The 546 semester at USC Film school
#2 in a series of 13
Fade up & zoom in.
We attended the screening of
semester's 546-level films at USC, Saturday night.
Four films screened at the Norris theater, each 12-minutes long. A gala-dressed girl
standing outside the theater, seemingly guarding tables full of unopened wine bottles,
said, "You missed the first film. The second just began." As we hurried inside, she
added, "Standing room only."
She wasn't kidding. People were huddled around the doorways, out in the lobby,
propping open the doors to the auditorium, straining to get a peak inside. Wendy
pushed past the crowd at the door, and worked her way into the dark theater.
I followed, trying not to step on anybody. It was hard, cuz my eyes hadn't yet
adjusted to the dark. Bodies filled all the aisles, sitting on the red-carpet floor.
Norris theater is much bigger than the room where the 508s were screened. The screen
at Norris theater is also much bigger than where the 508s were shown. The on-screen
images looked great as we plopped down in the aisle, a few steps inside the door.
These were the high-quality answer prints, not the low-quality work prints that
we saw at the 508 screening. What a difference.
Wendy brought along a couple beers, keeping them chilled in a plastic bag containing
ice & two plastic cups. We popped open our beers and watched the movie. A few
people nearby heard the beer spritz open and said, "Hmm, good idea." Wasn't enough
After the first film finished, we got up & moved closer, and plopped down in the aisle
again, this time next to Alex (from Singapore).
At the very end of each film, after all the credits, were big letters that said, Edited
on an AVID, with an Avid logo. I heard that Avid donated the Media Composer units
that USC uses to edit these 546-level films.
After each film, the director, cast & crew all went to the front of the theater, where
the director took the podium, and introduced his cast & crew. Every director makes
their intro's with the same hierarchy: first Producers & Asst Director, then DPs, Editors,
Sound people, & other crew. Then the cast, beginning with lead/major parts, and finishing
with the minor ones. Lastly, thanking the faculty & Mary Jensen, who's the head of 546.
Each film was 12 mins long, 16mm color, with sync-sound dialogue. Each cast & crew
seemed like a big family. One director handed out long-stem red roses to all the female
members of his cast & crew, when introducing them. A lot of guys wore suits, and many
girls were dressed elegantly.
They saved the best film for last: Virus Man. This film was hyped all across campus.
It bordered on the bizarre. Word gets out, which film is considered the best.
Much schmoozing took place outside the theater after the screenings. I met Wendy's
editing partner, named Geof. He's a big, likeable guy who said, "I'll probably be spending
more time with Wendy this semester than you will." I also met Tania, who Wendy pitched
with. She seemed very intelligent. Luke, Lisa & a few other of Wendy's classmates were
Everybody mentioned being impressed. No one was disapointed. Both Wendy & I were
impressed. The 546s seemed to leap a giant step ahead of the 508s. While walking out
after the last film, Wendy said, "Those are real movies."
It won't be long until the film she's working on now will be screened in the very same
theater, where many now-famous directors have shown their first student films.
Viewing these films was like a glimpse into the future. The film that Wendy is working
on this semester will screen there sometime in August or September (next semester).
Wendy wants her film (titled Echo) to be saved for last, just like Virus Man.
Some day, Norris theater will again be packed, full of people crammed in the aisles,
overflowing out into the lobby, straining to see the film she edited. Every Film school
student dreams of one day filling theaters all across the nation, and around the world.
Filling a single theater on campus is the first step toward this dream. When Echo
screens next semester, that will be the largest number of people viewing one of her
films at any one time.
During the post-screening schmooze party, amidst many open bottles of red wine,
Wendy ran into a few students she hadn't seen in a while. They asked each other
what they were doing this semester. One girl, an upperclassman, asked Wendy if
she was "crewing on anything".
When she heard Wendy was crewing on a 546 Narrative as an Editor, she raised
her eyebrows and said, "Editing a 546 narrative? Oooh, congratulaaaaations,"
indicating she was impressed (their are also 546 Documentaries, which aren't
quite as prestigious).
It wasn't until recently that everybody wants to be an editor. For example, a couple
of semesters ago, everybody wanted to crew as a DP (Director of Photography).
The semester before that, everybody wanted to be a Producer. But ever since
546s have begun being edited on Avids, everybody wants to be an Editor.
One upperclassmen we talked to said that editing was the best way to prepare
for directing, cuz you see first-hand how different takes affect the mood & drive
of a scene. And when it comes time to direct, editors have a better concept of
how to get exactly what they want out of a take.
After the screening, we headed to Marina Del Rey to Lejla's b-day party. Lejla's has a
place right on the marina, & introduced Wendy to her friends as her favorite director.
Great group of people there. Lots of interesting people.
Zarena showed up
afterwards. I couldn't even tell she was hit in the head with a beer
bottle, New Years eve. A thin line along her left eye was barely visible. The doctor said,
another half-inch, and she might've lost the eye. It was good to see the old gang.
Lejla has a hardwood dance floor installed. Lots of people were dancing the salsa.
Pema (the director) & crew had their first major shoot today. So editing will be begin
as soon as the first rolls come back from the developer. The film has its own website
here, maintained by Dennis, who is one of the Producers. Some pics from the shoot
are posted here. The lead actor, Jon, is here.
Fade to black.
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