for 546 Director's Position
The 546 semester at USC Film school
#9 in a series of 13
Topics covered this update:
Fade up & zoom in.
Today is the deadline for submitting
'reels' for applications for next semester's 546
directing positions. Wendy stayed up 'til 4AM last night, putting finishing touches
on the materials she plans to submit. Students must submit 6 (identical) VHS tapes,
each containing no more than 10 minutes of footage, showcasing their talents as
She included her entire 508 (Liliana),
from the high-quality Answer print, and a portion
of the scene from rimadreams, the scene she adopted from the novel, Green Mansions.
She captured a single frame
of footage from Liliana,
and used it as a label for the reels.
The frame/picture is here (48kb). She chose this particular image cuz it shows both
motion & light, and she says, "Film is about motion & light."
She hopes this little extra
touch - a custom label - might give her an advantage.
The faculty will be deluged with tapes from ~60 students, which she compares to
getting a stack of headshots from actors & actresses. She says, "The ones that do
something special to stand out - even the smallest thing - I put in a separate pile."
Hopefully, the label will help hers stick out from the rest & put her on the short list
She used a glossy label,
which yields photo-quality results. We use the labels primarily
for CDROMs that we burn, but they also have an option for rectangular-shaped discs,
which work perfectly for labeling VHS tapes.
The initial group of ~60 will
be pared down to 10, which vie for the 4 final positions.
Four out of 60, that's less than a one-in-ten chance. Other students think she has
a good chance at getting selected. But rumor has it that selects aren't based solely
on merit. Both politics & personality seem to play a role in the decision-making process.
The selection committee
consists of 5 faculty members & 1 student. Brad got elected
to the student rep position. Fortunately, he likes Wendy's work. Maybe he'll have some
influence with the faculty.
also submitted two scripts for consideration for 546 films. Each student is allowed
to submit a maximum of two scripts.
The director &
cinematographers of one of the 546 film's (I'm not allowed to say
were caught using more than the allotted amount of film (4400 feet). Sounds like a
serious violation. The consequences not yet determined, but it will probably affect
everyone working on the project, even those unaware of the plot. It seems the
director tried to minimize the number of crew members who knew about it.
Seems that shooting was not going very well, and they ran out of film, yet still
needed more shots to make the film work.
Wendy said, "They'd
shoot 6 or 7 takes of the same scene, trying to get a good
performance out of their actors."
Before the pick-up
weekend, everyone was wondering and concerned how they
were gonna make the film work, cuz it was apparent that many shots were needed,
but little film remained. The following week they (surprisingly) showed up in class
with gobs of footage to show at the daily screening. At the end of class, the Editing
prof asked to see the director & DPs. Some students joked, "Ut oh, you're in trouble,"
only to discover, they indeed were.
Not all Film school students everyone wants to direct.
For most, directing is the ultimate.
But after being there for a while, some students discover that they hate working with
actors & actresses.
Wendy said actors & actresses can be like big kids. (It takes a certain type of person
to act.) Wendy likes kids, and knows how to work with them, and around them. Working
with actors & actresses is still the thing that jazzes her the most, even more than editing.
Her favorite time is right before shooting the scene, when she sits down with her actor,
and discusses the psychology of a character with them - what motivates the character,
what the character is feeling, what the character wants, fears, etc.
I can vouch that it was
difficult for her to get all 3 actors together for rehearsals for
her last project. Endless phone tag. Always seemed like one of the 3 couldn't make a
She came home crying last
week. Kagan, her Intermediate
Directing prof, ripped the
scene she prepared for class (actors perform the scene in class). Personally, I think
she was simply tired & over-worked (last week before Spring break). She'd neglected
the scene while focusing instead on editing the 546, for its initial debut (which went
surprisingly well). She knew she was going into the class half-cocked, so I don't
understand why she was so upset when it got ripped.
