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Labs 2023

Conversations with celebrated creators

VIFF Labs is an intimate, invitation-only series that empowers emerging local filmmakers through meaningful, direct dialogues with global talent.

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Ken Tsui, VIFF Labs Curator

Ken Tsui has cultivated a long-energized appreciation for community and equity through his work. He’s led the strategic expansion of the festival experience as VIFF’s Director of Industry and Live Programming. Apart from funding Western Canadian documentaries as a TELUS Originals Program Production Executive, he actively engages in Vancouver’s film community as Chair of DOXA Film Festival’s Board, a Cinematheque Board Member, Sensory Cinema Producer, and VIFF Labs Curator.

As the curator of VIFF Labs, it remains a privilege to extend invitations to industry experts to participate in the Festival in this capacity. Our five Labs cover a range of diverse and relevant topics, aimed to spark meaningful conversation and ideas between international talent and Vancouver’s local filmmaking community.
Ken Tsui, VIFF Labs Curator

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VIFF 2023 Highlights

films poster collage

The Art of the Poster
With Akiko Stehrenberger

Akiko Stehrenberger, acclaimed art director and illustrator known for iconic film artwork, walked us through her process of developing a distinct voice in interpreting films to graphics.

Moderated by Jeff Hamada, founder of BOOOOOOOM.

Director's Lab: Emma Seligman

Director’s Lab: Emma Seligman

From Shiva Baby to Bottoms, critically acclaimed director Emma Seligman continues to carve out space for her own brand of irreverent, queer comedy. Seligman’s session explored her unique approach to finding the right story and bringing it to life.

The Power of Documenting Communities Lab collage

The Power of Documenting Communities
With Karen Cho & Jamila Pomeroy

Karen Cho (Big Fight in Little Chinatown) and Jamila Pomeroy (Union Street) discussed their roles and responsibilities in fighting for visibility, capturing the BPOC history and platforming contemporary stories through documentary.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline film image

Fictionalizing Non-Fiction in the Climate Crisis
With Daniel Goldhaber

Daniel Goldhaber, director of How to Blow Up a Pipeline, took us through his process of adapting nonfiction to screen and the role of film in the climate crisis conversation.

Skinamarink film image

Experimenting with Horror in Skinamarink
With Kyle Edward Ball

Kyle Edward Ball’s debut film, Skinamarink, is a bona fide horror hit celebrated for its unique aesthetics and chilling impact. In this lab, Ball dove into his unconventional process and approach to crafting fear on screen.

Inside the Joke: Comedy Writing
With Cody Lightning & Sam Miller

With premieres at TIFF and the Tribeca Film Festival, Lightning and Miller’s collaboration on Hey Viktor! marks the arrival of a major comedic voice in Indigenous cinema. This lab delved into their collaborative approach as a writing duo.


Akiko Stehrenberger headshot

Akiko Stehrenberger

Akiko Stehrenberger is a 23-time CLIO award winning movie poster art director, illustrator and designer, who works with directors, movie studios, advertising and movie advertising agencies. She was deemed “Poster Girl” by Interview magazine in 2011, Creative Review dedicated their January 2011 Monograph to her illustrated movie posters, her poster for “Bad Milo” was featured on the Conan show, Vanity Fair included her “Funny Games” and “Kiss of the Damned” posters in their “Best Movie Posters of All Time” list, her “Da 5 Bloods” poster is on view at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and NASA/JPL commissioned her to do the Artemis space launch posters in 2022. Her monograph “Akikomatic: The Work of Akiko Stehrenberger” was published by Hat & Beard Press in 2020.

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Cody Lightning

As an actor, Cody Lightning is iconic for his performance as Little Viktor in 1998’s Smoke Signals. Hailing from Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada, Cody began acting at age five in the film Geronimo. Since, he has become one of Hollywood’s most active Indigenous actors, best known for his roles in Johnny Depp’s directorial debut The Brave, Rian Johnson’s Brick, and many, many more. In 2023, Cody will star in Marvel’s upcoming ECHO series. In recent years, Lightning has taken on greater creative responsibilities, including producing, directing, and writing, focusing on projects that highlight how hilarious Indigenous people are.

