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

Report Card: Film 5

Pearl Diver is a 5-minute piece about a woman with a passion for sculpting, caught in the daily grind, who goes to the beach (in Laguna) one weekend and sees a little boy (Luigi, cute as a bug's ear) making a mermaid in the sand. She helps Luigi "build a wall to protect the mermaid", and in the process is (magically?) inspired to return to her art/passion as a sculptress. I think that's about all I'm allowed to divulge. =)

Wendy had much less time to work on Pearl Diver, compared to Vandancing. She had the whole week of Spring break to work on Vandancing. Not so with Pearl Diver. One plus is that she didn't have to plan another project while doing Pearl Diver, cuz it's the last one of the semester. 

The overall tone of responses from classmates and profs was upbeat and positive. People got it - they got the message/idea/concept that Wendy was trying to convey, which is always the main/primary objective. (In some movies, people get the opposite of what the filmmaker is trying to convey.)

The biggest negative is the sound system at USC sux. She spends lots of time getting the audio tweaked just right. The speaker system at school makes the lows sound muddy. Everybody has probs with the sound system, but not everybody puts the effort into the soundtrack like Wendy does.

The speakers Wendy uses at home to edit have a subwoofer, which as a (separate) speaker specifically designed to handle the lows (bass). This may be part of the problem, as the school's system does not. The profs have (already) requested a new sound system. One is coming, but not until next semester. The sad thing is that her sound track really rocks, but sounds like crap on the school's system - especially anything with bass in it.

One lesson she learned about building a soundtrack is that, when adding multiple sound tracks, the volume is additive, so that clipping (bad distortion) sometimes occurs at the loader points. But she went through this soundtrack after adding all the different, individual soundtracks, and lowered the volume of individual tracks so the aggregate does not clip. 

Selected comments:  

* Your ability to set the mood & tell stories about self-release are exemplary - especially the way in which you incorporate music to the images. I also liked the way in which you used a kid to help her find her passion/inner child again. (John B.)

* Great music as usual! Your films always have a sensuous feel & this one is no exception. I like the way you established a connection between art & life. Your transitions were beautiful. (Mun Chee)

* Great images. You are very good at montage sequences - sculpting/massaging -> i.e. movements of tactile creation. I got caught up in the moment with the character. Also, the montage of 'the grind' was v. good. You are not afraid to move with the camera & it works well for you. Your images were so good that you didn't need the voice-over. (Luke)

* As always, ambitious & interesting concept. The choice of the 'Pearl Diver' sculpture was good - as it is appealing & not the usual.

* I have a personal hang-up against movies where people heal themselves through art. Nothing against your movie, but i can't buy it. Making art is not beautiful. & pleasurable. It's hard & ugly & stressful. I would venture to say that more people's lives have been f*cked up by art than healed by it. Nothing against your movie, but that's where i'm coming from. (Quinn)

* Close-ups of her working on the sculpture were great. Intro of daily grind was strong. Your dream sequence was v. clear. Your images were strong enuf to stand on their own - you didn't need the voice-over. (Jennie, Harvard girl)

* You shot at many different locations. Your soundtrack featured many different types of music. Your editing was good - as usual. (Carlos)

* Great sound design & images. I particularly liked the transitions. Your images always have a nice flow to them. (Chad)

* Sorry my crit is vague, I'm tired. (Patrick)

* Great theme & idea. Beautifully shot & edited, and well-performed, well-acted - great work. This film is a common theme for you & I think you do it well - now is the time to make it better. Up the stakes - give her an obstacle - show how her life has been transformed. (Kev - TA)

* The editing at the beginning was so strong, the pictures were telling the story at their best. Imagery throughout was strong. There is a very strong moment or two when you use layered imagery & it becomes expressionistic. (Douglas)

* The key changes which take her from the grind to the mermaid need to be dramatized. Making art involves risk & struggle - which lead to the exhilaration of the creative moment. That's not shown in the film, which represents the process - it almost seems as if she appropriated the boy's idea. (prof)

I'll try to encode this latest piece soon and post it on the net, so you'll be able to download and view yourself. The quality of RealVideo is a mere fraction (heavily-compressed) of the original footage. Wendy is an image-quality nut, and it pains her to see her hard work reduced to a bare minimum - but it's cool that people (from all over the world) can view it online.

After school Thurs, (after pulling an all-nighter) Wendy had dinner with Lisa, her 508 partner, to get better acquainted. They went to the Engine Co. No. 28 restaurant. Lisa is 25, from Minnesota, and likes the big-city life. She lives only a few blocks from USC (& loves it). She's good friends with Sabrina, who graduated from MIT. Lisa is short, medium build, long brown hair, dresses kinda hippie-ish, with excited eyes. She wants to do a 16mm project this summer with her other classmates, and has a few rolls of 16mm film to contribute. Her last film was a spoof on silent films. She's dating an older guy who's 40, but not serious about him.

Wendy came home & slept for 17 hours.

She won't be able to direct/shoot her scene from Eyes Wide Shut cuz Mun chee (actress in her scene) refuses to be filmed - says it's too intimate. She's bummed, but nothing she can do (can't make someone be filmed). She made sure the prof knew that she wanted to do the project, and the reason why she can't. So she has offered her services to do the editing for John B.

Remaining this semester: 

Profs have repeatedly warned students that 508 (next semester) is much harder than 507 - although she can't imagine anything being harder than this semester.

Jahmar is in Santa Cruz this weekend to visit Lani at college. 

Next -> Metallica Sues USC

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