The 546 semester at USC Film school
#11 in a series of 13
Topics covered this update:
Fade up & zoom in.
Mary Janson, the head of 546,
who also teaches Production, pulled Wendy aside after
class & said, "I just want to tell you. You were *this* ][ close. I loved your reel. Every-
body did. It's so hard to choose."
Wendy's was disappointed that she
wasn't chosen. It's been bothering her more than
I expected it to. One of the students who saw all the 508's told her, "There must be
students out there [who were selected] who know their 508 [film] wasn't one of the
Students agree with the
majority of faculty choices, but a few of the students selected
are considered merely 'mediocre' filmmakers. Students are puzzled about how their names
got on the list.
The quality of a student's 508
film is (supposedly) one of the primary factors considered
in who gets selected to direct a 546. If two or more students are judged equally, other
intangibles such as collaboration & ability to 'crew up' are factored in, as the deciding
This info comes from the student representative who sat on the selection panel. He said,
"It's very democratic." All the profs come in with their favorites in mind. There's a preliminary
vote, then much debating. Wendy would love to be a fly on the wall during the debates.
I expected to see her name on
the preliminary list, if for no other reason, cuz she's the
only one in her class with an undergrad degree from USC Film school (Critical Studies),
and I expected the faculty to be inclined to favor one of their own.
A 546 directorship is
not the ultimate filmmaking nirvana at USC.
prefer the freedom afforded by advanced thesis projects - 58x series films (mentioned
at the end of this update). Some students view 546 as hand-holding project.
Nevertheless, Wendy considers
it somewhat of an insult not to be named on the
preliminary list of 10.
Many students were very discouraged that
they weren't selected, especially ones that
had great 508s. They feel that their 508s were better than the films of those selected.
Some are so discouraged that they're talking about quitting.
Wendy suspects one student stabbed her in the back, regarding selections for
Speaking of backstabbing, we heard that cross-town rival AFI is the most ruthless Film
school. Stories of deceit and trickery abound, like the one about someone calling all the
actors the night before a critical shoot, and telling them the shoot was cancelled.
Wendy entered Liliana
in 28th-annual Student Academy Awards comp. Regional finalists
to be notified May 21st. Awards ceremony = June 10th. 9 winners (3x gold, silver, bronze),
200 films entered. Wish upon a star. Copy of letter posted here.
After not coming home for a
few days, Wendy dragged in with sexy dark circles under
her eyes, looking junkie-skinny. After a hot bath, slept for 18 hrs. I held a mirror to her
nose, checking for signs of life.
Pema's film changed
constantly in the final week before picture lock. The Tibetan
director tried to apply every bit of advise he got, from many sources. Not that those
offering advise didn't have valuable suggestions, but too many cooks can spoil the stew.
Wendy told him numerous
times, "Pema, you don't have to use everything you hear."
End of the film was fine .. the beginning is what gave them so much trouble.
offered some of the most insightful advice. She was also at Geof's 508
Afterwards, Brad & Eric, who are editing Denise McCarthy's film, asked Helaine to come
over to the Avid editing room, and take a look at their cut. Helaine also looked at Echo,
the film Wendy & Geof are editing.
Echo had a dozen different
versions of this-is-the-no-shit-final-cut-so-help-me-God.
Many times, Wendy & Jeff thought they were done editing, for good. One time, when
they thought they were done for good, Dennis walked up and said, "Hey guys, good news,
we got an extension." They went for a long time with no sleep.
I was concerned, saying, "You can't do this for much more."
Wendy went to the athletic
club in Irvine with Maria
and dropped a 45-lb weight on
her foot. So in addition to feeling like she's been thru the war, and being whacked-out
from the final editing crunch, she's hobbling.
I fed her industrial-strength chicken soup for a few days.
Wendy went to her first-ever First
Look w/ Pema, Friday night, after picture lock
(the real one). First look is held at both USC & the Director's Guild (Hollywood,
Sunset blvd). First Look was started Marcia Lucas, wife of George Lucas (Star
Wars), probably the most famous of all USC grads.
First Look was
designed as a way to connect students with the industry, and is
funded by a trust established by Marcia. I posted a copy of Marcia's short letter
to students, contained in the program guide Wendy brought home. See here.
I also posted a sample page for one of the films at First Look. See here.
Pema drove to the First Look
festival. On the way over, thru LA traffic, Wendy
learned that Pema is a practicing Buddhist, who meditates. His view of life boils
down to hard work. He says, "If you're not working hard, then what are you doing
with your life?"
He told Wendy that the reason he selected her & Geof as his editors was cuz her
heard that they both work hard.
I posted the updates
from last semester's ordeal. One thing has become clear:
508 is the mother-of-all semesters. A surprising number of students are taking
a reduced-load of classes this semester, licking their wounds, trying to recuperate.
They freely acknowledge that 508 kicked their butts.
For example, Keith
is taking only 2-units this semester (Cinematography). He told me,
"I didn't want to have anything to do with Production this semester." He plans to crew
on a 546 next semester.
We learned that making an advanced thesis film (58x series) is not a sure thing.
Rather students must pitch their script idea to a mentor. This is more how the
real world operates. People don't make films just cuz the want to. They have to
get someone to buy into their project. There are about 5 such mentors each semester,
who mentor a few films each.
The First Look program guide contained info about various advanced 58x projects:
Fade to black.
Answer Print Screening
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