Anyway, she came home balling. The first thing she said was, "Do we have stuff to
make margaritas?" =)
I made her two stiffies, which she sucked down like cool-aide. The story The Alchemist
is about the inner fight one has with yourself, when pusuing your dreams. So it's a little
self-reflexive for her, like she was living the story. She was even surprised at herself
that she was taking it so hard.
One lesson she learned about
adapting a scene from a novel is that the language needs
to be modified to contemporary jargon. People don't speak the way they write, nor do
they write the way they speak. She was simply copying the written text into her
screenplay, a no-no, she learned. (That's why they call it adapting.)
Next semester's classes look
to be shaping up like so:
* Preparation for Advanced Project (thesis prereq)
* Advanced Editing (her first advanced graduate-level class)
* Practicum: Directing Actors for Film (legendary class)
* Intermediate Sound (could help land a TA-ship in Sound dept, which are the best)
* Writing the Feature Script (2-semester class, 4 units first semester, 2 the second)
She'll probably get 3 of 4 of the above 5 classes. Writing the Feature Script is probably
the most certain of the five classes.
Spring break last
week. She caught up on her rest. We reminisced how she spent last
Spring break, editing Vandancing, a tribute to her brother. Seems so long ago.
She also went to Joshua Tree
to shoot the 3-person scene for her Intermediate
Directing class with Jeremy Kagan, a scene adapted from the novel The Alchemist.
Kagan will be gone the rest of the semester. Lisa Gottlieb is taking over. Wendy had
Lisa as an undergrad.
Lisa wrote a letter to accompany her application to grad school. Wendy is excited
about seeing her, and joining her class. Lisa was one of her favorite undergrad profs,
and students in her class have been saying how much they like it.
I saw the footage from the
shoot at Joshua Tree. Some of it was spectacular. Sidney
let Wendy use some middle-eastern clothing he'd picked up while vacationing abroad.
Combined with the surreal look of Joshua Tree (National Park), the foreign clothing may
help her pull off a challenging scene.
I told her that she was wasting her time driving all the way to Joshua Tree
for the shoot,
but the footage looks great, especially the colors. Some shots have deep blue (high-
desert) skies, tan rocks, with Zarena wearing a white shirt, draped with an orange shawl,
with black hair & green eyes.
The orange shawl has many
dime-sized, reflected discs
woven into the fabric, which
give Zarena (who played the part of the seeker's heart) a magical quality. Can't wait
to see what she does with the editing. She'll post it on her site when it's done.
Speaking of editing, I just upgraded her PC to Premiere version
6. We've been having
good luck with it so far, but have only done basic editing functions so far. Premiere 6
has an option for single-track editing, similar to how the Avid works.
Everyone is invited
to the answer-print screening of Liliana, Saturday, 31st, 8PM.
Bring as many friends as you like. Norris is a big theater with a large screen.
Some of her classmates are
making posters, and putting them up all over campus,
to publicize the screening.
is down from UC Santa Cruz this week. Spring break. Arrived last night.
Monday. Everybody's Spring break falls on different weeks - Lani's, Wendy's, Jahmar's.
Special shout-out to
who called today to say he just quit his job (Safety
Engr, construction co.) after growing weary of corporate life. Wendy has always said
that the Dog reminds her of her brother, Van. (She was at the Dog's place in Hollywood
when she got the news about Van.)
This is not the first time the Dog has packed his bags & walked away from everything.
I busted his chops, saying, "Did you give 'em two weeks, Dog? .. or just walk off without
telling anybody like you usually do?
The Dog plans to spend the
summer (at least) in Ireland. He's an Irish boy, but never
been to The Land of Leprechauns. He may spend a few weeks with us here, before
heading back East. Back when the Dog & I were living together in Waikiki (early 80's),
he used to say that his dream was to open a pub in Ireland, and make everyday St.
He also started his new book, titled: I Quit My Job & Moved to the Land of Leprechauns.
Good luck, Dog. Say hi to the leprechauns for us.
Fade to black.
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