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Daniel Goldhaber

Daniel Goldhaber is a director, writer and producer based in  New York. He graduated from Harvard University where he studied Visual and Environmental Studies. He directed the Netflix horror film CAM, which won Best First Feature at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival, and the 2022 film How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which premiered in the Platform Section of the 2022 Toronto Film Festival where it was acquired by NEON. Daniel was named as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Film 2018.” He is passionate about finding ways to tell provocative, challenging stories in thrilling and accessible ways. His new film, Faces of Death, is currently in post production.

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Emma Seligman

Emma Seligman is a Canadian writer/director and winner of the 2022 Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award. Her debut feature, Shiva Baby, was selected to screen at SXSW and TIFF in 2020 and was named a New York Times Critics Pick. In 2020, Emma was named one of Variety’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” and one of Filmmaker Mag’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Her second feature, Bottoms, made with Orion Pictures, premiered at SXSW 2023 to rave reviews and released in theaters on August 25, 2023.

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Jamila Pomeroy

Jamila Pomeroy is a Kenyan-Canadian WGC Screenwriter, filmmaker, actor and internationally published writer with experience spanning print, new media, and film. Jamila has contributed to globally recognized outlets such as BBC, Red Bull Media, Hypebae and more. She’s worked in writers’ rooms and development for award-winning production companies like Network Entertainment; and has created original content for CBC and Telus Originals.

Her debut dramedy pilot script Sunflower Lemonade was selected for WGC’s Script of the Month program. In 2023, Jamila was part of the Netflix X Banff World Diversity of Voices cohort as a writer, director and producer. She was also selected to be part of the 2023 Warner Brothers X Black Women Film Dream Big Writer/Director catalyst program. Jamila’s first feature-length film, Union Street, is an official selection of the 2023 Vancouver International Film.

Her work across all mediums is impact-driven, with immersive worlds that unpack
contemporary social issues.

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Karen Cho headshot

Karen Cho

Karen Cho 曹嘉伦 is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker known for her sociopolitical documentaries that explore themes of identity, immigration, and social justice. Karen’s films include In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, a documentary about the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, Seeking Refuge, a film on asylum seekers in Canada, and Status Quo?, a documentary on the women’s rights movement. Her TV work has touched on subjects like Indigenous health and wellness, Japanese Canadian internment, Quebecois cuisine, and artist-activists around the world.

With deep family roots in both Montreal and Vancouver’s Chinatowns, Karen’s latest film, Big Fight in Little Chinatown, is the story of community resistance and resilience in Chinatowns across North America. It opened the 2023 DOXA film Festival, won the Prix du Public & Women’s Inmate Jury award at RIDM and was one of 10 international docs to receive a Chicken & Egg Pictures’ Project: Hatched 2023 impact grant.  Leveraging the power of community storytelling, Big Fight in Little Chinatown is currently on a Coast-to-Coast community impact tour in Chinatowns across North America.

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Kyle Edward Ball

Kyle Edward Ball is a horror filmmaker from Edmonton, Alberta where he currently resides. In 2017 he began a web- series, Nightmares, where he re-creates real people’s dreams and nightmares using minimalism and old Hollywood inspired trick photography. Through this YouTube series, Kyle has amassed a modest cult following of horror fans from around the world.

Kyle was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 20. His first feature length film, Skinamarink, was released in theaters in North America by IFC Films on January 13, 2023.

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Sam Miller

Samuel is a novelist & screenwriter, based in Los Angeles. His most recent novel, Redemption Prep (Harper- Collins, April 2020) was a New York Times & Indie Bestseller. It is in development for television at MGM TV. His debut, A Lite Too Bright (Harper-Collins, May 2018), released to critical acclaim & has been translated into eight languages & released in twenty countries. His first feature film as a writer/producer, Hey Viktor!, was produced with the support of Telefilm Canada and will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Samuel grew up the son of a pastor & teacher in Vermillion, South Dakota. He toured for six years in the rock band Paradise Fears. In addition to writing, he has directed major label music videos, & attended the University of Southern California’s MFA program in Film & Television Production.

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