The 508 semester at USC Film school
#11 in a series of 16
Fade up & zoom in.
Liliana is done. The biggest hurdle of the toughest semester is now behind.
She seems like a
different person. The pressure is off. She's giddy with wine of
achievement, walking two inches off the ground .. breaks into laughter,
spontaneously, uncontrollably, at seemingly nothing at all. When I ask what's
so funny, she only laughs harder. Should I be concerned? =)
The work print screening was
held last Saturday, on campus, at the Lucas bldg.
Wendy had a crowd there. Some of her classmates joked that she filled half the
auditorium. I think she's the only one (with family) from the area.
A work print is lower-quality version of the film. It the copy that students use to edit.
Consequently, it contains scratches that won't be present in the answer print, the
high quality print that will screen next year. I was expecting to see lots of scratches
& poor image quality, but the work-prints weren't that bad.
The handout for the work-print screening listed 7 films, & says this about
The 508 Experience:
In the course of one semester, each team creates two 16mm
black & white films no longer than 5 mins 33 secs. The challenge
of the class is to communicate the story visually, without the use
of any sync dialogue.
We saw films from Wendy's group only (7 pairs, 14 students). There are 3 such
groups in her entire 508 class, but each group screened their movies on different
Wendy heard that a few students who
attended all 3 screenings, felt that her
group had some of the best films. She said other groups refer to her class as
the serious group .. altho you'd never know it from this photo. But they do seem
serious about making movies.
Their prof, Helaine, makes them do things that other students don't have to.
For example, only Wendy's group has periodic table screenings, where prof & TA
come see their edited footage, at flat-bed (table), and provided detailed feedback
It was obvious that Wendy had developed a rapport with her cast. They all
the screening, except for Zarena, who was on her way back from Yosemite, where
she took her mom, who was visiting from Madrid, on her first time in the States.
Yosemite made a nice first impression.
feels like her cast has become a little family. She loves them.
Little Judy the cutie was there, with both parents. Wendy asked if Judy wanted to
sit next to her for the screening. Tho Judy's roll is small, Liliana is very much about
children. Mom was there with Sidney, and sat on the other side of Wendy. (Mom had
a great time.)
the only one at this screening with a child/minor in her movie. Extra paper-
work, rules & bureaucracy is required to film children/minors.
The time limit for each of the films we saw was 5 mins, 33 secs. Five minutes is not
much time to develop a story. It pains her to work so hard for only five minutes. She
feels like she could've made a comfortable 8- or 9-minute film.
While chatting with Judy's dad, George, I learned that Judy is also working on another
508 film - with Alex, a girl from one of the other groups in Wendy's 508 class. George
said that Alex & her partner (a girl) were fighting like cats. Partners fights are not
uncommon during the stress of the 508 semester.
We saw Alex, outside, before the screening. She was
finishing her film that very night,
to be shown the following night. Alex said, "You see these clothes? I've been wearing
them for 3 days now." =)
All the students looked tired, wupped, beat .. especially the writer/directors. Wendy
had to get up at 4:30 that morning, to be in Venice (where Lisa lives), to shoot their
test roll. Lisa's actress had to be at work later, so they had to start early. By the time
Wendy got home, she's been up for about 24 hrs.
On a sad note, Carlos Noriega has dropped out.
It's not clear what happened, but
rumor has it he had a bad experience with 508, so much so that he didn't care to
It's a shame, cuz Wendy said he
was a good filmmaker, someone who understood
the language of film. Wendy said his films tended to involve dark themes, not her
style, but that he was good at what he did.
So Carlos' partner, Mun
is stuck without a partner for the second half.
School administrators are trying to find a solution. They might let her join another
group. Everybody felt sad for her, after her film screened, when she went forward,
to the front of the auditorium without a partner.
I'd like to know what made
Carlos quit in the middle of a semester .. that he already
paid for, with no chance of getting a refund.
Louie was there, in a great mood afterwards, making us all laugh. Lejla was there,
too. Jan & Frank misread the directions and arrived an hour late, just after Liliana
screened, but they got to see the second half of the films.
We went to Japantown with them afterwards, for sushi & saki. I told Wendy,
cut loose to soon. You still have another movie to make. She said, "Cutting loose now
is the only way I'll be able to make another film." We closed the place down (1AM).
I was impressed with the quality of these movies .. much more so than those I saw
last semester. I have been following the students from day_1. I attended several
class screening (on the big screen) last semester.
Most of the films I saw last semester were lame. A few held my interest, but most
were painful to watch. Another screening was held at the end of last semester.
These were much improved, but only a handful struck me as impressive .. out of
30 or 40. By contrast, the majority of these films impressed me.
Each film seemed to have a totally different theme, covering diverse subject matter.
It was almost as if someone sat down & pre-planned different categories for each
student to work on. Only two films seemed similar, with a Sci-Fi theme.
Liliana screened second of seven films. After each film, the lights came back on,
and the writer/director & cinematographer/editor went to the front of the auditorium,
and thanked everyone involved, pointing out any of their cast/crew/composers in
attendance. One of Wendy's classmates said, "It must to nice to have your own
It was good to meet her profs, TAs, and students I hadn't
met yet. I also saw the
rooms and flat-bed machines where she will spend so much time editing during the
second half of the semester.
I peeked into one room, and saw a big pile of mangled film all over the floor.
Wendy said, "Oh, my. That's the worst I've yet." Catastrophes like that are
not totally uncommon, I hear.
This was my first time seeing Wendy's film with the music/soundtrack. Wendy has
said all along that she feels fortunate to have crossed paths with Ed, her composer.
They scored the music at the Steven Spielberg Scoring Stage.
I was under the impression that everyone in
her 508 class scored their soundtracks
at the Spielberg Scoring Stage. Not so. Wendy was the only one in her class (far as
she knows). 508 students don't normally get to use the Spielberg Scoring stage.
While scoring the soundtrack, a group of advanced Production students, sat in and
observed the recording session. Many commented, saying, "It's beautiful."
Wendy has always been concerned with sound & music. She performed in a percussion
group at Coolsville (previously Club Post-Nuclear) in Laguna Beach at one time.
used two guitars and a cello. I, too, was impressed with the music. I especially
appreciated the understated approach. It seemed classy, confident, appropriate. It
wasn't like the composer was trying too hard. The music supported the story & images
well. I almost don't even notice it. I think that's how music should be. I can see now
why she's so happy.
Everybody loved the shots she got with the doorway dolly. After the screening,
several students approached her, asking, "How did you get those shots? a dolly?
the dolly goes on a track? How big is the track? It's forms a complete circle?
Where did you get it? How much did it cost to rent? ..."
These are titles of movies we saw (in order of viewing), with writer/director &
Wendy is now reading/reviewing scripts for the 2nd bunch
of films. Wants to give
good feedback, cuz she received lots of good feedback on her story. Some students
are totally changing their story ideas. This is late in the game to be developing a new
I heard Luke
is going to do a story about the grief of the loss of a child, and Stacey
is going to be doing a story about where a woman, frustrated with the daily grind,
who seeks to break loose and find her creative passion. Wendy shot parts of Pearl
Diver at Stacey's house. Stacey has a background in sculpture (now pregnant).
Students now swap roles for the second
half of the semester. Those who were
writer/producer/directors, now become cinematographers/editors .. and vice-versa.
Fade to black.
Next -> Producing a 546
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