by Carly Schnitzler, Graduate Communications Editor
UNC English major and recent graduate Christine Zimmerman ’18, along with six of her UNC classmates—Grace Han, Mary Luong, Diandra Dwyer, Jordan Van Hoy, Esther Lee, and Michaela Deguzman—recently received an invitation to screen their short film, “Just A Phase,” in the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is a prestigious annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres and lengths. Their fully-animated short film follows a girl’s dream to become an artist and the obstacles she faces along the way, an experience with which Zimmerman and her collaborators are personally familiar. “Many of us identified with the frustration of feeling as though our art was unappreciated or of little “real” value—a message often conveyed by adult figures in our lives, the internet, and society in general,” Zimmerman says.
At UNC, Zimmerman was one of the founding members of Carolina Animator’s Anonymous—UNC’s first and only animation club. Through this organization, she met other creative filmmakers and artists whose skills and imagination made an impression on her. Another one of the club’s founding members, Grace Han, encouraged Zimmerman and others to form a team to enter UNC’s Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival dedicated to celebrating student creativity and innovation in short filmmaking with chapters at over 50 campuses. Zimmerman and her teammates threw themselves into their film, working long, collaborative hours together during their senior year that renewed her passion for art. She says of their process, “We had always wanted to combine our efforts…to make something that spoke to all of us, so it seemed obvious to do something related to art—specifically animation.”
After winning awards at the Campus MovieFest at UNC and then at TERMINUS, a renowned film and video game conference and festival early in 2018, the “Just A Phase” team began to really see the fruits of their artistic labor pay off, in the film’s reception and subsequent recognition. Once “Just A Phase” had shown at TERMINUS and won awards there, the film was eligible for submission to the Cannes Film Festival, where it was accepted to the Short Film Corner. “When we got in…it took my breath away,” said Zimmerman.
Reflecting on the path that led to her award-winning creative work, Zimmerman explains: “All throughout college I struggled with depression and anxiety—and my art certainly suffered for it. It had become more and more difficult for me to find the motivation to finish projects or get excited about them. But after working on ‘Just a Phase’ with such an incredible group of fellow artists, and seeing where our passion took us, I was inspired to dive into art again, so suddenly Cannes didn’t seem so out of reach.”
“Just A Phase” is one of only thirty-five Campus MovieFest short films to screen at Cannes this year. The Cannes Film Festival will take place this May in the South of France. To watch “Just A Phase” before it screens at Cannes, click here.