Producing a 546
The 508 semester at USC Film school

#12 in a series of 16

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

Fade up & zoom in.

Wendy's entire class saw 10 films yesterday, from prospective 546 directors. 
A 546 is an advanced-level film that the
university sponsors (pays for). Four 
546 films are made each semester. Each is 12 mins long, 16mm color, with 
sync-sound dialogue. 

Compare this to Wendy's current semester, 508, where films are 5 mins long, 
16mm b&w, with no sync-sound dialogue. 


The films Wendy's class saw were 508s (like
Liliana), made by students in previous 
semesters. The reason for screening these 508 films, is the hope that students 
viewing them will identify with one, and want to 'crew' for the aspiring director. 

So the 508 is a calling card of sorts, displaying the filmmaker's talents. Students 
with the better 508's have more people wanting to work with/for them. Students 
with a lame 508 have a tougher time finding crew. 

Out of a total of 50 or 60 applicants, 10 students are selected to 'pitch' their 
scripts to a selection panel (not unlike how the real world operates). Of those 10
only 4 will be selected to make (direct) their films. 

The 10 prospective directors screen their films, and solicit for students to crew 
for them, as producers, cinematographers, editors, sound people, etc. - all the 
positions required to make a film. But the first thing they want/need are producers.

Each 546 film has 2 producers. Prospective directors need at least 1 person willing 
to commit to produce for them before they're allowed to 'pitch' (to selecting panel). 

Wendy is not crazy about producing, cuz it deals with the business aspect of film-
making. She much prefers the creative parts of moviemaking: directing, working 
with actors & actresses, editing, sound. 

But she's good at producing. Also, she badly wants to direct a 546 of her own. 
One prerequisite for directing your own 546 is that you must first work/crew on 
someone else's 546.

Word around campus is that the lady who is in charge of the whole 546 program 
(and probably has more say in who gets selected to direct a 546 than anyone else) 
has a Producer's background. 

Naturally, this might incline her to look more favorably upon those students who 
crew on a 546 as a Producer. This is one reason why Wendy is considering 
producing a 546, even tho it's not her idea of fun. 

Even tho she doesn't especially enjoy producing, or like the idea, she feels it may be 
a smart political move.


Wendy said everybody wants to be an Editor, now that 546's are being edited on
s. Learning the Avid is a valuable skill in the industry. Everything is going that 
way. There's a sheet that everyone who wants to work on a 546 fills out, listing 
their preferences. It was filled with the word, Editor

Note that not every student currently enrolled in 508 will crew on a 546 next 
semester, but crewing on a 546 is a requirement for graduation. 

Editing is where creative juices flow most freely. Sound is another option, and Wendy 
seems to have a flair for sound/audio. But, as a sound person, you have to be at every 
pre-production meeting, every shoot, and work all the way thru post-production. 

In other words, it's a lot of work, and involves a lot of hours. And word around campus 
is that Sound people get no respect. Sound is the hardest position to fill. Nobody wants 
to do Sound.


Wendy was impressed by all ten films she saw yesterday. But one in particular stood 
out, by a girl named
Tania. Tania's 508 partner was Sean O'Sullivan, who runs the
site, where Wendy's posted several of her first 507 films, before she got 
own site last summer. 

After the screening, Wendy approached Tania. They seemed to hit it off, finding 
common ground in that they both knew Sean (Wendy recognized Sean's name from 
the credits).

While talking to Tania,
Dennis (in Wendy's class) walked up, and said, "Do you want 
to produce, Wendy? I would work with you, cuz you have your shit together." Minutes 
Lisa (Wendy's 508 partner) walked up & said to Tania, "Wendy would make a 
producer. She totally has her shit together."

Well: the phone just rang (I never answer the phone). A girl named Denise left a 
message for Wendy, saying she already called her cel, but wants to cover all bases, 
and that she just talked to several people, & heard nothing but glowing things about 
her, and that said she'd very much like to meet with Wendy to discuss the possibility 
of her producing a 546. 

It sounds like Denise is a prospective 546 director. She certainly sounds like she has 
her act together.

Update: Wendy just called to say she just got done meeting with Tania, and, after 
discussing things, she went ahead & gave Tania her commitment to produce her 546 
(wow, that was fast). 

Wendy said Tania has two possible stories/scripts she's considering. I'm not sure if 
these are scripts that Tania wrote herself, but both are right up Wendy's alley. 

One script involves a character named Wendy, and deals with emotional healing. 
Wendy feels her connection with Tania is serendipitous. Tania feels the same - that 
there's a chemistry between them. 

Wendy heard that - more than anything else - 546 is about chemistry .. between 
the writer, director, producers, cinematographers, editors, sound people, etc.

Each 546 has two Producers. Tania has a few other names on her list of prospective 
Producers. She asked Wendy's for her opinion, who she'd prefer to work with. Wendy 
fingered Dennis. 

