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

Film Three

Wendy met with her 507 professor & discussed plans for her next movie. She's going to do another massage piece. She has lots of massage experience, & many interesting stories from her massage clients. She did a nice, b&w super-8 piece (titled BodyMind) as an undergrad - her best undergrad effort. Film 3 will have different focus & intent from BodyMind - not a remake.

Neither Kellie nor Jill, who rocked in the original, are available this weekend (film 3 has to be shot this weekend). So Wendy had to go to the streets for talent. Until now, she's only used local actors and actresses in her films - people she (already) knew. So moving out of her local Laguna community felt like a big step. She picked up a portfolio of head-shots, containing photos of folks who want to be in a USC student film.

She only needs two people for this film: 1 massage giver & 1 massage getter. The massage getter sounds like the choice role, if you ask me. =)

She looked around to see how other students were setting up their auditions - sat in on a few, then broke out the cel phone and started making calls to actresses who she thought would do a good job. Says it's been nothing but serendipity since.

For example, she called a girl (Lynne) on the phone, left a message - then, walking on the street a few hours later, she saw the girl walking the other way. She never actually met this girl, but only knew her from her headshot. Wendy says to the girl, 'Is your name Lynn?' The girl was surprised, "Oh my God, yes. How did you know my name?"

Another girl, Austyn, is an actress/masseuse, and even went to the same massage school as Wendy (in San Diego). Even though she's never met this girl, she feels like she's know her all her life.

Wendy met another girl, from Russia, Natasha, who speaks with a distinct Russian accent. Natasha is also a grad student at USC, but in the Peter Stark Producing prgm (business oriented). I was expecting Natasha to look like the Russian girl who was our guide for last summer's white-water rafting trip down the Tuolomne river - hairy armpits & arms the size of my legs. But she looks like the actress Juliette Binoche, from the movie Blue (from headshots of her that Wendy had). If she can act half as good as she looks, she'll rock. z

But Natasha is busy. I'm sure that Peter Stark Producing (graduate) program keeps her hopping. The Peter Stark Producing program focuses on the discipline of becoming a Film Producer, which involves the business aspects of Film production. Whereas Wendy's program focuses more on the creative aspects of Film, such as Writing, Directing, Acting, Editing & Cinematography. Natasha would have to cancel scheduled plans for this weekend if she's going to do the massage piece with Wendy. 

Natasha told Wendy, "If this was a 341 (undegrad) film, I'd say no. But since it this is a 507 (graduate), and I like the idea, I'll see what I ca do to cancel things I have scheduled for this weekend." Wendy's going to get together with Natasha tomorrow and give her a copy of the films she's done. Wendy will decide tomorrow if Natasha is right for the part. Both of the other two girls are also enthusiastic about the part. Natasha sounds over-committed.

One other girl has committed to being a standby, in case someone can't make it. Scheduling a standby seems to be a necessary element to ensure successful completion of film projects. Wendy learned that lesson after Michele (high school student) failed to show for her last film. She also is avoiding less mature actors & actresses (such as high school kids), who may not understand commitment. She's focusing on using more professional & committed actors & actresses. 

Wendy feels like she's grown as a filmmaker, as a result of going through the process of finding & setting up actresses she's never met before - a first for her. She feels a sense of accomplishment, and is excited about the possibilities offered by finding other professional & committed people to fill her acting roles. Feels like a small but significant step.

She's gonna shoot Sunday, here at the house, & down at the beach. Both girls are going to drive down from LA. Eveyone sounds excited about the shoot.

USC has been having problems with the editing (computer) systems at school. Video editing is a nascent technology, fraught with many little lessons that can be painful to learn. A few students want to throw the computers at the wall. Wendy & I can appreciate sentiments like this. We've ceratinly had our share of painful learning experiences trying to edit video on a computer.

One guy had to capture/upload his video footage (to hard drive) twice. Then, when it came time to hand over the hard drive to the next person (students share hard drives - each group get them for a week at a time). He somehow didn't understand that when he handed over the hard drive, he handed over all his video files on the hard drive). So now he has to upload/capture all his video footage a third time. Wendy said he was the only one who didn't show last week. 

Capturing selected clips to the hard drive can be tedious. It's not like editing, which brings the joys of the creative process. And the hard drive is only big enough for the specific clips needed to make the movie. There's not enough room to capture everything - only the best parts. But if a certain clip is not captured, then it can't be used in the movie project. It has to be on the hard drive to be used. So you try to capture the maybe's too - just in case you might need it later on.

The problem is, that just about everything is a maybe. So selecting what clips to capture can be agonizing & tedious. It's also where computers tend to have the greatest chance for trouble. Transferring original video clips from the camera to the hard drive (capturing), & transferring the edited/finished project from hard drive back to camera/tape, can be fraught with temperamental problems. 

Because video is transferred real-time, there's little room for error. We have to take special precautions when capturing & outputting to tape -> like turning off the network card, disabling anything that monitors system status, & work from a freshly-restarted machine. Crossing our fingers & knocking on wood also seem to help. =) 

Wendy's been editing video on the PC for about a year now. This is definitely an advantage for her. There are a million & one little tricks to editing video proficiently. Video editing on a PC can be an intoxicatingly creative process - once you get past the technological speed bumps. And there are quite a few of them. 

Wendy said her classmates want to come over & edit here. Making movies is hard enough, without the technical problems - but that's part of the equation of this new, non-linear editing (on a PC).


In bed last night, when I thought she was sleeping, all of a sudden, she sits straight up & says, "Ooh! ooh! ooh!"

I said, 'What?"

She said "A cat! A cat!" .. apparently a solution to some problem she's been working on about how to make a key part of her next film work. She's thinking about making her movies work even when it looks like she's sleeping. =)

Right now, she's pacing the house, practicing her lines for a scene she has to act in. "This is harder than it looks," she says. =)

She playing the ice queen from the movie The Player (w/ Tim Robbins). Wendy has to play a woman with no emotions. This will not be easy for her. I helped her practice her lines at El Toritos this afternoon, where we go for 99-cent fish tacos every Wednesday. I was trying to help her with voice inflections. After a few minutes, she got mad & said, "suddenly you're an expert on acting?". =) 

For her Sound class, she also has to create & edit a piece of audio that's 'supposed to create a mood change using only sound effects. (no dialogue, no music, no video allowed). She enjoys this kind of project. So every once in a while, she'll stop rehearsing her lines for the Acting class, & edit some audio files (on the PC) for her Sound class.

Next -> End week 5

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