Deniz Izzet

Inside a decrepit building in Toronto's Liberty Village, aspiring filmmakers put their artistic visions on film. 

Welcome to the home of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT).

Directors Janis Lundman and Adrienne Mitchell started the organization in 1981 with just 25 members and an annual budget of $1,800. It celebrated its quarter-century anniversary in 2006, and still remains a strong force in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada, and abroad.

Since its inception, LIFT has supported the development of many successful Canadian filmmakers and producers, like Bruce McDonald, Peter Mettler, Atom Egoyan, Clement Virgo, and Camelia Freiberg. 

Jeff Sterne has lead the organization since October 2006. He says the label of ‘independent film’ is a strange one.

“It kind of falls into high art in a way,” he explains. “It is so expressionist and so experimental that people sort of classify it as independent.”

He says that money – or lack thereof – is a constant challenge.

“They have always said ‘you don’t have a million dollars, you have five thousand dollars.’ In order to make good work, you have to think outside of Hollywood, and recreate this sort of thing.”    

The organization’s core belief in use of film has raised a few eyebrows, as the industry seems to be headed toward a solely digital format. But public school teacher and LIFT member Alexis Manis says that using the medium is artistic in itself.  

“It is becoming more difficult to make and finish on film, but I think that means that as an art form that it can be thriving, if you look in the right places,” she says.

Manis discovered the organization through a Mexican filmmaker, and says becoming a member was an easy decision.

“Once I stepped in this building, I knew I would never leave.”

For Jeff Sterne, film – and the artists who use it - will continue to grow.

“ There’s a place where you can have access to a camera, and facilities to do something that’s not in the box. People who want to work outside of that, LIFT is there.”