Week 8

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

Prof Puts (Layeth) the Smack Down

Wendy had her (in-class) directing debut today, and acted in her second scene. Both went well. She's pleased. Received positive feedback. She and her partners put lots of effort into their acting/directing projects. But not everyone was prepared. 

Some of the students never got together to rehearse their scenes (3 scenes total: act in 2 & direct 1). Prof got ticked & put the smack down. Told students this is the largest number of unprepared students he's ever seen -> unacceptable. 

He told them they're in grad school now, and he expects graduate-level work. Wendy was glad she was prepared. Often, the only time to rehearse is after a long day at school. She likes acting and loves directing.

She says students commonly say things like, "Does anyone else think they give us way too much work to do?"

Wendy has no directing experience, except for the projects she's done and what she's read in books. Several of the students in her class have extensive acting experience. Acting/directing projects are designed such that students group together with different partners for their scenes. Wendy was able to learn many neat acting tricks and exercises - to help get the actor into character. 

Mid-term for Sound class tomorrow morning. Sound/audio deals with very technical terms, such as hertz, sample rates, recording details, proper microphone selection, anti-aliasing, etc. She spent lots of time studying for the midterm this weekend. 

I helped with some of the more technical stuff. She feels prepared. She'll stay up in LA tonight, so she'll be rested for the early exam tomorrow (she has a late class tonight) - so I'll be lonesome tonight. =(

She picked up an application for a Sound/Audio scholarship. Since sound/audio is one of her strengths, she feels she has a decent chance there. She also picked up a scholarship app for Editing, since that's also one of her strengths - maybe more so than audio. Many of the scholarship apps require a minimum average GPA of 3.8 to even apply. Her undergrad final GPA was 3.7.

As undergrad, she was awarded a small scholarship - one of only 5 handed out for undergrad Critical Studies majors. When we attended the awards ceremony, most of the recipients - by far - were graduate students. Beyond the obvious financial benefits, she was fortunate in that she had the opportunity to see exactly what scholarships were being handed out for what reasons. 

For example, some were for Portraying women in a positive light. Many people were there to present scholarships, representing both corporate & private sponsors. Some had even flown in from Europe, speaking with distinct accents. French. British. An impressive affair.

Wendy was allowed to bring one guest to the scholarship awards ceremony. I got to go. Had to wrestle mom for it - best two out of three falls. =) That's where she first got the idea for grad school - after talking to some of the other graduate award recipients there. Should've seen Wendy drool when one of the grad students there told her they were using 35mm (film) in their project. 

The one that interested her most was the Jack Nicholson scholarship.

This coming weekend, students will be able to attend a special 507 assembly where all can show their (single) best film. Currently, she only sees films from (& shows her films to) 1/3 the students in her 507 class - since the class is broken into three sections (about 17 students each group). The viewing of the entire class's film should be fun - especially showed/viewed on the big screen. She wants to show Breathe, her latest.

She also had an opportunity last weekend to see 16mm film projects from the 508-class students -> which are one semester ahead of her & her class. But she needed the time to study for her Sound midterm. Next semester her class will work with 16mm. She's excited about that.

Wendy's class officially lost first student, Rick, who had the back/nerve probs. He won't be able to continue - at least not this semester. Sad. He was closest in age in Wendy.

Will leave u with a clipping of a magazine article Aunt Pat sent - about the 'USC Mafia' (funny). See below.

(We met dean Daley, quoted below, at the scholarship award ceremony mentioned above. She walked up & introduced herself. After she left, I asked, "Who's that?" Wendy said, "She runs the whole USC Film school.")

Magazine article:

Membership in the USC Mafia - the Hollywood version of the Trojan Family network - can open doors throughout the entertainment industry.

In a business where who you know is every bit as crucial as what you know, USC Cinema-Television grads leave school with more than sheepskin. They leave with lifetime membership in what's jokingly referred to as the USC Mafia - a syndicate of alumni scattered across every echelon of the entertainment industry.

"It's a breathtaking network," says dean Elizabeth Daley, "although I'm certain we could find nicer words for it."

Tom Hjelm MFA'87 knows the value of the Trojan cosa nostra. After graduating from the production program, he worked at various odd jobs that ranged from appearing in a Japanese music video to editing class notes for USC Trojan Family Magazine. Then, in 1995, he went on vacation with a few friends, among them a USC classmate affiliated with NBC.

"It was over a beer, on a tropical island off the coast of Malaysia that I began a discussion which led to my being hired by NBC Internet," says Hjelm, now senior director and executive producer of NBC.com.

The USC network is no less important for Gregory McKnight MFA'94, a graduate of the Peter Stark Producing program and a rising star in the William Morris Agency.

McKnight regularly reviews new USC talent, keeping abreast of the latest developments through Larry Auerbach, associate dean for student-industry relations.

"I really want to know the films and filmmakers coming out of the school," McKnight says. "USC consistently produces some of the most interesting and best prepared talent, some of whom I am happy I am able to represent."

Though Trojan spirit is a major source of the USC Mafia's networking strength, practical considerations such as a common technical grounding and discipline ? also seem to fuel the dynamic.

"The industry knows what they're getting when they get a USC grad, and they take it very seriously," Daley says. "Our students get this enormous network of people who are ready to receive them and trust their training.

Next -> Midterm progress report

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