The 507 semester at USC Film school

#39 in a series of 39

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

Fundamentals of Screenwriting (2 units): B+ 
History of International Cinema: Silent Film Era (2 units): B+ 
Production 1 (6 units): A-

The Production class (A-) is worth more (6 units) than the other 2 put together (2 units each), & includes not only the Production class itself, where she made/showed the 5 movie shorts, but also 'Acting' & 'Sound'. Sound, she knows, was a B+ (88). She speculates that she got an A- in the Acting class & an A in Production proper, which would/could average to an A- overall.

She's okay with the B+ in Screenwriting, cuz that's where she put the least effort. This grade was an 89. She asked the prof to consider boosting her 1 point to 90, which would give her an A-, but he said "Sorry, grades have already been submitted & can't be changed." She would've liked an A or A- in the History of International Cinema class, cuz she's a Critical Studies major, & had some of the material as an undergrad. 

The grade in that class was determined (solely) by a single paper at the end of the class & attendance. She didn't missed a single class, but had to start moving before finishing that paper. I'm sure she would've done better if she had more time. 

She's happy w/ the A- in Production, as that's the real essence of Film school (making films), & she heard that A's are hard to come by in Production


I remember, at the beginning of the semester, she thought it was gonna be (relatively) easy, cuz she only had to carry 10 units. She feels the 10 units in graduate production were three times the work of the 16 units she carried as an undergrad.

She's been hearing lotsa talk about how hard next semester (508) will be - another 10-unit semester - many say it's the most demanding semester of all, but I don't think most students put near the effort into their films as she did. So maybe it won't be quite so hard, comparatively, for her. Either way, she's prepared for the worst.

Next semester will be essentially a mirror image of this one. She'll have another Screenwriting class, another History of International Cinema (beginning w/ the 'Sound' era), & another Production class - where she & Lisa will partner to make one 5-minute, 16mm film each. They'll do Wendy's film first, where Wendy will write & direct, & Lisa will shoot & edit. Then they'll swap roles & do Lisa's the 2nd half of the semester. Lisa's film will be about a political prisoner in jail for protesting nuclear power. Wendy's film will about a spitfire flamenco dancer from Spain - still working on the story.

After next semester, most of the requirements will be out of the way & she'll be able to take the fun classes - electives.

Lisa, Wendy's partner for next semester, calls every few days from her cel. First she was in Frisco, then, a few days later, Oregon. A couple days ago, she called to say she was "on my way to Chicago". Wendy likes her & enjoys talking to her. Sometimes Lisa will lose the cel connection, & Wendy will tell me what's going on with Lisa while waiting for her to call back. 

Romantic interludes are a prime topic of discussion. They do the girl-talk thing. Wendy says she's at that age where every cell in her body is creaming, 'Make babies!' I sometimes hear Wendy giving Lisa tidbits of advice on how to deal with men.

Only a dozen boxes left to unpack, laying around in the LR + BR. Wendy says, "It's mostly your crap, honey" CalTrans finished paving last night. They did all the work at night - so just when we laid down to sleep -> sounds like a bull-dozer is outside the house - not to mention the wonderful aroma of tar.

Both traffic noise & dust level have lowered dramatically since the road's been paved. They laid down 2 or 3 layers - half the road at a time, so it took forever to finish. 

The place is shaping up nicely. Still have not been able to get the couch inside, but we may like it better in the back yard, under the trees. Old real-plaster walls. Glad we painted before moving in, cuz we definitely don't feel like doing much of anything right now. =) I can hear the PC's back-up power supply click in for a sec whenever the washer or drier starts, so wiring is prolly old. 

Coolest part is that pink roses are growing up the side of the house & sit in the dining room window - right against the glass. Big, giant, perfect, pink roses. Beyond the roses is the ocean. We're close enough to hear seals barking at night, when traffic dies down.


Last few days, especially since returning from Santa Cruz, Wendy's been spontaneously breaking into laughter - at the slightest thing - sometimes so hard she can hardly breathe. I'll ask, "What are u laughing at?" .. but that only seems to make her laugh harder. 

Dunno if she's just giddy from having the pressure off, or what. Moving right at the end of the semester was tough for her. Pushed her hard when she was already at the end of her rope. Moving sux. No doubt about it. 

