Mas Production Woes
The 508 semester at USC Film school

#7 in a series of 16

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

Fade up & zoom in.

While on her way home Friday night, Wendy got a call from Luke. He got 
so busy that he forgot to pick up the film for his weekend shoot with Keith

The store where students pick up their film is closed weekends. If they 
don't get there by 5PM Friday, they're out of luck. Luke needed outdoor 
film; Wendy only had indoor film. So she couldn't help him. 

Wendy said, there are so many details that require attention, that it's totally 
understandable how someone could forget to pick up the film .. which kills an 
entire weekend of scheduled shooting.

The film has serial numbers. Students can't simply go out and buy more film. 
Profs made a big deal about using only properly serialized film.


One of Wendy's classmates loaded the film into the camera backwards
They'll have to re-shoot everything. Loading the film backwards is not 
as uncommon as you might think.

Both Wendy & Lisa feel like they're being stretched beyond their limits. 
Wendy said the Prof (Helaine) got on Lisa's case yesterday for coming 
to class with raw footage, on a day when the class views edited cuts 
(Thursdays). Wendy said it got ugly, and that Helaine is tough. She 
doesn't want to hear excuses. 

Since Wendy & Lisa shot more footage than any other group, Lisa (the 
Editor) had more raw footage to edit than anyone else. Helaine didn't care. 
She made it clear that doesn't want to see unedited footage on days when 
they're viewing cuts.

Wendy has been having trouble figuring out who is responsible for finding 
help for the shoots (assistants). She was under the impression that it was 
the cinematographer's responsibility to find help for the shoots, but so 
far she's been finding & providing all the assistants (Brian, Jahmar, Dave,
, etc). 

This has been the biggest source of conflict thus far. She hopes this means 
Lisa will find help for her when she begins shooting Lisa's film next month. I 
think Lisa had help lined up a couple of times, but it never materialized. Many 
students cut deals like, "You help me on my shoot, and I'll help you on yours."


Today was her last major shooting day. She got to bed at 2AM, up at 6. She 
has cute dark circles under her eyes. One more shoot is scheduled .. for Sunday. 
But that's a minor shoot, with a 10-year old named Judy (the cutie). 

Much paperwork is required before a minor can be filmed, and many rules to 
abide by (e.g. need parent or monitor must be present at all times). 

Judy is going to be playing the roll of young Zarena, in a flashback scene. The 
following weekend is a pick-up weekend where the girls can grab any missed/bad 
shots .. if any film remains (probably not). Wendy has all the film pretty much 
already accounted for.


Wendy came home ecstatic last weekend, after shooting the scene with the 
(Bucky). She poured herself a beer and began dancing around the house, 
telling me about the shoot. Haven't seen her that happy since the FedEx man
accidentally delivered the neighbor's Viagra .. uh, er, never mind. =)

She coordinated 8 people: actor, actresses, cinematographer, park ranger, 
production assistant, horse trainer, and the horse. Being able to successfully 
coordinate this shoot boosted her confidence in her ability to produce more 
than simplistic shoots. 

She was happy the park ranger was there, even tho it cost money, & even tho 
he only sat in his truck the whole time .. just in case anybody tried to bother them 
(they shot on public property). 

Everyone was nice to them, except one old lady, who rode her horse right thru the 
middle of the set, saying, "This is public property & I can ride where ever I darn well 

The park ranger unlocked the gate for them, and gave them all a ride to the scene, 
with all their heavy equipment, up a hot, dusty trail. But she couldn't revel in it long, 
cuz a 10-page report was due the next day. She stayed up typing until 2:30, had to 
get up at 6.


Students compare the first year at Film school to boot camp. There's not enough 
hours in the day to do everything assigned. So students must prioritize, doing only 
the most important things, and letting everything else slip, or give items of secondary 
importance mere cursory attention. 

Some days, she doesn't even have time to eat until she gets home. Wendy's priority 
is her film, something she'll always have .. even after the semester ends.

We're on crock #7, of industrial-strength, nuclear-grade stew. Had several requests 
for the recipe. Posted here.

I try to have a big, fresh salad waiting for her when she gets home (midnight), and 
a bowl of stew. That's when she tells me about the day's trials & tribulations. I usually 
fill the tub & light a few candles, before going to bed. Last I see, she's working at her 
computer .. and is gone when I wake.


Their prof (Helaine) shared how she got started in the business. She began working 
in a Frisco theater, directing plays, then to Broadway, where she was asked by the 
Producer of TV series to 'observe'. Observing means you don't work (or get paid), 
but come on set to see how things are done/run. Helaine said there's much unspoken 

For example, you never sit in the director's chair. And you never ask the Producer 
if/when you're going to be hired. They wouldn't ask you to 'observe' if they weren't 
considering hiring you.

Another person was asked along with Helaine to observe, but broke all the rules. 
After 6 months, the Producer asked Helaine, "So, do you think you're ready?" 

She'd developed good relationships with both cast & crew, helping where she could. 
Producer said, "Okay, I'll see what I can do." It wasn't long afterwards that she was 
tapped for a feature episode. You get one shot. If you do good, you're asked back. 
If not -> c_ya.

The business aspects of Cinema is where students feel they need more instruction. 
Some students complain that they don't feel prepared (business-wise) to go out 
into the industry. 

Wendy said the Dean on the Cinema school (who is supposed to have much 
business savvy) teaches a class a long these lines. Wendy wants to take this 
class (with Dean Daley). But for now, all classes are mandatory requirements. 


Wendy ran into one of her profs from undergrad days: Dr. Casper. He has the 
chair at USC, and is currently teaching class on Star Wars, which 
George Lucas recently dropped in on. Wendy appreciates energetic, dynamic 
profs, like Casper. She was surprised he remembered her, cuz he has so many 

I accompanied her several times, sitting in on Casper's Hitchcock class, held in 
the Norris theater/auditorium, with over a hundred students. He picks out students 
to answer questions. If they don't know, he yells at them, "Come on! You oughta 
know that!" =) 

Wendy heard that, if Casper wants you in a program, you're in. He's one of the profs 
who wrote a letter to accompany her application to grad school. She's the only one 
in her class (of 50) with undergrad degree from USC Film school (Critical Studies).


Wendy got the head of the Sound dept to be her Sound engineer for her upcoming 
sound recording in the Spielberg Scoring Stage. Most students get a TA. The dept 
head mentioned at a schmooze party that he might do this for her. Wendy tracked 
him down & got him to sign-off for her recording session. 

Ed is working on composing the soundtrack for her.

Fade to black.

Next -> Completed shooting first 16mm film
Previous -> First Tears

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