Talmud as film study prep
Filmmaker Jake Pascoe (photo from POV28)
The study methods of Jewish school have served Jake Pascoe well in his study of film at the University of British Columbia. His works will be among those featured in the Persistence of Vision Film Festival 28 (POV28) April 28 and 29.
The festival showcases the work of fourth- and third-year students in the film production program at UBC Theatre and Film, which is what brought Pascoe – born and raised in Toronto – to Vancouver in 2014. Now in the final year of his bachelor of fine art in film production, Pascoe is involved in many of the 21 short films being screened at POV28. He directed Genesis, was the producer of Snoop! and first assistant director on three films, With Love From God, It’s a Boy! and How Long?, as well as being key grip on two others and gaffer on yet another. Pascoe said that, for a student to be involved in so many productions is “completely usual.”
“In fact,” he told the Independent, “I have some currently exhausted friends who have been in several more roles this year than I have. The program really emphasizes getting as much exposure to the different departments as possible, which makes the production season of the school year a lot of fun; you and your friends working several long days in a row and having to figure out how equipment works on the fly since – hey, you’re suddenly our sound mixer now!”
Pascoe’s bio notes that, in addition to “a background in directing theatre, he’s won fiction and stage play awards and has had stories published in magazines.”
“Before I was ever interested in filmmaking, I loved writing, so that stage of the process will always feel a little sacred to me,” he said. “This year, I got my first opportunity to direct a large and legitimate set with a big, scary camera and lots of equipment. Directing a movie like Genesis has been an opportunity that’s sort of eluded me, so I didn’t know what to expect coming up to the shoot. My favourite directors, like David Fincher or Wim Wenders, have been almost holy figures to me but I haven’t had the chance to take on that role with any of the resources remotely similar to the movies I grew up watching. Just feeling part of that tradition was pretty special.
“It also just gave me a creative buzz I hadn’t really ever experienced before. There was a moment I had with my actors getting ready before a big scene and I listened as they were getting into character, talking about their fears and emotions and I got so caught up with them. It was really surreal sharing a creative process with so many people since writing is so solitary. Watching and working with them along with my producer Ayden Ross and cinematographer Sam Barringer was really inspiring.”
Pascoe said he will be taking some summer courses to complete his minor in English literature and he aims to graduate this fall. As for his plans after that, he said, “Directing is such a fun and almost addictive experience that I feel like I need to get back in the chair sometime soon, but what’s nice about writing is that you don’t need any money or equipment to do it. I’ve been writing fiction for my whole life so, immediately following graduation, I’ll be working on getting some of my writing published.”
Pascoe said he attended a Jewish day school until Grade 11, “so it was a very large part of my life growing up. In terms of how it comes into play now – it’s funny, I was just giving a little spiel about this at my family’s seders this year – it struck me recently just how strangely effective Jewish school was in preparing me to study film.
“There’s something really talmudic in the analysis and criticism of cinema and the application thereof to any filmic creative pursuits I’ve had at UBC,” he said. “I remember very vividly in long Grade 7 classes being given an excerpt from the Torah and having to take the ‘story’ and methodically comb through it for all the moral quandaries it presents, all of its impacts on daily life it posits, and all the laws within its lessons to follow.
“In a very similar way, when you watch a movie, you’re really being handed a puzzle in the form of a story and are expected to totally squeeze everything out of it and methodically ask different kinds of theoretical questions.” He spoke of walking out of theatres “with the movie nerds in my program, who are just, if not more so, as trivial and hairsplitting as any of the ancient rabbinical commentators I read in middle school.”
POV28 screenings take place at UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, and there are morning matinées and evening programs. For tickets and the full schedule, visit povfilmfestival.org.