Spencer Zimmerman’s first-year MOPA class exercise is one of a rare few films that has screened across North America
Christine Beyleveldt // Editor-in-Chief
Spencer Zimmerman, a second-year student in Capilano University’s Motion Picture Arts (MOPA) program had no way of knowing a class exercise would win him accolades. But that’s what his two-minute short film, Der Jude, did. “Nobody knew what would happen going into it,” Zimmerman laughed. “Pitching a period piece on a student crew and budget of zero dollars – it’s all up in the air!”
The two-minute film is about a Jewish woman reunited with her lover right before she is arrested. In his first year of the MOPA program, Zimmerman and his classmates completed a series of exercises, including filming a short with no dialogue and recreating a scene from a movie. But for this exercise students were given a prompt and two weeks to produce a short film based on it.
“You get given about half a page description, one was the breakup and one was the heist, and I chose the breakup,” said Zimmerman. “That was essentially all I was given, but I had this idea of setting it in WWII and thought ‘what can I build into their history and who they are?’ And this idea of forbidden love was really appealing to me.” The message he chose to send in his short film was that love can conquer all evil.
After premiering at the Austin Micro Short Film Fest in July 2018, Der Jude’s actress, Delphine Menu, won Best Actress for her role. After that, Der Jude went on to tour at a number of other festivals across North America. Immediately after its premiere, Der Jude screened at the Okanagan Indie Fest in Kelowna, which Zimmerman was able to attend, followed by the Three-Minute Film Fest in Santa Barbara at the end of July 2018 where it won Best Narrative.
Later, in the Fall semester of Zimmerman’s second year, the film went to the Indigo Moon Festival in North Carolina and by the end of October, Nifty, one of the bigger film festivals hosted in Seattle. And finally in November Der Jude was shown at the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards in Zimmerman’s hometown and where it was nominated for Best Student Film.
Once Zimmerman chose his prompt for the exercise, he had a week to prepare, four hours to film and a week to edit. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. “Generally period pieces are expensive and a little bit lavish so if you’re going to go into a period you need a good reason to do it,” he said, and he felt Der Jude was one such instance. However, having no budget for costumes, he invested some of his own money and with Production Designer Calvin, descended on Vancouver’s army and navy stores. “As of the last couple of years, you could’ve gotten some Nazi or German military uniforms from that era, but in the last couple years you can’t get [them] at all,” he said. In the end, a friend in Saskatoon who also collected period uniforms and military gear had what he was looking for, and shipped a few articles over just in time.