Live In The Confidence Of Your Vision: Sherien Barsoum on Breaking Into the Film Industry

Sherien Barsoum is on a roll. As a producer, her latest two projects, House of Z and Babe, I Hate To Go will premiere at the 2017 Hot Docs International Film Festival. (House of Z will also play at the Tribeca Film Festival.) As a director, her feature doc, Colour Me, screened across North America. When she’s not directing or producing, Sherien is the Director of Programming at Reelworld Film Festival.

Sherien will lead DOC Institute’s New Visions Incubator DOC Institute’s New Visions Incubator in Toronto, helping young filmmakers to gain the resources, creative materials, and pitch documents to get camera-ready. The application deadline for New Visions Incubator is March 26, 2017.

We spoke to Sherien about her recent work, her advice to young filmmakers, and what to do when people underestimate you. 

Tell us about your most recent project. 

I’m currently working on a project called Everything RJ. It’s a multi-platform project that looks at stories of restorative justice, where offenders and victims of crimes figure out how to right the wrong that was created.

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How is the project multi-platform?

We want it to be a series of short films, podcasts, and interactive component. We’ve shot one short film – and we’re currently developing the rest of the project.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from it? 

The biggest thing I’ve learned is patience. I’ve been working on this project for around 4 years. But it’s only in the last 12 months that I’ve become really clear on how to tell the story. I just needed time. Time to sit with the material, to get access, to figure out what my vision was – I just needed to be patient.

Some people give up after things don’t work. As an example, I had issues with access. The doors open, the doors close, the biggest recurring theme was just to be patient.

If you could go back & give advice to yourself as a young/emerging filmmaker, what would you say?

This is hard because it’s something that you have to learn: a lot of people will assume that, because you’re young, because you may not have a lot of experience, you are unable to deliver deliver a complex, nuanced vision through film.

But if you have confidence and vision, you can have a more solid vision and execution than people who have being doing it for years.

Live in that confidence. Questioning yourself is good, but don’t underestimate the potential that you actually have.

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The industry is constantly changing. What would you recommend to young filmmakers trying to break into the industry today?

You always need to be thinking outside the box. Your story doesn’t have to fit the parameters of traditional filmmaking. It can be a feature, it can be a short, it can be digital.

There’s a lot of discouraging talk about funding in the industry. No matter what’s happening, in the meantime, you need to get your stuff done. So you have to be savvy in that respect. And if you’re not, find someone who is. Find other means of funding — private investment, corporate money, Kickstarter. Get it done and don’t be bogged down by the state of affairs in the industry. Keep pushing.

The deadline to apply to the New Visions Incubator is March 26 before midnight. Apply now!