisco, Berlinale in 2009, 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 Durham, Ont., (2005).

cover_POV_thThe Film Farm will be featured in the upcoming book, Process Cinema: Handmade Film in the Digital Age (Marchessault/MacKenzie 2019), as well critical essays and articles about the workshop and the films made there have appeared in numerous publications: The Education of the Filmmaker: Views From Around the World (Hjort/MacKenzie 2013); POV: The Harvest of Philip Hoffman by Janis Cole; 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); 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).

2018 Film Farm Participants & Staff

Karel Doing’s Phytogram Workshop, 2018

Madi Piller and Karel Doing, 2018

Kevin Rice Emulsion Making Wkshp, 2018

Film Farm Participants 2016

Lisa Marr hanging film to dry, 2013

Film Farm Staff: Marcel, Rob, Deirdre, Scott

Melanie and Alphonso Alvarez, 2003

Kiti Luostarinen filming her feet, 1994

Film Farm Think Tank: Deirdre Logue,Garrick Filewod, Rob Butterworth, Karyn Sandlos, David Gatten, Scott Puccio, Phil Hoffman

Tracy German at the Saugeen River, 1994

Karyn Sandlos, Tint & Tone Workshop

Cine-chef Scott MacKenzie on break

Terra Jean Long on the edit

10th Anniversary Film Farm, 2004

Trixy and Alexis arrive

Outdoor Screening of `Blue Moses’

Janine on break!

Sol Nagler films Arrow, with the help of Chris

Walnut Toner, 2017 vintage

Astrid following fish


Lisa Vineberg 2003

Heather Frise & Maia Carpenter  1999

Lunch time:

KP Rosenthal plays tarzan

Maia Carpenter sun exposure

Chris Harrison underwater instructor

Cara Morton `Across’

The Independent Imaging Retreat acknowledges the generous support of:

CanadaCouncil OntarioArtsCouncil

   Sponsor of the Marion McMahon Award