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

Metallica sues USC 

The cast of Vandancing was here Sunday to view the movie, many for first time. Wendy's been wanting to get them together here ever since she finishing the movie. Everyone laughed at all right places, and even liked the surprise ending. Her profs thought the surprise ending didn't fit, but the cast agreed that's only cuz they didn't know Van. =) 

They wanted to watch it twice in a row, before watching the rest of her 507 films. They also saw the Lani documentary (undergrad project, her first DV project), and even BodyMind (also undergrad work, originally shot on super-8). She mentioned how refreshing it was to have people watch her movies & say how much they liked them, without critiquing, pointing out mistakes, or how she could improve.

She worked harder on Vandancing than any other 507 piece, spending much of her spring break editing and layering the images. She had one hour of raw footage for every minute actually used in the movie. So only small fraction of the original footage was used in the final cut.

Everyone went home with a special director's Platinum Edition copy & a CD of the official soundtrack. Was a sad/happy/special time for all.

Wendy helped Sabrina with a shoot yesterday. Felt good to get better acquainted with one of her classmates. Many classmates help each other with their shoots. But since their shoots are usually in LA, and the drive to LA is long, Wendy typically declines requests. When you help someone with their shoot, they call that crewing with/for someone. (slowly I'm learning the lingo)

Sounds like Sabrina hasn't had the best of luck with her films. She's not in Wendy's group, so Wendy doesn't see her films during the semester. But sometimes a group from the different sections will get together for lunch. Their favorite is a local hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, off-Fig (Figueroa) near the freeway. 

Wendy hears from Sabrina that her profs beat her up pretty good. A comment after one of her films was, "You can't be serious about pursuing a career in film." Many of the students think this is no way for a prof to talk to a student. Sabrina is obviously a smart girl (MIT grad). So, what makes a good/great filmmaker? From what I can see, making movies is, first and foremost, a lot of hard work.

Wendy thinks that, in general, women tend to hava harder time with the technology than men. Men tend to be more computer-literate than men, and if someone doesn't have good computer skills, then it's likely to show up in their films - at least in 507, the first semester, where students work with DV and edit their projects on a PC. 

Some of the students in Wendy's class went to the viewing where the 508 students (next semester) show their 16mm films. Her classmates came back and reported that they were disappointed with what they saw. They said the films they saw had all the required key points, such as narrative structure, plot points, obstacles, & arc of character, but that they all played it too safe. None were ambitious, and the images were blah. Worst of all, nothing moved them (emotionally). 

One of the (good) things that Wendy's prof have mentioned is that her films are ambitious (maybe too ambitious). Also, she places high value on image quality. Ironically, the narrative structure that the 508 students had done so well, is one of the more challenging aspects for her. 

But you only get one shot with your 508 film. If you get out on the edge, and something doesn't work, could be disastrous. Also, students probably get more input from profs for their (sole) 16mm project. Profs probably make sure the students cross their t's (narrative structure) & dot their i's (arc of character). So it will be interesting for me to see if Wendy, too, plays it safe, since this'll be her first go-round with 16mm.

She's looking forward to working with 16mm - thinks it's sensuous, especially the b&w stuff. But 16mm is much harder to work with 16mm than with DV. She claims she can do three or four DV projects in the time it takes to do one film.

She's been fighting a chest grunge. Yesterday she said, "I almost feel good again." We're pumping her with (homemade) chicken soup (Polish penicillin). It seems to be working. Before leaving for LA Saturday, to rehearse, she snatched the Advil bottle off the counter and poured out a fistful & stuck 'em in her pocket - saying, "probably outta take a few a these along."

I said, "A few?"

Heard of a unique idea for contest recently -> you submit a script for review -> a committee reviews & selects 10 winners, who receive comp'd airfare & accommodations for one director + two actors/actresses -> to/in/at Albuquerque, New Mexico, to shoot their scripts. Cameras (DV) + editing stations are provided for you. 

Everyone gets 10 days to finish their projects. On day 10 -> you show your film. This is right up Wendy's alley. She especially good at pumping out a projects fast. Heck, she could prolly do three or four projects in 10 days. =D Not sure what the prizes are, but sure would be fun - especially getting flown to New Mexico. We like New Mexico, eve though Albuquerque is not our favorite.

Last week, she gave a VHS copy of all her 507 films (called a reel in industry lingo) to her Acting prof. He typically doesn't see the films of the students in his class. Films are usually only seen by the Production profs. He said it would be nice if students could make him a copy, so he can see their work from Production class. Wendy jumped on it. 

This week, he gave her very to-the-point feedback/criticism where she could improve. He said her images were dynamic, & great mood setting. Next step is clarifying the fine narrative points, such as protagonist overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals. So she is starting to see a pattern to the constructive criticism she receives from profs. She wants to make great movies, but does not want them to be ordinary. 

Another thing is for her to work on is the "careful consideration of her audience". Her earlier projects were made primarily for herself, but the later projects have increasingly taken into account her audience. Her focus for next semester's 16mm project is to create compelling, colorful & engaging characters. On the scfilm.net website, under career ambitions, she has written, to make movies that touch & move. Problem is that different things move a 25 year-old than a 40 year-old. 

