Wrapping up the Semester
The 508 semester at USC Film school

#15 in a series of 16

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

Fade up & zoom in.

As expected, the final few days before picture lock were some of the most stressful 
of the entire semester. The
girls spent many hours, working closely in the edit room. 
Both were exhausted, smelly, humorless, at the end of their ropes. 

Wendy was grieving the loss of her
brother on the 2nd anniversary of his passing. 
When the film was finally done (picture locked, film double-spliced) Sunday night, 
Wendy called mom. She'd actually planned to be done editing a day earlier, Saturday,
so she could spend Sunday with mom (on the anniversary of Van's death).


Mom, Sidney & I were worried Sunday night, cuz we expected hear from Wendy by 4PM. 
That's when she expected to be done. By 8, we still hadn't heard a word. Starting at 
5PM, we left enough messages on her cel phone to fill the box. It wouldn't accept any 
more, and it started getting dark out. That's when we really started to worry.

We remembered how she sometimes isn't able to park at the Shrine, when there's an 
event scheduled there for the weekend, & and has to park on the back streets, and 
USC is not in the greatest part of town. 

Mom was the last person to talk to Wendy, at 11AM - some 9 hours earlier. Wendy 
was driving to school (talking on her cel), and said "Aww, shoot! I just got off the wrong 
exit. Well, I *think* I know how to get to school from here. I better go now, mom.

That was the last thing anyone heard from her.

At 8PM, Mom went into her bedroom & wouldn't come out. She said she thought Wendy 
was goner (on the anniversary of Van's death). I didn't have any bad intuitions, but my 
mind tried its best to run wild, with a million different scenarios. None of which were very 
appealing. Mom, Sidney & I called each other every 30 mins. "You heard anything? No? 
Me neither. Wonder where the heck she is." 

Sidney said, "Maybe I should drive up there & look for her. Nancy is really upset."

Wendy is usually good about checking in. Thankfully, Mom didn't tell me about Wendy 
getting off the wrong exit. That would've really made me worry. 

As it turns out, Wendy was simply focused on finishing the film. No harm had come to her. 
There was a 12-inch piece of film she couldn't find. The very last piece/cut before picture 
lock. She spent hours looking for it. Became
obsessive about finding it.

It was at the end of a reel - right where it was supposed to be. It was the first place 
she looked, but missed it cuz it's the part that wraps around the
spool, and didn't show 
up on the screen. The stress of the situation was just enough that she didn't figure it out.


Wendy worked extra hard, editing Lisa's film, for 2 weeks prior to the deadline. She was in 
the edit
room, editing when no one else was there, cuz she & Lisa were the only two who 
didn't have to shoot the final/pick-up weekend. 

Wendy was editing while Lisa took a week off and flew to Florida, on vacation. She was 
within striking distance of being done, when Lisa gave her new music, at the 11th hour, 
and asked her edit to the music .. something Wendy calls, "making a music video ..on a 

She says, nobody even thinks about editing a music video on a flatbed, cuz it's so tedious. 
A PC (
digital) should be used to edit music videos. Wendy had edited Lisa's film (The Love 
) to within 30 secs of being done when Lisa dumped the new music on her. 

There was also one track the Sound guy forgot to put on the CD, which meant they had 
to come back the next day (Sunday, anniversary of Van's death). That was one of the 
flashpoints, cuz Wendy had planned on spending Sunday with mom.

Wendy felt tested. She contends that, if Lisa wanted her to edit (the film) to the music
she shoulda gave her the music (at least) a week earlier - not wait until the last minute, 
when she was almost done. 

Wendy says Lisa rocks as an editor, but changes her mind too much as a producer/director, 
which makes working with/for her a challenge. 


Both Wendy & Lisa were crying at times, during the editing home stretch. Wendy looked 
wupped when she got home, like a refugee, dragged thru the mill. I'd never seen her look 
so beat up.

When she walked thru the door, after being gone for a few days, I said, "Dang, you look 
." [I've since learned that's not such a good thing to say =) ] 

She considers it one of her more unpleasant life experiences. I think the exact words 
were "Pure hell." Realize that Wendy was dealing with the grief from losing her brother, 
which seems to surface around the anniversary of his death. 

Some of Wendy friends speculate that there might be emotional dynamics at work, 
underneath the relationship. Note that Lisa isn't much older than
Lani (5 yrs?), and 
Wendy isn't much younger than Lisa's mom. So some speculate that there could 
be some mother/daughter dynamics at work, intensifying the already intense situation. 

Wendy said Lisa would have her make editing changes, only to return to Wendy's 
exact same cuts (waste of time). And don't forget that Lisa's editing partner, Geof, 
seems to have abandoned her, and took an editing position with
Pema to edit a 546 
with Wendy next semester. Wendy had nothing to do with this. It was between Geof, 
Lisa & Pema, but could only add the fuel of resentment to the fire.


Wendy's entire class was editing until 4AM the final weekend. USC kept the edit bays 
open round-the-clock the last days, before picture-lock deadline. A few groups of 
students edited round-the-clock, to within minutes of the deadline (9AM, Monday). 

Several groups had large shoots - up to 400 feet of film. That's a lot to shoot for 
a pick-up weekend .. which is why some had to work all night long, two nights in a row. 

So Wendy & Lisa finished 9PM Sunday night. Note that, by contrast, Wendy's film was 
done Friday at 4PM.

The prof (Helaine) was right there with the students, staying until 2AM, helping them 
make last-minute editing decisions. No other profs were there with students. Helaine's 
car (Jag) broke down, so she rented a car, so she could be with her students. Talk 
about commitment! Maybe you can see why her students love her so much. 

Helaine is involved with, and excited about, everyone's film project, encouraging her 
students. Wendy feels most fortunate to have Helaine as a prof.

