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

Last Week of Classes!

Acting class today, to make up for classes lost to holidays. Sound final tomorrow & 20-page research paper on Early-female-directors-of-the-silent-era by end of week. Can taste the end.

After rehearsals Friday night, Wendy succumbed to peer pressure & went for a drink (or two) with a bunch of classmates, including Lisa, her 508 partner. From there, it was on to dancing & riotous cavorting. Didn’t get home until 3AM, (Is it really 2AM already?). Felt good to get better acquainted with her classmates. This was the first time she partied with classmates. Everyone is in the party mood.

Conversations revolved around how demanding the program is. Consensus is that USC crams a full year of work into a semester - this coming from graduates of schools like Harvard, Yale, MIT, NYU, Berkeley.

After finishing the last film, Pearl Diver, Wendy was the most disoriented & emotional I've ever seen her. The day after, she'd spontaneously start crying for no apparent reason - saying things like, "I just feel so worthless." Considering what she’d just accomplished (5 films in one semester), it made me laugh. [I’ve since learned this is not considered a nurturing response.] She’s tried to analyze the source of these feelings, and came up with several possible explanations:

She admitted her feelings didn’t seem to make sense, but couldn’t understand why she felt the way she did. Since then, her confidence has been restored .. aided, especially, by a few things:

  1. rest
  2. the cast of Vandancing came over to see the movie, gave much heartfelt praise & no criticism.
  3. after the movie, Bernie & Alex offered her a place to stay in their guesthouse, should she need a place to crash in the LA area. This meant a lot to her - a tangible vote of confidence. Since she’ll have a extra day of classes next semester (4/wk), it might come in handy.
  4. she finally got a chance to hook up with her favorite undergrad prof, Tara, whom she both respects & admires. Wendy cruised 'cross campus with a couple of her classmates to say hi & drop off a tape of her 507 films. Wendy said she the secretary buzzed & told Tara there was “a student to drop off a tape” & when they got back to her office, Tara said, “Not just any student!”

Tara has been keeping up on the Wendy saga from day one. She wrote Wendy a letter for her grad school app. I didn't see it, but heard it rocked. Wendy had a class on Feminism in Film with Tara, & it affected her. If you haven’t noticed, most of Wendy's 507 films seek to portray women in a positive light. She got that from Tara’s class. 

Anyway, the cool thing is that, Tara (also) offered Wendy a place to crash in LA. She told Wendy that she’d have her own entrance. Could come and go as needed. Wendy said Tara was nice to her friends too. On the walk back, Wendy’s classmates were impressed. When they got back, they told other classmates. Another tangible vote of confidence. She was glowing telling me the story. Hadn’t seen her smile that big since the mailman accidentally delivered the neighbor’s bottle of Viagra to our house .. uh, er, never mind. =)

BTW, while walking on the beach yesterday, at low tide, we ran across a girl & two boys building a mermaid in the sand – just like in Pearl Diver. Was surprisingly similar to the one the boys built for the movie - except that Wendy’s mermaid had much larger breasts, thanks to Jahmar. =)

We’ll be moving later this month - about 20 mins north, to North Laguna. Closer to school. It’s not LA, but it’ll knock off a nice chunk of the drive. Mom & Sidney came over Saturday with a carload full of boxes, and helped us get started. We love Laguna, an artist’s community, with its creative energy. 

The new house used to be a church, so we hope some of the (creative/creator) spirit lingers. The place we live in now is functional, with plenty of room & yard, but not much creative energy (or so she says). Wendy is excited about the move, despite the aggravations associated with moving. She’s trying not to let the move distract her from finishing the semester with a bang, but moving is pretty distracting.

Carlos (Noriega) showed the last film of the semester - about a student saddled with piles of student-loans, contemplating how he’d ever make a difference in the world. The end of the film featured a voice-over saying, “Why would I want to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a filmmaker? What makes me think I could ever make a difference?”. What a way to end the semester.

Before Carlos, Jennie, the Harvard girl, did a piece on the treatment of women in Afghanistan, where, in real-life, they are being treated badly. The film made it seem like you were actually in Afghanistan, with cultural music, and a believable set. Wendy said it rocked.

Wendy met her 508 prof today – an older, black lady named Helaine Head. Wendy loves her, and everybody says all her (previous) students love her, too. Wendy also likes the students that'll be in her 508 class -> Luke (from Canada), Doug the rock-climbing teacher with the new-born baby, Mun Chee (girl) from Singapore, Mun Chee's partner Carlos Noriega, whose films are always dark, Stacey the true-artist/sculptor who applied to Film school on a whim, and, of course, Lisa, Wendy's hippie social-queen partner, Allison, Brad & Eric are new (she hasn’t had any classes with them yet). 

She came home happy today. The only negative is that she heard Helaine Head is a hard grader, and that she doesn't give A's, which can mean the difference in whether or not she receives scholarship money.

Wendy had three males (2 profs + a TA) in charge of judging & critiquing her work for 507 (no staff females). Films are subjective enough without introducing gender differences. Guys are wired differently and typically look for different things in movies than women do. This has been a source of ‘discomfort’ (how’s that for a nice, vague word?) for Wendy this semester. 

Everyone whose opinion of her work matters is male. Will be good for her to have a female’s input on her films (which are primarily about women anyway). Her plans for next semester’s 508 project will focus on a spitfire Latina flamenco dancer.

Wendy found out today that she’ll be getting a B+ in Screenwriting Fundamentals. She got A- on final, and A on her portfolio from scripts written during the whole semester. Final grade = 89, which is one point to an A-. She might ask the prof if he’d consider raising it 1 point to a 90, which would give her an A-, citing that she never missed a single class, & was always on time, which some profs take into account, and that she pulled herself up at the end & finished strong. (Midterm eval was B-) 

She doesn’t want to grovel, but many scholarships require 3.8 to even apply. Still, she was happy with the grade, since it was the class she focused least on. She said Doug was the best in her Screenwriting class, & he got an B+ too. She thinks he was bummed about that grade.

Many are dreading working with 16mm next semester. It’s tedious, especially compared to working with DV. Luke, the Canadian with luscious images was especially enjoying working with DV and editing on a PC. Much more can be done much easier & quicker on a PC, compared to film. The bad thing about 16mm film is that it uses a sucky audio track (mono optical, I think). 

Now that Lisa is her 508 partner, & because Lisa is social queen of the clan, we're starting to hear the 'dirt'. Stay tuned for all the dirty details. =D

Next -> She's Done

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