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

Another Prof Puts (Layeth) the Smack Down

When it came time for group B to show their films Thursday, only one name was written on the board. Should've been six. Rest of the students were over at the  at the 'bullpen', still trying to put out their movies to tape (from computers). Wendy said, "you could tell Gary (the prof), was upset." 

Said he scolded the students - worse than Acting prof did a week earlier. Gary said he was gonna talk to people who run the bullpen - maybe they needed to extend their hours, or maybe they need to look at the software - but whatever the outcome, students need manage their time better, so they don't push their projects to the last minute. And they need to be ready to show their films when class begins - not 15 mins later.

Wendy said he carried on for quite some time. Students felt like little kids getting scolded. Apparently, he'd brought up this subject a time or two before, but this time made an issue of it. He said the industry is very much about deadlines, & those who succeed figure early on how to meet them. Wendy's always prepared & is usually second name on board (only cuz she hates going first. =D )

At one point, Gary glanced across the hall, to another classroom, & mentioned that the other class seems to get started on time. To which a student replied, "They're all editing at home."

Wendy doesn't broadcast fact that she edits at home, but those in her group (A) notice she's never in the bullpen. When asked why they never see her there, she tells them it's cuz she edits at home. 

Could the ability to edit at home be viewed as an unfair advantage? The bullpen, where the students edit, in the new Zemeckis Digital Arts center, closes at 10PM. She's not sure tho, cuz she's never actually edited there. Out of her group (A) of 17 or 18 students, she's the only one who edits at home. In groups B & C, there are a few others - maybe three or four all together - out of a total of 56 (or so) students. 

This blows her mind. Before starting school, she felt for sure everyone would have a PC or Mac at home to edit on. Not so. The bullpen at USC is stocked with Macs. Wendy edits with a PC. Both the Macs at USC, & Wendy's PC, use the same editing program -> Adobe Premiere. 

But I think anyone who edits at home is going to be more proficient with the editing program, which isn't the easiest thing to learn. And there are some lessons that can be particularly painful learn - like when you do something stupid and lose hours of work. 

USC runs students through a tutorial, but a tutorial isn't going to replace months of actually using the program. Wendy had about a year of experience with Premiere before beginning grad school. 

She certainly has an advantage in that she doesn't have to stop editing at 10PM (when the bullpen closes). She can edit all night if she wants - and does, sometimes. It's not uncommon for her to edit to 2AM or 3AM. Wendy does spend lots of time editing. 

She's fanatical about it. Gets into a trance. Intense concentration, evaluating every little detail. Editing at home makes it easier to concentrate, rather than editing in a big room with 15 other people (who may be carrying on conversations). 

She also has a special audio/sound-editing prgm that is better than what's available in Premiere's. Premiere can edit audio, but it's main job is to edit video. Wendy has sound applications that are designed, first & foremost, to edit audio. 

Also, someone who edits at home is likely to have stronger computer skills than someone who doesn't have a PC at home. If someone has poor computer skills, or is not proficient with Premiere, it's likely to show up in their film.

Tangential to the editing-at-home issue is the Film-vs-DV debate (digital video). Some people are of the opinion that film (celluloid) - and only film - as the true creative medium of choice. Film's bigger negative = co$t. It's also a bear to work with - compared to DV (non-linear editing). 

With the money it costs to produce (only) three 16mm (film) shorts, a student could buy a nice DV camera & editing system (either PC/Mac). They could then do all the movies they wanted - for next to nothing. 

Wendy thinks people who don't like DV err in that they equate it with old, analog video - such as Hi-8, 8mm, or VHS. Analog video doesn't look nearly as good as DV - which some still equate with the old (analog) stuff. Today's DV, especially when used with a 3-chip camera, on a MiniDV cassette tape, looks surprisingly good - far better than consumer analog. Only pro-quality analog (BetaCam) rivals DV for quality, but Betacam is far more expensive than DV.

Wendy doesn't see it as one-is-better-than-other - rather, that each medium has its own strengths & weaknesses. Considering students typically have little disposable ca$h, anything involving a dollar sign represents a significant obstacle - which, of course, is what makes DV so attractive for a student. A 60-minute DV tape costs ~$6 (in a 10-pack) and is reusable!


Alex (girl), from Singapore, showed a film Thursday about How people deal with a 1-night stand, which contained graphic sex. No actual organs shown, but graphic. Wendy thought Alex was brave to do a sex scene, but that it should've been more artistic, so it didn't come off as porn flick-ish. 

But Alex hadn't completed her editing, & had no soundtrack (was one of those having editing problems mentioned above). So it was unfinished, and that gave it a raw look. 

Biggest mistake of most novice filmmakers is that their shots are too-long. They run on forever. Most need tightening (editing). For example, Wendy went back & re-edited all her undergrad films. She was able to cut out over half the original footage (12-minute films -> whittled down to 5).

Wendy said the profs can get downright crass when criticizing student films - especially ones like Alex's, with shots that run on for too long. Wendy said it takes lots of hard work to make even a bad film,  & profs can shred a film faster than a Ronco kitchen aid. =)

It seems that some days everything is positive, other days -> the dreaded shredding machine.  

Next -> Half way Point

[507 Semester Index Page, USC Film School Chronicles]
Master Index Page, USC Film School Chronicles, Graduate Production]

[Contact Wendy]

Radified Home]
Lagunacinema Home]