First Tears
The 508 semester at USC Film school

#6 in a series of 16

Lights, camera, action! .. at USC Film school

Fade up & zoom in.

Wendy hates bureaucracy. She wants to make movies, not drive around LA, fill out 
forms & wait in lines. But bureaucracy is a big part of making movies. 

After a long day of running around LA between classes, and getting stuck in traffic, 
she was having a bad day. All it took was Lisa asking, "You okay?" and the dam broke. 
Big tears. She's been feeling a bit overwhelmed last few days. Her film screens in five 
weeks (28oct). Until then, it's crunch time.

A lady at one of the offices where she filed for a permit heard Wendy's tale of woe, 
how she got the run-around from a guy, and called the guy's boss (who gave her 
the run-around). Apparently some guy sent her on wild goose chase, but should've 
handled it himself. 

There's not much time between classes .. no time to waste. One permit is required to
film a horse/animal, another to film a child/minor .. lots of permits required.

The horse/animal permit has been especially tedious. She needs to hire Park Ranger 
(for $30/hr) for 2 days (4 hrs/day), plus $160 permit fee, anytime an animal is used 
in a film. She's negotiating the steeper slopes of the bureaucratic learning curve.


Film footage is edited each week .. as it's shot. I somehow thought editing wouldn't 
occur until (after) everything was shot. Not so. Lisa is editing. Wendy stayed with 
Lisa late Tuesday night, helping make decisions, until she (Wendy) started to tire, 
then went home. Lisa edited 'til 3AM. 

Wendy said Lisa is doing a great job of editing. Her cuts look great. The entire class 
reviews both raw (dailies) & edited footage each week .. from all films.

Some of the footage came out over-exposed (looks light). Supposedly, this is no 
problem, cuz it can be darkened in lab .. when they make the final prints (answer 

The print they work with now (called the work print) is a lower-quality (less expensive) 
version. Their Camera TA said "not to worry" .. that their footage will looks great after 
being tweaked it in the lab. 

Wendy heard that some cinematographers intentionally over-expose their film (by one 
f-stop setting). It's supposedly some kind of trick cinematographers use that gives 
them more control later. What you *don't* want is to under-expose film (too dark), 
cuz it's much harder to lighten dark film, than to darken light film.

Wendy said Luke's & Keith's footage rocked. At end of class, the Camera prof said, 
"Well, it looks like Luke & Keith have set high standards for the rest of the class .. 
and let's see, what else? .. oh yeah, Wendy & Lisa's footage came out beautiful .. 
just beautiful." The girls were honored to be mentioned along with Luke & Keith. 

Wendy is very much into image quality. I've never paid much attention to image 
quality, focusing instead on story. Supposedly, b&w film can look gorgeous if shot 

I saw some of Luke's stuff last semester, looking over his shoulder while he edited a 
scene in the bullpen at USC. It was indeed gorgeous. He has a knack for making stuff 
good. It's like a magnet for your eyes. Almost hypnotizing. Artsy.


Some students are dropping one class, due to financial problems. Students aren't 
permitted to apply for scholarships until they've completed one full year (at the 
end of this semester). The plan is to make up for the dropped classes some time 
after scholarship funds roll in.

Wendy got (small) scholarship as an undergrad (1 of only 5 students receiving a 
scholarship in her class). I accompanied her to the Awards ceremony. The majority 
of scholarships were handed out to graduate students. 

More than once, in their acceptance speech, students receiving the scholarships 
said, "I'm very grateful for this scholarship, because without it, I don't know if I'd 
be able to continue." You could tell by the look on their faces that they meant it. 
Reality can be cruel .. even for those trying to master the art of make-believe.


Wendy & Lisa have shot + edited more footage than anyone else in their class. 
Their classmates said, "Dang, you girls were busy this weekend, eh?" So far, it 
doesn't look like they'll have to re-shoot any scenes. 

There is one scene in her film where her classmates want to see the key actually 
go into the lock. Wendy cut on the action, which lets your mind fill in the blanks. 
If she has film left over at the end, she may consider re-shooting that one part.

