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

End Week 8 - Half Way Point!

I went to USC with Wendy Saturday night to see the viewing of her entire class's films - on the big screen. This is most-ever people to see one of her films in one sitting. Exciting for her. Wendy showed Breathe - her most recent. It was shown second (she hates going first). 

She gave her tape to guy who was loading them into the projector and specifically asked for it to be shown second. Viewing was delayed over an hour as the TAs frantically searched for adapter cable for the projector. 

They finally had to run out to Radio Shack for the cable. Embarrassing for them. Probably should've tested the equipment before packing the theater full of students. 

One of the actresses in Breathe, Lynne, was there with us to see herself on the big screen for first time. Exciting for her, too. She told Wendy that her film was "in a league of its own" - but she might be biased. =) The other actress, Austyn, couldn't make it.

First thing I noticed in theater was how everybody there looked like they hadn't slept in days. Slits substituted for eyes. Puffy eyes, red eyes, glazed eyes. I couldn't help but overhear bits of conversations here & there, saying things like, ".. and I'm going to have to be up for the next two days in order to ..". 

On hand at the viewing were several students from the next semester's 508 class - checking out 'new talent in town'. This was the same room/theater where Wendy's scholarship presentation ceremony was held, so I was familiar with the room. It slanted downward toward the front, like most theaters do.  

Had to park almost in Nevada, cuz there was a big event at the Shrine -> Soul Train Music Awards. Da bruddahs wuz out in force & style. Low-riderz cruisin' the streets everywhere. Bass bumpin' so hard, street lights shook. 

The line wrapped all the way around the corner and almost to the next corner. Arrived early for the viewing, so we had time to stop & check out the scene. Bruddahs carrying signs saying stuff like 

"Grand Masta Phunkster's new album 'Live from inside the Penitentiary' - on sale in stores now" =) 

Sista's wearing ultra-attire. Mile-long line of stretch limos. One limo had eight doors on each side. A window came down -> strong smell of whiskey. Whoa. I dropped to one knee from just the smell. =)  

I was also able to check out the 'bullpen', where students edit their films. Met some of Wendy's classmates there for the first time. Some students were editing their movies in preparation for the class viewing. 

USC has 16 Mac G3s running Adobe Premiere -> all with separate 12-inch color monitors on a drop-down ledge to the side of the desk. DV tape is loaded into drive bay in the PC (cool). No cameras required. Wendy loads her footage into the PC via the camera (via Firewire cable). 

They also have eight (all-black) IBM Intellistations for 'advanced' students. No one was using the IBMs when I was there, but most Mac's were occupied. The poor tech support guy working there telling a tiny Asian girl, "looks like the machine ate your tape". She looked like she was ready to bite his head off. She lost a lot of work when her tape was chewed.

Some students were editing their films in prep for their showing at the big gathering - a few hours from them. I met bunch of Wendy's classmates there. Met the Harvard girl, Jennie, & Dennis the actor. Dennis actually showed one of the better films there. You could tell it took lots of work. 

A piece about gay boys selling themselves on the street. Of course, it made you wanna shot yourself afterwards, but it was entertaining. It certainly got your attention, that's for sure. He reminds me of an avant garde fashion designer, if that helps. Seems meticulous. Dennis used a voice-over of recited poetry during the entire film. 

Not sure if he read another's poem, or one he wrote himself. If he wrote himself, would be very cool. Good voice recording. 

Wendy's film, Breathe, held up very well on the big screen. Not sure if this is b-cuz of the Cannon, but it looks sharp & clear even when blown up big. Wendy goes out of her way to make her images look good. She's a nut for image-quality. The audio was good. 

She has a knack for audio. The music in Breathe was great - especially from where the massage begins. She makes her own massage CDs - picks the best songs from a variety of individual massage CDs (we have a CD burner), so she has lots of experience selecting music to create a specific mood.  

I know I'm biased, but I honestly felt like her film was one of a few (3 or 4) that set the bar for their class. It's a lot of work to make a quality film, by yourself, in only three weeks, and keep up on studies to boot. Guess it's no surprise that those with the puffiest eyes had the better films. 

Was surprised how many knives we saw in the other student films. We saw a lot of girls getting their throats slashed and left in a pool of blood. Not sure if they merely want to make a film that gets your attention, or if they're working out some subconscious anger against some female in their life. =D Someone could probably do an interesting documentary on how youth view the world of today. Hollywood has long been criticized for making films that contain excessive violence. From what I've seen, this new crop likes it. =)

One guy showed a film featuring a pit bull with a surprisingly long tongue, licking a long cylinder-shaded Popsicle - in front of different LA landmarks. For example, in front of the Hollywood sign, various cool billboards downtown, etc. Hard rock music pumping the whole time. It actually made me laugh. 

Another film started by quoting several verses from the Book of Revelation & proceeded through out the film to indicate (at the very end) that Bill Gates = the antichrist. =) When the narrator came to the part where the verse says, "and u shall known his number, cuz it is the number of a man, and the number is 666' -> when narrator says "6-6-6", you see the screen of a PC monitor where a guy types in W-W-W. Very entertaining. Lots of films about girls missing guys & guys missing girls. Certainly understandable. 


Wendy's up in Hollywood now, walking the mean streets with camera & mic -> filming Alex. She wants to include shots from some seedy locations (nighttime, Hollywood, on the streets) in her next film (-> #4, to be titled Vandancing). Yesterday she got some footage sitting in the back of George's car, filming him from the backseat as her drove around LA at night - telling old stories about Van.

The Film industry makes a big deal about filming someone while they're driving. This is a big no-no. If you recall, all the old movies of driving scenes were obviously fake -> a car in front of a big painted mural, with a fan blowing their hair back. I can see how acting could be a distraction to driving. Anyway, you have to go to great lengths to allow an actor to be filmed while driving. 

For example, Wendy heard that it nearly took an act of congress to allow DiNero to drive his Taxi in the movie by the same name, thru the streets of New York. They had to block off whole sections of New York streets, and pay lots of NYC policemen overtime to do it. So Wendy probably won't use this footage in her next movie, but the audio (stories) might come in handy. 

She had first-ever auditions Tuesday. Went well. Interviewed about 12 or 13 actors. Felt a little rushed, cuz there were five or six actors waiting out in the hall. One actor definitely stood out. She said they all want the part so bad. Wishes she could choose them all. She also filmed all the auditions. Might use clips from the auditions in the movie. 

I saw the studio where auditions are held, when I went with her to USC Saturday. I was impressed. Everything is painted black - everything, even the ceiling. Sound-deadening stuff on walls. Track-studios lights all over the place - many way high up. Giant mixing board on table on your left when you first enter the room.

Today Wendy asked Luke, the Canadian, if he wanted to be her 508 partner - for next semester. Next semester, students pair up and make two 16mm films. One writes & directs, while the other shoots & edits. Then they swap roles & do another film the second half of the semester. 

Wendy said Luke is the best in her group. His images are gorgeous, and she likes gorgeous, luscious images. I met him Saturday at USC. Nice guy. His stuff looks flawless - better than most stuff you see at the movies. Certainly not like most student films, where you find yourself saying, "How much longer do I have to stare at this same scene?" Luke's moves right along, and very artsy. He uses B&W a lot. 

He said he hasn't thought about a 508 partner yet, but will consider. Wendy says she's heard horror stories about students who get paired w/ suky 508 partners -> could be a nightmare.

Spring break after today. She's happy. Rest is coming. Will work on film #4 during the spring break. Won't have to rush so much. Should be able to make it better than the other films, b-cuz there'll be more time.

Next -> Breathe Posted

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