In September 2018, Jessica Pfanzelt stumbled upon her life’s true calling in one of the unlikeliest places imaginable – a horror movie set.
“It: Chapter Two was being filmed (in Port Hope) and I got the chance to experience what it would be like to work on the professional set of a multi-million-dollar feature – and the rest is history,” said the Newcastle, Ontario native, who had previously studied photography.
“…It just sparked a huge love for learning more about the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking and there was no going back for me.”
Fast-forward three years later, and Pfanzelt is now graduating from Toronto Film School as the Class of 2021 valedictorian of the Film Production program – a feat she attributes to lots and lots of hard work.
Now that she’s graduated, Pfanzelt plans to keep “working her butt off” with the goals of joining a union, getting her name out there, and having the best time doing what she was made to do.
Pfanzelt recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for filmmaking, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from a small town east of downtown Toronto called Newcastle. I’m currently 28 years old and as far as I can remember, I’ve always been passionate about films, however, the behind the scenes of film has been something I only recently discovered before joining the Film Production program at TFS.
What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
What brought me to TFS was from having an eye-opening moment on the set of a film that was being shot close to where I lived in Port Hope, Ontario. In September 2018, It: Chapter Two was being filmed and I got the chance to experience what it would be like to work on the professional set of a multi-million-dollar feature and the rest is history. Something that week that I got to experience and see first-hand just sparked a huge love for learning more about the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking and there was no going back for me. At the time I applied to TFS, I had just moved home from Ottawa, because it got too expensive and I really needed to find myself a career I was passionate about and it just so happened that about a year after moving home, I found my calling.
What made you decide to pursue your passion for filmmaking?
Getting to experience a professional production set and watching them for hours create the art of filmmaking, really sparked my interest in the industry and right away I started looking into my options and at the time. Toronto Film School was the most affordable and convenient for me.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
One of the most important things I’ll be taking away from my studies will be something that multiple of my professors have said throughout their lectures. Work hard and you’ll get rewarded. Which at the time seemed like just a saying, but I’m walking proof that if you do work hard, you will get rewarded. I was chosen valedictorian and I couldn’t be more honoured that it was my professors who voted me, because they taught me so much and helped me grow more and more in love with film than I ever could have imagined.
What are your plans after graduation both immediate and long-term?
My plans after graduating have been to just attach myself to any kind of experience on anything for a little while and to work towards my union application – which is going fantastic, I might add. I’ve had the privilege of working on some wicked professional sets, alongside short films, and commercials. Going forward, I will be applying to the Directors Guild of Canada union in the spring of 2022 and hopefully starting to work my way up the totem pole in either the Assistant Directors department or Production Managers department.
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would it be?
One piece of advice I would give a student joining TFS today would be, don’t be intimidated by the workload. Sure, it may be a lot, but I promise you the reward is 110 per cent worth it all, and the experience/relationships you’ll make will be life-changing.