Rutgers student to see film reach Cannes Film Festival
Person of the Week
Film has transfixed Jean-Paul Isaacs as long as he can remember. His obsession, as he refers to it, has led him to quit studying exercise science so he could get behind the camera himself.
Next year, the South Brunswick native and Educational Opportunity Fund student, will be heading to the Cannes International Film Festival where his movie, “The Youth,” will be featured.
“The Youth” won Campus MovieFest, a national film competition based in Hollywood this spring, which earned Isaacs a screening at the reputable Cannes festival this May, said Isaacs, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
“I had no idea the movie would be as successful as it has been,” Isaacs said. “I was hoping I would win the Rutgers competition, but where it has taken me so far has been unbelievable.”
Isaacs said he first won the Rutgers New Lens Student Film Festival hosted by the Center for Digital Filmmaking for another film, “Lunch with Larry.” His success at Rutgers helped get him into the Campus MovieFest.
“The Youth” is about an aspiring artist, he said, who gains creative insight from his spry and imaginative younger sister. His sister wants to play with him, but he has accepted a grim office job that gives him more important priorities.
Isaacs said he reverts to his inner child once he accepts her request to go to the park.
“It was definitely a representation of my own life, and my decision to switch majors,” Isaacs said. “I heard the little boy inside me that loved movies, and decided to listen to him.”
Despite disregarding his inner youth several times, Isaacs said he switched to a journalism and media studies major so that he could practice his passion — telling stories. He appreciated the stability of a science major, but was considerably more zealous about storytelling and filmmaking.
“When I watched movies I would be inspired by the fact that I could escape reality. I didn’t really think about who was behind it all, I was just fascinated by the story itself,” he said.
Isaacs is a student in Rutgers’ Center for Digital Filmmaking, a certificate program for both fiction and documentary film production.
Dena Seidel, the director of the program, said Isaacs is a very talented filmmaker with a deep sensitivity to human motivation and relationships.
“He understands cinematic time and plays with audience expectations through stylized pacing and smart sound design,” she said.
Seidel said she was particularly impressed with Isaacs’ ability to drive narrative with limited dialogue in “The Youth.” She said his control of frame and compression of time also stood out.
Isaacs said he did not know what to expect going into the festival in Hollywood.
“I had only competed with people at school, but now I was up against people from around the nation,” he said.
He said the festival was a catalyst for his work ethic, solidifying his dedication to film.
Competing against filmmakers who were experts with spectacle was intimidating, but he said he remained confident that his story would triumph.
“The films I’ve made have been more about the message. I’m not really a big special effects guy,” Isaacs said. “I’m really just trying to get people to think.”
Campus MovieFest allows participants a week to shoot and edit a five-minute film, Isaacs said. His friends, fellow Rutgers students, aided him heavily by producing the film, composing a score and acting.
His mother has also been highly supportive throughout the process — and has even worked as his costume designer. Although she was initially reluctant to see him pursue film, he said she is very proud of his recent accomplishments.
Patrick Stettner, who has instructed Isaacs in over four classes in the Center for Digital Filmmaking, believes Isaacs is skilled in editing.
“He has an original approach to styling and pace, and his storytelling is developing,” Stettner said.
He helped Isaacs with his film, “Lunch with Larry,” that won best drama in the New Lens Student Film Festival. The film is a comedy about two hit men.
Isaacs said Quentin Tarantino, his role model for script writing and directing, largely inspired this movie’s style.
He said he just finished his last film, which he plans to send to several film festivals, including Sundance and Tribeca. The film follows two boys, one black and one white, who explore the dynamic of an interracial friendship.
“You don’t want to look for the inner child in you to do something immature, you want to do something proactive with your youthfulness,” Isaacs said.
He said he hopes to make a feature-length film by the time he is twenty-five.