She scheduled a massage for herself tomorrow at a 'charming' little day-spa down the street (walking distance), & also talked to the owner/manager & may work there one day/week this summer, in addition to being on-call part-time at the Ritz, where she worked last summer. 

We also have rezers at
Two Bunch Palms resort in Desert Hot Springs, where you do nothing but soak in natural hot springs, eat healthy food, & read. Two Bunch was in the movie The Player a satire about Hollywood with Tim Robbins. They have mud baths, many different types of massage, and pamper you with stuff like that. 

We've been going to the movies to celebrate the end of the semester. Ironic how Film school students don't have time to go to the movies during the semester. Edwards 'Big Newport' is a mere 10 mins away, & is our favorite theater cuz of the big screens there. Was too far from the old place, closer now. We want to go see the new Mission Impossible 2 next.

Rented & watched Besieged last night, by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, who directed Last Tango in Paris starring Brando. Luke, the Canadian who Wendy tried to partner with for next semester, used a scene from this movie to analyze, as part of a class project (Wendy used a scene from A Walk on the Moon - produced by Dustin Hoffman). 

has gorgeous images. If you want to see an example of the type of imagges that Wendy & Luke admire - especially from a cinematography standpoint - can't get much better than Besieged. Wendy wants to study photography this summer, cuz much of how to set-up a shot in photography translates well into cinematography.


Right now, she's reading a (recommended) book titled Cinematography by Kris Malkiewicz. 

Wendy flew up to San Jose Sunday afternoon to catch the last show of Lani's play at UC Santa Cruz. Lani had a lead role, & the play was written by a student from Laguna Beach High school. I dropped her off at John Wayne airport, & 90 mins later the Dog picked her up in San Jose & took her to the play. The next day she caught a shuttle back to the airport & i picked her up Monday eve.

She didn't think she'd be able to make the play - being so soon after the move, but she rarely misses a Lani play, especially when she has a lead part. She never missed Fortunately, American airlines had a flight & the Dog was available, or she prolly would not've gone. She said it was good to see the Dog again, who moved to San Jose from Hollywood (she used to stay at the Dog's place in Hollywood one night a week during a semester as undergrad), & of course Lani was awesome!

The Dog stayed for the play & Wendy slept in Lani's roommate's bed that night, who went home for the weekend. I hear her calling the Dog now to thank him for picking her up at the airport & shuttling her to Santa Cruz. Wendy says the Dog reminds her of Van. 

The Dog, a graduate of USC himself, just finished a Screenwriting class of his own (at Stanford). The Dog's (graduate) degree from USC is in Safety. I was in the nuclear Navy with the Dog back in '79-'80. You'd never've guessed in a million years that the Dog would have anything to do with safety. =D Maybe I'll post some of his stuff when I get the chance.

We're watching some more rentals tonight. Not sure what, but they're starting now (I can smell the yummy buttered popcorn Wendy makes for every movie). 


I'll leave u with a copy-n-paste (with permission, or course) of a recent email from Lynne, who danced on the beach so beautifully in Breathe. Lynne's an undergrad at USC, & is forging a path similar to what Wendy is doing -> Critical Studies (film) undergrad & (hopefully) graduate Production. Here ya go:

Dearest Wendy & Joe,
Just took a look-see at Pearl Diver. Well, you did it again! You've made a movie that made me smile, nod & breathe deeply. Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I must say that Vandancing was, in my humble opinion, outstanding - clearly a work of love on a deep, personal level. Wendy, you have a special gift.  Many blessings upon you for using it so well. All 3 of your films have been a joy to see.

I, too, have made my way through the semester. Happy to say I finished finals last week & am embarking upon the summer with new love in my life (I have a new beau named "Beau"... hmmm!) - a wonderful man who practices the Lakota way and makes his living in the Business as a top voice-over guy. A blessing for my life, indeed. Have set up my Fall schedule on the Critical Studies track since the Production division 'wait-listed' me.  So it seems I'm following your path!
Receiving the updates have been both inspiring and reassuring. I've very much enjoyed watching you journey through the early stages of graduate Production.  You've been moving a mile a minute! Know that you've wonderfully served this undergrad sister with the window into watching your journey. Thanks, sister!

Have a beautiful summer, & stay in touch.

All the best,
PS - Have shared Breathe with several friends & each time have received very positive responses. You certainly know how to make a film 'feel'! 

The end. Hope you enjoyed the journey.

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