Helaine will not be teaching another 508 class next semester. USC offered her a position 
teaching a 546 Directing class. But Helaine opted, instead, to commit to direct an 
independent feature. I think it has something to do with gospel singers/choir for a 
national religious organization (Baptist? Methodist?). 

The feature does not have all green lights yet, but she had to commit before they could 
apply for funding. It looks like they have a good chance at getting bank-rolled, and it 
would be a cool gig for Helaine.


Strange coincidence: Wendy worked, editing, 'til 4AM Sunday morning, the anniversary 
of Van's death. As students were preparing to leave,
Keith (Luke's partner) offered Wendy 
his couch, so she wouldn't have to drive all the way back to Laguna (they had to return 
Sunday morning, to finish editing). 

She took him up on the offer. While getting directions to Keith's place, she noticed they 
looked oddly familiar. As an undergrad, Wendy stayed one night a week at the
Dog's place, 
in Hollywood, not far from the famous landmark sign (class got out @11PM, had to be back 
at 8AM).

She was at the Dog's place when she got the news about Van. 

Come to find out, Keith lives right near where the Dog used to live (Dog has since moved 
to San Jose). 

She called early Sunday morning, from Hollywood, sipping a triple-shot latte at the same 
place she used to frequent (The Bourgeoisie Pig, on Franklin St.) while staying at Dog's. 
This is the very same place she sat and had a latte the morning after getting the news 
about Van. Kinda trippy. What's the odds of that happening?

When she originally told me the story, I thought I heard her say that Keith lived in the same 
house that the Dog used to live in. That's not the case, but it made my skin crawl. He simply
lives in the same neighborhood.

While driving home from 508 screening, I told Wendy that I connected best with Keith - of 
all her classmates. I even told her that he reminded me of the Dog. He was easy to connect 
with. And Wendy has always said that the Dog reminds her of Van. 

So she wound up in Hollywood, on the anniversary of Van's death, near the place where 
she first heard the news, after staying with a guy who reminds me of the Dog (who reminds 
her of Van), sipping the same triple-shot latte at the same cafe she was in two years ago, 
to the day. Would you call that a strange coincidence?


Students are having trouble completing all assigned work. One classmate told Wendy that 
the Screenwriting prof told him, "I don't want to have to fail you." .. cuz he hasn't been 
turning in all the assignments. He told Wendy, "I've never had any teacher ever say 
anything like that to me before." 

Her classmates are overachievers, used to kicking much academic butt, with one arm tied 
behind their back. Another classmate, who has an undergrad degree from Michigan said, 
"Graduate Film school at USC is 10 times harder than Computer Engineering was at Michigan." 

Wendy says making movies requires as much hard work as it does intellectual rigor.


Lisa got an Editing job with Dava (girl). Lisa has lots of editing experience. She's a Film 
school grad, too. Not many students at USC have undergrad degrees in Film. Some have
Accounting degrees, some Political Science, Computer Engineering, etc. Everything you 
can imagine. 

Wendy's happy for Lisa. There was a lot of competition. More students applied for Editing 
positions than any other position. But there were only 8 positions available. (4 films, 
2 Editors per film). So Lisa & Wendy are the only two female Editors, of the 8. They'll 
have a 546 Editing class together next semester. 

Lisa is cutting the sound for her film. Wendy said editing sound with Mag tape is incredibly 
tedious. You work for hours, and only make a few inches of progress. By contrast, editing 
sound on a
PC is a creative joy. The director does their own Sound for 508. Wendy did her

The girls had Foley (sound effects) yesterday (Sat), Two groups team up. Wendy & Lisa 
teamed with James & Allison. Like Wendy, James also did his film first. At one point, James 
said, "I'm sooo glad we did my film first." Wendy said Allison looked wupped. James said Lisa 
looks wupped too. 

Lisa thinks she might have mono, and says she should be in the hospital. Wendy walked 
into a class a couple days ago, and Lisa was laying on the floor, in the back of the room, 
moaning & groaning.

Screening for Lisa's film is Saturday, the 16th, 7PM, Lucas bldg, room 108. Same place as 
last screening. Everybody is invited! 


Wendy has her first day of work for 546 the same day as the screening. She'll be at USC 
all day, sitting in on auditions for Pema's film. Typically, the Editor doesn't need to be at 
auditions, but Wendy has a knack for casting, & Pema asked her to be there. So 546 is 
getting underway before 508 is complete. No rest for the weary.

She wants nothing more than to spend a few days at Two Bunch Palms (near Palm Springs), 
doing nothing but soaking in 104-degree natural hot springs.

She smoked her victory Cohiba (cigar) tonight. She saves that to celebrate finishing a major 
accomplishment, a habit she picked up from the Dog. She wanted to wait until she could enjoy 
it. It makes her think about Van when she smokes cigars, cuz Van smoked them.


She'll be driving up to Santa Cruz with mom & Sid, Tuesday morn, to see Lani (in a play) 
& spend time with her. She misses Lani. They're gonna stop over at
Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, 
one of her favorite places on the planet. Built in the 30's by Norwegian immigrant Helmuth 

Lisa's movie is not your typical student film. Wendy describes it as rootsy, urban, frenetic
lots of jump cuts. Jump cuts look like mistakes, made on purpose, for a desired effect. 
It's a very personal film for Lisa. Wendy encouraged her to do a personal piece, with 
personal meaning. Sort of a window to Lisa's psyche. I'm looking fwd to it. 

Wendy says, "it a cool-looking film". It's like nothing she's ever done before. She's proud of it. 
It's cruel that, after all that work, the film is over in 5 minutes. Hope to see you at the screening.

Fade to black.

Next -> Grades
Previous ->
Editor's Position Accepted

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