Northwestern alumni’s film selected for Cannes Film Festival

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

When three Northwestern graduates submitted their film, “The Opportunist,” to the Cannes Film Festival, they did not expect it to be the only American short to compete at the festival in France.

David Lassiter (Communication ‘08) wrote and directed the short film. He worked with close friends and producers Cate Smierciak (Communication ‘08) and Alberto Roldan (Communication ‘10). The film will compete against nine others in its category during International Critics’ Week, May 16 to 24, one of three festivals running simultaneously as a part of Cannes.

“It’s a short film about a night in the life of a social shape-shifter who is addicted to the thrill of invading other people’s lives,” Lassiter said.

Inspired by European character-driven movies, Lassiter said the film’s plot was a result of his fascination with social people with magnetic personalities. He said a “social shape-shifter” is someone adept at engaging a crowd of people and gaging the dynamic of a room.

“The main character is socially successful,” he said. “He’s manipulative in a different way.”

After three days of shooting, the three friends completed filming Feb. 3 in Los Angeles, where they currently live. Lassiter moved to the city right after he graduated, and Roldan moved to L.A. last year. Smierciak joined them before filming began after spending time creating a short film in Berlin

Smierciak said they could not have created the film without other NU alumni, who make up most of their film team.

“The air of collaboration on this film came out of the trenches of time we spent with each other back at Northwestern,” Lassiter said. “There’s a really beautiful culture on campus to make stuff.”

The group first raised $2,200 using Kickstarter, an online platform that allows users to generate funds for new ideas. The three then created a new account on GoFundMe when they estimated they would have additional expenses of up to $10,000 for technological necessities, such as high-quality copies of the film for worldwide screenings.

Roldan said raising sufficient funds was one of the hardest endeavors, in addition to the inherent difficulties of creating a film.

“We work everyday, and nobody pays us to come to work,” he said. “But I feel lucky.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of money raised on Kickstarter. The group has raised $2,200. The story has also been updated to clarify when Smiercak and Roldan moved to Los Angeles. The Daily regrets the errors.