The 546 semester at USC Film school
#10 in a series of 13
Topics covered this update:
Fade up & zoom in.
Wendy was standing there
when they posted the list containing names of students
selected to 'pitch' for one of next semester's 546 directing positions. But her name
wasn't included on the list. She seems more surprised than disappointed, feeling
certain she'd at least make the first cut. Some of her classmates also expressed
surprise. The selection criteria and the selection process remains a mystery.
Roughly 60 students applied.
It appears unlikely that each prof watched all 60 tapes,
& read all 100 scripts, in a single week. (Each prof receives a box containing a tape
from each student, and a copy of each script submitted.) By mid-week, one box
remained on the table, unclaimed by its prof.
The first cut truncates the
number of applicants at 10, who then vie for 4 positions,
by 'pitching' their selected scripts to a panel comprising all five 546 profs (directing
prof, producing prof, editing, cinematography, sound).
Wendy's editing partner, Geof, wasn't selected either. They're consoling each other.
selected, again. Jennie, the
girl from Harvard, was also selected. A husband
& wife were both selected. They'll be competing against each other for one of the 4
available positions. James was the only one selected from Wendy's 508 class, with
Some students have analyzed the chosen 10, citing similarities that they all seem
to be clean-cut, preppy types. None of the students selected were those who take
a gritty approach to filmmaking. Naturally, many students are disappointed.
Those selected represent a
variety of filmmaking backgrounds. There's at least one
editor, one cinematographer, two producers, a sound person, and several upperclass-
men, who Wendy knows nothing about.
Wendy wasn't selected to direct,
but one of her (two) scripts
was chosen, which
surprised her even more than not seeing her name on the list of potential 546 directors.
When submitting a script for 546, there's a box labeled: If not selected to direct, my
script may be used by another student. Wendy checked that box. Several students
have expressed interest in her script, titled Changing.
She wrote the scripts last year. The decision to submit it them came at the last very
minute, with little opportunity for polish. Perhaps it's best that way, as it seems that
those who put much effort into their scripts were not selected.
One classmate had two scripts selected. He claims to have put little effort into either
one. Others students who worked long & hard on their scripts (all semester long)
received no such joy. This left some students scratching their heads.
Only one student can
pitch a particular script. If more than one student wants to pitch
a particular script, the writer chooses which director gets to pitch the script. The writer
has the ultimate control over their script.
One student changed his mind, and doesn't want
anyone to pitch his script. Word on
the street is that it's "frowned upon" to retract a script previously designated as available
for other directors to use. The proper way to keep anyone from using your script is to
simply say, "It's already taken," when prospective directors ask about it.
Wendy signed up for a
Screenwriting class for next semester -> Writing the Feature
Script (4 units). It's a 2-semester class where students write a feature-length script
(in two semesters).
script is supposedly a prerequisite to success in the industry. Many
scholarship app's require submission of a script. Since the 546 faculty picked her script,
Wendy has renewed confidence in her writing skills. She considers Writing one of her
weaker areas, but enjoys it and works hard at it.
She used to
rise early every morning to write for two hours. But the habit faded with
the demands of the 508 semester, and she never restarted it. It takes much self-
discipline to write regularly. Wendy uses FinalDraft as her Screenwriting program.
Many of her classmates claim they'd rather do anything than engage the psychological
battle of the creative process. One girl said, "I've defrosted my freezer three times this
month already." Wendy says that taking a Screenwriting class is the only way to
guarantee time spent writing.
She's #13 on the wait-list
for Advanced Editing (2 units), her first advanced
at the graduate level. She feels confident she'll get this class. She's also #28 on the
wait-list for Advanced Directing, but doesn't think it's likely she'll get this class.
She's also going to try to
get a class titled: Practicum: Directing Actors for Film.
Supposedly, this class is legendary, with a prof named Nina Foch.
She may also consider editing an advanced/thesis project (58x) for someone, which
earns no units, merely a credit in the film, and a trip to FirstLook. But it's considered
prestigious to be asked to work on an Advanced/thesis project.
Advanced/thesis projects are the most highly-esteemed projects at USC. Many
students shoot their thesis projects on 35mm. Advanced projects are designed
and structured to mimic how the industry operates.
Wendy's 508 class screened
their films Saturday night, at Norris theater,
with its cushy,
red, velvet seats. For these 13 aspiring filmmakers, it was the single largest group of
people to view their films, and the biggest night of their filmmaking careers. Their films
were projected onto the biggest screen yet, in the biggest theater yet.
For Wendy, it represented the culmination
of much effort. The answer prints
gorgeous, especially compared to the badly scratchy work prints. 13 films screened.
Wendy's film screened 5th.
The entire cast of Liliana was there - Zarena, Louie, Lejla, little Judy. All the girls looked
beautiful. Louie was there with his wife, who we met for the first time. Hector the horse
wrangler was there. (No other film featured a horse.)
Trybek, the composer, was
there as well. Someone came up to Wendy afterwards,
and told her that they felt her movie had the best score (music). Wendy appreciates
a good soundtrack. A few other students, who had family there, told Wendy that their
parents considered Liliana one of their favorites.
Mom & Sidney were
there, of course. Mom cried when Wendy went to the front of the
stage to introduce & thank those involved in her film.
Brad & Sharon were also there. They drove Mom & Sid to the screening in their shiny,
new mini-van, along with Dave Reeder, who helped the day Wendy had to transport
the doorway dolly, which garnered some of the film's coolest footage.
Wendy's childhood friend, Susan
was there with her whole family, including Michael,
Klaus & little Analaura, who originally wanted the role of little Zarena, but didn't have
the necessary paperwork. Wendy & Susan have been friends since they were 2-yrs old.
Maria & Marenko arrived late
after Liliana screened.
Maria came thru for Wendy
in many key situations, providing many of the props used in Liliana, such as the trunk,
the key, & and the saddle-stool.
Jahmar drove us there & back,
racking up practice miles before he
takes his driving
test in a few weeks. He drove us around the streets of LA afterwards, to Melrose,
where we stopped for a bite to eat after the screening. Wendy & I enjoyed not having
More photos from the screening are posted here.
Picture lock for Echo
is due Friday morning. Until then, sleep deprivation will be the
norm. After Friday, the work load should lighten. The final 'conform' begins tonight.
Conforming refers to the process of applying edit decisions made (digitally) with the
Avid, to cut the 16mm film. The final conform is tedious, cuz the current work print
is double-spliced, and they first have to un-double-splice the film. The process
involves no creative elements whatsoever.
One of the people doing sound for
Echo has physically threatened Pema,
loving Tibetan director, telling Pema, "I could strangle you." Rumor has it that he's
using the hard drive assigned for Echo to work on his own project, which is a no-no.
His motif is that the whole world is screwed up and he's the only one who has his act
Wendy posted a copy of the 3-person scene she adapted from Paolo Cuehlo's novel,
The Alchemist here. It was shot at Joshua Tree National park, for her Intermediate
Directing class. The encoding process that compresses the footage so it can be
streamed across the Internet tends to turn shadowy scenes overly dark.
We've tried experimenting with different settings, and different encoding applications,
but nothing seems to help. The original footage - that she shows in class - has no
such problems with dark areas. You'll still get a good idea of the project, tho.
The video is too fat to stream (real-time) thru skinny dial-up pipes. If you have a
dial-up connection, you'll need to download the footage first. If you have a broadband
connection (Cable or DSL) it will stream nicely.
Fade to black.
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