She's been working with Dennis on her scene from Eyes Wide Shut (the scene where Nicole Kidman tells Cruise that she smitten by another guy). Dennis resisted doing the scene the way Wendy wanted, but she finally got Dennis to do it. Dennis wanted to get mad & stomp out of the room, while Wendy wanted him to play it with vulnerability. 

Wendy said Dennis did such a good job that she actually felt sorry for him. She said Dennis shared with her a story of a similar, real-life experience, and how that hurt him - so, perhaps his resistance to doing the scene the Wendy way was based on (painful) real-life experiences.

We have a few VHS tapes containing all her 507 movies - not enough for everyone, but if you'd like a copy, and don't mind sending it to someone else after watching (costs 7 stamps), we'd be glad to send a copy your way. 

Wendy said headlines on newspapers across campus read Metallica sues USC! The heavy-metal rock band is suing USC, Yale, Indiana U, & Napster for copyright violations of their songs. We've been following Napster ever since it first came out. Will be interesting to see how the case develops, and how USC + Yale handle it.

Scenario: you're making a video project for school -> it's due tomorrow -> need a certain song -> you can't seem to find the CD that contains the song -> no time to run to the local music store -> fire up Napster -> in only minutes, u can download your song (and probably a few others while you're there) in MP3 (CD-quality, compressed) format -> convert the MP3 to a standard WAV file format -> drop it in your video project in Premiere -> voila! -> you're in business and didn't have to dish out $15 for the whole CD for that one song you want/need/like - cuz the rest of the songs on that CD suk anyway. Now you have beer money to go with your medium pepperoni from Starving Student Pizzeria tonight. =) 

Of course, Wendy would never do this, but heard that's how it's done. =)

MP3s are becoming a crave. I read that this case will likely break new legal ground, as an impressive array of forces meet to do battle. Much is at stake & there are no easy answers. The internet has quickly become a (powerful) distribution tool - for audio now. Video across the internet is still very limit, quality taking a serious hit. The MP3 compression format crunches a song to 1/10th its original size, which makes it much easier to x-fer across the net, while retaining ~95% of the audio fidelity.  

College kids, especially, with access to super-fast Ethernet network connections (not dial-up) in their dorm room, are going wild with MP3s. If you haven't been keeping up with the MP3 craze, & are interested, allow me a few paragraphs to digress & surmise. Otherwise, u can quit reading here. 

MP3s & Napster

Wendy doesn't like it when I wax overly technical, but it's the technical stuff is making all this new stuff happen. Therefore it's important to me. Encoding technology is how we put Wendy's movies on the Net. They contain far too much (un-encoded) information to be sent across the Net. MP3 is a type of encoding technology - for audio/sound files - developed in Germany at Fraunhofer institute. 

The ideal encoding format would crunch a huge video file into something tiny without losing any quality. But this is not possible, as you always lose some quality with any compression. But the better encoders compress more with minimal quality loss. For example, the RealVideo files we post on the Net have been compressed by a factor of over 100-to-1 (not counting DV's 5-to-1 compression, done in the camera when shooting).

I had no idea that MP3s had become so big until last week, while at Barnes & Noble bookstore, where I saw a whole section dedicated solely to books about MP3. 

The Recording Industry Assn of America (RIAA) hates MP3s, and police copyrights for their signed artists. I've read that the RIAA was in denial about the MP3s phenomena - until broadband access (Cable, DSL) became widespread. But it was especially when colleges & universities equipped dorm rooms with high-speed Ethernet access college (who typically have no money & love music) began to go wild MP3s. Instead of setting up their own distribution channels on the Internet (I hear that), the RIAA stuck their heads in the sand until it was too late. MP3 trading grew unbelievably fast.

Enter Napster, a small program developed by a 17-year-old during his study period in high school, that allows people to log on and search for their favorite songs. They can download the songs to their hard drive and allow others to get songs from their (own) hard drives. I've checked out Napster. There was over 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes, or a million megabytes) worth of MP3 available for download, from thousands of online users, with the oddest names you can imagine (no one uses their real name). 

When the RIAA sued Napster a few weeks ago, it was seen as a classic David vs Goliath - the big, bad corporate machine hiring a team of $400/hr lawyers to sue a 17-year-old high school kid. The kid says, "I just wanna to make a program that lets people trade copyrighted-free music, & can't help it if some people use it to trade copyrighted music." The law allows for some sharing, but it probably doesn't mean to the extent that Napster facilitates.

So, now that Metallica is (also) suing Yale, USC + Indiana U, it's seen as a more fair fight.

Many educational institutions flat out banned Napster, but some institutions (hailed as 'more enlightened') took a more moderate approach & did not impose an outright ban. Will be interesting to see how the lawyers battle this one. Napster will probably hire some heavyweight attorney with experience in copyright law. Last I heard, Napster servers were still up + running. No songs (actually) reside on Napster servers - Napster merely connects the users. 

The best reading you're likely to find on the subject is from Jon Katz at Slashdot. See HERE and also HERE - for interesting views. 

Next -> Pearl Diver Posted

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

[Contact Wendy]

Radified Home]
Lagunacinema Home]