Making an Unconventional Film
The 546 semester at USC Film school

#5 in a series of 13

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

Fade up & zoom in.

Wendy took the negative of Liliana to the negative cutter in Hollywood. First, she 
had to check it out from school, cuz
USC owns the negative. The negative must be 
cut before the high-quality answer print can be made. 

Each student is responsible for getting their own negative cut & answer print made. 
The high-quality answer prints will screen at the Norris theater [Frank Sinatra theater]
March 31st, for the big, official screening of
508 films. 

Before taking the negative to the cutter, the low-quality work print must first be 
marked, at each cut, indicating whether each cut was intentional or unintentional
intentional cuts are those simply spliced back together, cuz a particular cut 
didn't work. Wendy marked her work print last week.

Some students are of the opinion that, you're nobody 'til you've cut your own negative. 
Negative-cutting costs $35/hr, & takes ~6 hours to cut a 5-minute film. When asked 
about a student discount, the cutter replied, "That is the student rate." =)

It takes ~6 weeks, from the time the negative is dropped off at the cutter's, 'til the 
time the answer print is done.

Wendy plans to submit a copy from Liliana's answer print to the 546 review board 
next month. She plans to pitch for one of the four available directing positions. 
Deadlines for 546-Director "reels" is March 23, which is 6 + 1/2 weeks from Monday, 
when she dropped it off. 

So if 6 weeks is truly a valid time-frame, she'd have a high-quality cut of Liliana to 
show the 546 review board, which comprises Mary Jensen, the head of 546, & the 
546 faculty (Editing prof, Cinematography prof, Sound prof, Directing prof, etc.). 
One student rep also sits the board.

Deadline for 546 scripts is March 19. Each student is allowed to submit 2 scripts. 
Wendy wants to submit at least one.


The grapevine has it that the 546 director selection process is political. In other 
words, political factors can weigh more heavily than merit. For example, most students
agree that
Tania & her film (508) was better than most screened, and that she 
would've made a better 546 film than most of those selected. 

One of the girls selected to direct a 546 (no names) said she wasn't even expecting  
to be selected. She was caught totally by surprise. Wendy would love to be a fly on 
the wall & see how the 546 directors are selected.

Wendy thinks that she has a good chance at getting selected to direct a 546, but 
she's not counting on it.


Wendy has been talking to upperclassmen. Word is that 508 TA-ships are the ultimate 
Film school gig. The school gives units (6 units, @ $800/unit), plus a salary. Wendy 
has been impressed by her TA's thus far. Tania received a 508 TA-ship this semester.

Wendy worked her first day at USC today, in the Sound dept. Students must first work 
a semester before being considered for a TA-ship.

Wendy's 546 TA, a girl named Robyn, edited a 546 last semester. When the Sound  
people couldn't finish the job, Robyn stepped up to edit not only the picture, but also 
edited the audio, doing the job of two people

Wendy (& others) were impressed. Robyn is the head TA, of all of 546. Wendy pointed 
her out to me in passing at the 546
screening a few weeks ago. Black girl. Walks like 
she knows where she wants to go. =)


Headshots of the actor & actress selected for Wendy's upcoming adaptation of a 
scene from WH Hudson's Green Mansions are posted
here. This is Wendy's first attempt 
at adapting a scene from a novel to a screenplay.

Wendy received a list of 101 films, recommended by her Editing prof, posted here
I've never heard of most of them.

Wendy is surprised that her classmates are familiar with so many of the obscure films 
on the list. She's a Critical Studies major, and there are still many films she's never 
seen. Most of her classmates are non-Film majors.


Pema (the director) is trying to do something different & challenging with his film, 
Echo, which is making some members of his crew nervous. Instead of a storyline 
that involves your typical, point A -> point b -> conclusion, he's trying to be more 

He's trying to find ways to cinematographically represent varying psychological states 
of a character. Not many understands what he's trying to do, but Wendy knows exactly 
where's he's trying to go with it. She thinks Geof does, too.

btw - Geof previously worked w/ Martin Scorsese, tho we don't yet know the details.

