Welcome to the 508
Semester at USC Film School
#1 in a series of 16
Fade up & zoom in.
Rumor has it that the 508
semester is the single most grueling semester of the entire
3-year program. If students can survive 508, everything else is downhill. Wendy finds
it hard to believe it can be more difficult than 507, where she made 5 digital shorts -
all by herself .. in addition to other academic requirements.
Oddly enough, both 507 & 508 are extra course requirements. More 507/508 info here.
Rumor is that these courses
added to combat accusations that the school did not
adequately prepare students for life in the real world. The 507 & 508 curriculum add a
big chunk of work to an already demanding load. Sleep deprivation becomes a part of
the equation. Fashionable dark circles adorn thinly-slitted eyes.
Wendy loves her new prof ->
an older lady named Helaine .. who was late to class by
one week cuz she's been working on (directing?) an HBO special. (I forget the name.)
So even tho this is 2nd week of school, they just met their main prof for the semester.
Helaine's intro spiel impressed students.
Wendy + Lisa (Wendy's partner) stayed after
class to chat w/ their new prof. They seemed to hit it off. Helaine told them, "I'm not
your average professor." Wendy & Lisa said, "We're not your average students." =)
Having a prof she really likes is welcome change. Last semester, she had a couple of
old, male profs. Their approaches to filmmaking (linear, conventional) sometimes did not
mesh with hers. Movies are so subjective enough to begin with. Some people love the
same film others hate. Wendy's approach to movie-making tends to stray from convention.
Helaine is working prof. Wendy says Helaine doesn't have to teach, but she does cuz,
she wants to give back.
Wendy also likes the students
in her class & the TA. She actually cried, telling me about
it last night (happy tears). Then said, "I wish my daddy could see me now."
Students will be working
film this semester (b&w). Wendy made five 8mm
shorts as undergrad, but never used 16mm .. but Lisa has. Wendy is excited about
working with 16mm. She says it's a sensuous medium.
There are many restrictive guidelines regarding these films. Students have
so the ability to finance more film doesn't become an issue in quality of the final product.
Everything needs a permit, a form, documentation. Students are exposed to the bureaucracy
of movie making.
Students pair up in teams, and will do two films for the semester. Wendy & Lisa will do
Wendy's film first, then Lisa's the second half of the semester. For the first film, Wendy
will write & direct, while Lisa shoots & edits. The girls swap positions for the second film.
So next two months are crunch
time for her. The script is gone over with a fine-toothed
comb. Every minute counts. Much work goes into making even a short film. It's surprising
that they also have such an aggressive academic schedule. For example, a 10-page paper
is due during the middle of shooting. Students consider this cruel. After this crunch
semester, greener academic pastures are supposed to follow.
Wendy sometimes asks my opinion of a change she's considering. We debate pro's & con's.
I usually take the pragmatic approach. Whenever I say, "Well, it would be more difficult to
do it off this way" .. that's usually the path she takes. She doesn't seem to be playing it
safe. Ambitious scopes have always been her trademark.
Wendy & Lisa are ahead of many of the other
students. They're only ones who have their
casting wrapped. Prof asked in class how students were doing with their projects, adding,
"Anybody got your cast set up?" Wendy & Lisa said, "We do." Nobody else.
Wendy puts a lot of importance on casting. She read that casting is half the job. She
worked hard over the summer, placing ads & setting up interviews. Lani went with her
for one of the auditions, cuz Lani does that stuff all the time. To set the mood, Lani tied
colorful scarves all around the otherwise industrial studios at USC.
First cast meeting was yesterday, at a Mexican restaurant in LA. Wendy discussed her
plans for the movie with the cast. She said it went well. She's happy about her crew.
She has great people who are excited about her project. I saw some of the emails she
got from them. They're using several exclamation points after I love this project. After
the meeting, Lisa said, "You did a great job of casting."
Pix from the cast meeting
Simplified version of Wendy's story (titled Liliana) goes something like this:
Mother brings healing to the relationship between her husband & daughter from beyond
Mother/Liliana - played by Lejla, a real-life fiery gypsy from Bosnia
Father - played by Louie, 60-yr-old family man from Santa Ana who loves USC.
Daughter - played by Zarena, who is from Spain
Composer/musician/guitar player - Ed, he quietly played Flamenco music in the background
during the meeting. (v. cool!)
Another guitar player (no composer skills) - wasn't needed at the meeting.
Lisa was at the meeting, too. She'll be the cinematographer & editor.
Headshots posted here. Script here (formatting lost, but you'll get the idea). Production
schedule is here. Posting the production schedule online, at her own website, impressed
Wendy is doing good. The time in
Yosemite - especially backpacking, far from cars, roads,
people, with the kids + their friends, was good for her.
Yesterday, I made a crock pot of industrial-strength beef stew, and a monster-sized pot of
nuclear-grade chicken soup. She had a bowl of beef stew for breakfast early this morning.
So we have the nutrition thing going on again.
Fade to black.
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