Wendy said there's rarely an actor/actress that everybody likes, but all her classmates 
love Zarena. The biggest complaint Wendy received was that things looked pre-staged, 
not natural. 

For example, people thought, "No one would hide a key there." This is part of story-
telling that Wendy wants work on. She wants her stories, which tend to fall into the 
genre, to be believable. It's not easy to make fantasy believable.

Details are what make a story believable. Wendy is not very detail-oriented. She tends 
to think in broad, general strokes. Some people like lots of details; others want only 
the general outline. It's impossible to please everyone, but she needs to strike a 
balance between the big picture & fine details.

Each week, the class views only portions of a film, individual scenes, sometimes parts  
of a scene. So they're naturally prone to focus more on individual details (cuz that's 
all there is to watch). I think her story will gel nicely once she can show all of it 
together. Until then, she'll probably get a lesson in attention-to-detail. How does the 
saying go? God is in the details.

It's probably best for her to partner with someone who is detail oriented. Cuz it's also 
easy for a detail-oriented person to get bogged down in (too many) details. 


Wendy & Zarena got in trouble for returning their horses to the stables dripping with 
sweat .. after a practice ride earlier this week. Wendy said the horses wanted to run 
(yeah, right). The girl in charge of the stables scolded at them, and made them walk 
the horses around the track a few times to cool them off before bringing back. 

The girl's entire bodies ached the next day. Wendy came home limping & walking stiff, 
saying, "Well, Zarena can definitely ride."

They will need a horse trainer (named Hector) to be there while shooting. He's going 
to work for free (Wendy offered to pay). Hector wants only a credit in the film.


First schmooze party last night. Wendy & Lisa went. It was attended by graduate 
production students from all different semesters & Starkies (from Peter Stark Producing 
). Prof, Helaine, also went. Wendy heard that schmoozing is a vital aspect to 
success in the industry. Lisa knew lots of people there.

Wendy talked to several upperclassmen about what's required to direct your own 546
The first prerequisite is that you have to crew on someone else's 546 (before you can 
direct your own). Crew positions are Producer, Asst Director, Cinematographer, Editor, 
& Sound. Except for the Asst Director, each position is filled with two people (e.g. two 
Producers, two Editors, two Cinematographers, etc.) 

Wendy is interested in crewing as an Editor. Now that the school has begun using 
the Avid Media Composer to edit 546 films, lots of students want to edit, cuz being 
able to use the Avid is a valuable (marketable) skill. Since only four 546 films are 
made each semester, that means only there are only 8 editing positions available .. 
with 40 or 50 students applying for each position. Very competitive. 

In order to graduate, every student must crew on a 546 at least once. Before a 
student can crew as a cinematographer, they must first take a (semester long) 
class. The cinematographer's position is the only one requiring a prerequisite class. 
Wendy is not crazy about cinematography, cuz the camera is heavy for her. 

546 films are 12 minutes each, 16mm, color, with sync-sound dialogue. By contrast, 
508's are also 16mm, but only 5 mins, b&w, with no sync'ed dialogue (only voice-
overs are permitted).


Lisa has changed the idea for her story/script. She Was going to do scene about 
a political prisoner arrested for protesting nuclear weapons. Now it's going to be 
The Love Manifesto
.. about a girl with a boyfriend who doesn't listen to her. 
The girl satisfies her need to express herself thru graffiti. I'll follow up with more 
info when the details solidify.

Someone broke into the apt of one of Wendy's classmates, and stole her Mac G4 
& Canon GL1 camcorder. She's pretty sure she knows who did it .. a boyfriend she 
met recently. Unfortunately she doesn't know his last name.

Currently on crock pot #5 of industrial-strength, nuclear-grade beef stew
Wendy says she can feel it calm her down (grounding) after only a few bites.

They're shooting outdoors in a horse corral near Griffith Park in Burbank both today 
& Sunday. She's been praying for overcast/cool day, cuz Burbank can get H-O-T hot. 
It rained here for 5 mins today, so maybe it's overcast up there.

Next weekend may be final shooting. After that is what's called a pick-up weekend, 
where students grab any shots the need/missed, or want to re-shoot.

Fade to black.

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