Wendy said that some people think Dennis comes off as arrogant, but she said Dennis 
knows his stuff, and she can handle his arrogance. She said, "I much prefer arrogant 
competence over gracious incompetence any day." =)

This doesn't necessarily mean that Wendy & Tania will get to make a 546. First they 
must pitch their story/script to a selection panel of 6 faculty members, and 1 student 
board member. They panel will choose (only) 4 of the 10 bids. 

Pitching is an art in itself, and a very real part of how the industry works. It can 
mean the difference between whether your film gets made or shelved. Only 4 of 10, 
I can't help but notice that the odds are less than a 50-50. 

Wendy thinks Dennis would be great at pitching. Prospective director & producers 
pitch together. The pitching experience will be good for her. Other crew members, 
such as Editors, Cinematographers, Sound people are dealt with if (*if*) they are 
selected as one of the four.


Wendy's first primary shoot as a cinematographer was last week end. The class 
watched the dailies (raw footage) yesterday. The footage came out good. She 
was sweating bullets, cuz it was her first shoot, & would've been a tragedy if 
something didn't come out right. 

If something gets screwed up (for whatever reason), students get no extra film 
to compensate. Film is serialized. They can't simply go out and buy more. 

Wendy got compliments on her cinematography, which made her happy. She has 
edited most of the footage that was shot. The first scene is already complete, 
and she's heading over to finish editing the rest now. Her first edited 16mm footage 
screens tomorrow.

First shoot for
Lisa's film - The Love Manifesto - was last Friday night. It went until 
4:30 AM. The next shoot was the very next night (Saturday) and went until 8:30 AM 
(all night long). That about killed her. 

Wendy thinks Lisa rehearses her actress too much, & makes too many changes to her 
scenes. Lisa says Wendy is slow with the lighting, and that's the reason why things 
took so long. Wendy wishes Lisa would get more help for her. 

It's not clear who's job it is to get help for the cinematographer. Lisa bought Wendy 
a candle, perhaps as a peace offering. Wendy loves Lisa, despite their difficulties & 
challenges. Anyway, she didn't come home for a few days last weekend.

Wendy has been staying at George's place, in Venice Beach, on those long shoots. 
George was in the Wendy's 507 movie
Vandancing, a tribute to her brother, Van. 
He's the one dressed in all black, shot in the studio. He lives less than 2 blocks from 
Lisa's place. 

This has been a lifesaver for her, cuz George has an extra bedroom, a beautiful, colorful 
house, and driving an hour home after being up all night is a bad idea. George (lawyer) 
was a close friend of her brother, Van, and she feels closer to him (Van) when she's 
with his friends. She's known George for many years.


Lisa's actress is a black girl, named LaToya, who has long dreadlocks that she ties up 
and lets hang down. Wendy said she's pretty - not gorgeous like
Zarena, but perfect 
for the part. But she has no acting experience. Lisa said she's never used a schooled/
trained actor/actress in any of her movies. She's always picked them off the street.

She met her actress in a girl's clothing store, where the girl works. The girl lives with 
boyfriend in Santa Monica (I think), recently move here from somewhere (Detroit? 

The actress and her boyfriend are both into home audio-recording & editing, and have 
a digital audio workstation set-up in their bedroom. Wendy told Lisa she didn't think 
it was cool to keep her actress up all night, especially when the girl had to work 10 
hours the next day. They put off a scheduled shoot cuz the actress was still burned 
out from the previous shoot.

Wendy said Lisa's film should rock, cuz it has meaning .. cuz it's personal & self-reflexive, 
but that the story changes with her feelings for her old boyfriend (the basis for The Love 
). It's rather complicated, and I probably ought not say more, but the good 
thing is that the girls have already shot almost half the allotted 1200 feet of film (5 1/2 
out of 12 rolls). 

Consequently, they're way ahead of most other students. Lisa even even borrowed a roll 
from some another student who didn't shoot the first weekend.


Luke asked Wendy if he could shoot a kitchen scene at our house. Wendy likes Luke, 
and would like to help him anyway she can, but we have the world's smallest kitchen, 
and it would be a long drive for them down to
Laguna from LA. Of all Wendy's class-
mates, I connect with
Keith (Luke's partner) the best. For some reason, he reminds 
me of the

But I doubt our tiny kitchen will work for them. Luke is doing a story about an parental 
grief from the loss of a child - a typical Wendy-esque theme. 

Wendy will meet later today with
Zarena (The Great Zarena!), who will see Liliana 
projected on the big screen. This will be Zarena's first time viewing Liliana. Zarena 
was in
Yosemite with her mom (from Madrid, Spain) when Liliana screened last week. 

Zarena got the lead in another film (not student), that will be shot in Mexico for 3 
weeks, for which she'll soon be leaving. We expect great things from her.

Lejla is also in a powerful new play: Atrocities. We posted a scan of the flyer & 

Fade to black.

Next ->
Preparing for the Pitch
Previous ->
Work-print screening

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