of a USC Graduate Film School Student
Page 1 of 2
Fade up & zoom in.
At age 40, after raising two children to their
high school years, and completing
her undergraduate work, Wendy began graduate studies at the USC school of
Film & Television Production - arguably the finest Film school in the world.
One book we read refers to USC as the granddaddy of Film schools, with
Cinematography classes dating to 1929 .. before the Great Depression.
Wendy began the
3-year program in January .. mere days after the world
ushered in a promising new millennium, amid much joy and celebration. All
things seemed new & hopeful the day she started school. But things had
not always been so cheery.
Wendy's dad, Chuck, a graduate of USC himself (dentist), passed away just
as she began her senior year as an undergrad. Her dad died of prostate cancer
at age 64.
Although ugly & protracted, at least his death came as no surprise. The family
had plenty of time to prepare. But only months later, during the very same
semester, Wendy's brother, Van, also died. Unlike her father tho, Van died
suddenly and unexpectedly.
Still grieving the loss of her father, the loss of her big brother, her childhood
protector, proved disorienting.
Van was only 42 when he
died. At the time, Wendy was not only busy finishing
her senior year at USC, but also working toward completing the requirements for
the application to grad school.
The sudden loss of her brother, coming so soon on the heels of her dad's protracted
death, was too much for her. At a time when most people are feeling best about
themselves & their future, Wendy began to see life in a pall of futility. Her plans
to complete the application for grad school seemed pointless.
Suspicious circumstances surrounding her brother's death only made matters
worse. As the shock & denial wore off, cruel reality set it and Wendy's health
began to suffer.
With no time to grieve, due to the demands of her senior year, and the application
for grad school, she fell ill. It wasn't long before she was unable to get out of bed.
Everyone became concerned as her health grew progressively worse.
After missing the first 2 weeks of classes in bed with the flu, double pneumonia,
& God knows what else, Wendy began the final semester of her senior year with
fashionably dark circles under her eyes, and lungs full of what sounded like Elmer's
that kept her on track for grad
school was that four of her professors
(Lisa, Lloyd, Drew & Tara) & several close friends (Jan, Joan, Kathy & Karen) had
written & sent glowing letters of recommendation to accompany her application.
Each time she was tempted to pull the plug, she'd come back to, ".. but all those
letters have already been sent." She didn't want to negate the efforts of those
who'd gone out of their way to vouch for her.
To this very day, she works a bit harder in grad school, as her way of saying
'thanks' to those who went to bat for her, and to keep the path to grad school
open for other Critical Studies graduates.
With the aid of many bowls of
industrial-strength chicken soup and colorful capsules
of designer penicillin, she was gradually nursed back to health. Not only did she
complete the requirements of the application process on time, but also graduated
Magna Cum Laude (minimum GPA of 3.7).
Much shouting & celebration was heard throughout the house that day when the
mailman delivered the acceptance letter from the Graduate Admissions department.
Perhaps you can understand her first quip when she got the letter, "No one is
allowed to die until I finish grad school."
Somewhere in all that, she managed to play mom
to both Lani &
Jahmar. Both kids
were there that Friday afternoon in May at the Shrine Auditorium to watch mom
walk across the platform. When they called her name, you could hear them yelling,
The graduation ceremony was the most dramatic I'd ever attended (most are
boring). A private company arrived early and set up $35 million worth of High-
Definition TV equipment. Dean Daley said that this was the first graduation
ever recorded in Hi-Def.
Two huge screens were mounted above the stage, one on either side. Cameras
and cameramen were everywhere. Two men manned large, pivoting, sit-down
cameras. The image quality was impressive.
began with the THX soundtrack intro. If you've ever been in a
THX-equipped movie theater, you know how dramatic this can be. If you haven't
heard the THX intro, I posted a copy of it here (236kb @160kbps, thx to Dave
The Shrine Auditorium has a powerful sound system. When they played the THX
intro, the seats literally vibrate. Soon as it was done, somebody shouted in an
excited voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 1999 graduating class
for the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television."
The audience went wild as students
began filing in from the rear entrances.
Graduate Production students were introduced by a lady who spoke with the
most eloquent British accent I've ever heard.
Despite the joyous occasion, a note of sadness
hung in the air. Neither her father,
nor her brother, both huge USC fans, could be there to see their daughter/sister
graduate .. at least not in the flesh.
It was Wendy's dad who, years earlier, was the one who originally planted the
seed that she apply to USC. Everyday, on her way to school, she still drives by
street where her brother used to live, and the exit she used to take to visit her
dad. It makes it hard to forget them.
Next -> Introduction, Part 2 of 2
[Index page, the 507 semester chronicles at USC Film school]
[Master Index page, USC Graduate Film school chronicles]
[USC Film school Program Description]