Anyway, Pema likes talking to Wendy, cuz she understands what he's trying to do. 
Being from a dramatically different culture (Tibet), Pema has a different view of the 
world. He's trying to apply that different view of the world to his film.

But both Pema & Wendy would rather have pins stuck in their eyes than make a 
cookie-cutter film. They want to push the limits and explore different techniques,
even if it involves the risk of a film that's not clear. Pema says, "Life isn't always 
clear. We don't always know exactly what's going on, even when we think we do."

Some crew members are uncomfortable with Pema's approach. They feel the film 
might fail if done too unconventionally. They prefer something straightforward 
and transparent.

Wendy says the lead actor is going to make this film rock. He has the talent to pull 
it off.


Wendy edited her first scene last week, before any of the other editors (from other 
films) started editing theirs. Pema wanted to see how a certain scene was going to 
look. Geof had plans with out-of-towners, so Wendy handled it. Geof said, "I owe you 

Pema & Dennis (Producer) showed up right as she finished the last cut. It took her ~3 
hours. They liked it.

Wendy said Dennis is kicking butt. He runs the film's web site (here) in addition to his 
normal Producer duties. Dennis wants to direct a 546, too. Some of Wendy's classmates
find Dennis arrogant, and think he'll have a hard time finding crew. But Wendy doesn't
think so. She says, "It's nice working with someone who has their shit together."

After viewing the scene, Wendy spent a couple hours talking to Pema. She had ideas 
for a special type of cut she learned in her Editing class, which is an editing technique 
that's used to distort reality .. which is what they plan to do in the flashback scenes. 

But in order for the scene to be edited properly, it has to be shot a certain way. 
Wendy wanted to use the editing technique for a certain scene she had in mind. 
Pema said, "I was just trying to figure out how I was going to handle that scene." 

So Pema might shoot the scene the way Wendy described, so she'll be able to make 
the type of cuts she wants.

Pema is generous in his consideration of creative input from members of his crew. 
He actively solicits ideas & feedback. Wendy suggested that it's time he changed 
from receiving input, to communicating HIS OWN vision of the film, to the crew, so 
they know exactly what he has in mind .. his vision for the film, so everybody is on 
the same page. Too many cooks can spoil the stew.


The Sound people apologized for poor sound logs, which made it difficult to find the 
correct audio tracks to sync to the picture. It was made a big deal of in class. Geof 
stay up all night long, trying to locate the correct audio tracks. No other editors were 
up all night. Most were in & out in a few hours.

It's hard to get Sound people, cuz so few people are willing to do Sound. So it's difficult 
to get on their case. 

When Wendy got home, there were phone messages & emails apologizing for the logs 
from both Sound people, vowing it wouldn't happen again. The sound logs have since 
been excellent, making it easy to find the correct sound tracks. Wendy was impressed
by their professionalism in taking responsibility.

I overheard Wendy telling Myrt (big Native American), "Alright, then I guess I won't 
have to kick your ass." =D


Wendy's been editing on the Avid at school, but she's not been very impressed. 
Compared to the editing she's done at home, on her PC, with Adobe
she doesn't see what all the fuss is about. A few of her editing compadres feel 
the same way.

Her Intermediate Directing prof, Jeremy Kagan has a movie that he directed, airing 
a week from this coming Sunday, on CBS, titled The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, starring 
Glenn Close & Meat Loaf.

Wendy was starting to get that glazed look in her eye, so I made a pot of grandma's 
chicken soup, a crock of industrial-strength
stew. She's got her groove back now.

She's studying Editing & Directing this semester, her two favorite subjects in the 
whole world. So she's one
happy camper. =)

Fade to black.

Next -> Editors' Cut
Previous -> First Primary Shoot

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