USC Film School Chronicles
The Fall 2001 semester at USC Graduate Production Film school
Wendy's Film school update #3
Topics covered this update:
Fade up & zoom in.
The world premiere screening
the film that Wendy (& Geof) edited
last semester was held Sept 8 (Sat evening). Norris theater was filled to
capacity. About 20 or 30 people stood in the back & spilled in the aisles.
Four films screened - each lasted 12 mins, in color with sync sound dialogue.
Convention dictates that the best film is saved for last. Echo screened last.
No film was bad, altho the first two were merely 'okay'. The third film screened,
titled Joey Petrone - TV Cop, was very good, noticeably better than the first two.
Echo was downright impressive.
No doubt I'm biased, but the faces of those who congratulated Wendy afterwards
expressed genuine respect. I was so proud of her. She was walking six inches
off the ground for the entire weekend.
Lani accompanied us to the screening. She was also proud of mom. Before the
screening, Lani surprised mom by taking her to a boutique in Laguna to have her
finger & toenails done. Wendy never had a manicure or pedicure before and
started crying at the boutique.
(Lani has since returned to UC Santa Cruz, where she begins her junior year as
a Drama major. Perfect for a drama queen.)
Drinks & snacks (sushi) were offered after the screening. Festivities were held
in the courtyard next to the Lucas bldg. A band played instrumental low-key
music. By now I know many of her classmates and enjoyed myself.
Judy from Wendy's 508 film (Liliana) was there with her parents. I also saw Lynne,
who starred in Breathe. She was looking buff.
It's been an eye-opener for me to witness the student's progress, from their first
meager attempts two years ago to these more-sophisticated productions.
Wendy dropped her Advanced
Editing class. She did not particularly care for the
material being used (Roswell), and she was already familiar with the Avid editing
platform. It's the same model that she used last semester to edit Echo.
Her Echo editing partner, Geof, was also her partner for the Advanced Editing class.
They both felt that the course material was not very challenging, especially for an
Advanced level graduate course. They both decided to drop at the same time.
Out of respect for one another, neither Wendy nor Geof would drop the class
unless the other agreed. For an Advanced editing class, Wendy & Geof both felt
that they should be working with film.
To replace the Advanced Editing class, Wendy was able to get into a class called
551, which prepares students for their thesis project films. 551 is a mandatory
prerequisite for anyone wanting to make their own thesis project film.
She was enrolled in this class earlier, but had to drop when it conflicted with the
class she's TA'ing. Taking 551 this semester means she might actually be able to
finish the program in 3 years.
Some faculty claim that 551 is the single best class offered at USC. 551 focuses on
all the pre-production aspects of making your own film: a script workshop, budgeting,
scheduling, fund-raising, arranging tax-deduction status, assembling a crew, choosing
a mentor, etc.
The man who oversees all thesis projects addressed the students. Wendy said he
was discouraging, claiming that only 25% of all thesis projects are actually completed.
Many get bogged down in post production and never finish.
In addition to 551 - Preparing
for the Advanced Project (2 units), she's also taking
533a - Writing the Feature Script (4 units) and 574 - Practicum: Directing Actors
for Film with Nina Foch (2 units).
[One thing I found interesting: Nina Foch said, "When you read a script, you read
the whole thing. You don't read part, put it down, then come back & read the rest
later. You must absorb it all in one sitting."]
Now that Wendy is taking 551 instead of Advanced Editing, the semester will no longer
be the breather she had hoped for, especially since she's also editing Tania's thesis
project film (no units).
She's also TA'ing an Intermediate Editing class. USC pays her 3 units for that, plus
an hourly wage. This also demands much of her time. In fact, she's on the phone right
now with Alex, who called to say that her hard drive crashed.
I can hear Wendy saying, "You mean you didn't back-up your project to a floppy?"
Sounds like Alex will have to start over from scratch.
The phone doesn't stop ringing. Sometimes a student will call her cel while she's
talking to another on the home line.
I think it's a little odd for her to be TA'ing a class for students that started at the
same time that she did. She works extra hard to make sure things go smoothly for
her friends. The class has 8 students, 4 editing pairs. Good size for what they're doing.
Wendy attended the screening of Liliana at the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival.
I didn't go, but mom & Sid did. They stayed the whole weekend - Fri/Sat/Sun. Not many
508's are accepted into film festivals.
Liliana was screened next to a German film with a $75,000 budget. She feels the German
film will win. It's hard for a student film to compete with a budget like that. She also
networked like crazy, and picked the brains of those there.
It was good for her to mingle with fellow filmmakers. It took her mind off the tragedies
besetting our nation. They all stayed with a family member who lives in Lake Arrowhead,
about an hour away.
Wendy has been enjoying
thesis film, titled Seahorses.
the material and had her first meeting with Pablo, Tania's mentor. Pablo encouraged
Wendy to explore non-traditional approaches to editing the film.
This is good cuz Echo was edited as a non-traditional story. She has experience
with this approach. Traditional storytelling is linear: beginning -> middle -> end.
Non-traditional storytelling is more difficult to edit, & risks being unclear to the viewer,
but very cool when it works. Echo worked beautifully, but also took a lot of work. A
lot of trial and error is involved. You don't know what works best until you actually
Tomorrow is their second meeting with Pablo. He is also the head/chair of 508, and
Wendy would like nothing better than to get a 508 TA-ship next semester. I think
508 TA-ships pay 8 units, which would mean she could go to school for free. She
feels she has a lot to offer 508 students.
She's editing Seahorses on Final Cut Pro, a platform she has never used before. She
likes FCP better than Adobe Premiere. She may also be able to try out a demo of the
new Avid Express DV on her home editing system.
Only a handful of Final Cut Pro editing stations remain at USC. Rumor has it that Avid
stipulates that USC get rid of all other editing platforms as part of their agreement to
seed USC with editing stations. Students using them do so quietly.
Wendy's thesis project film,
tentatively titled Breakwater, will center around the life
of a 17-year-old girl whose parents are going thru a divorce. Wendy has practical
experience with the scenario.
Maria just came over to pick up a copy of the script. She's going to review it for
Wendy & provide feedback. Maria also has plenty of practical experience with the
things a teenager goes thru when their parents divorce.
Wendy is going to try to shed some light on the unconscious dynamics at work in
a home breaking apart. I'll delve deeper into Breakwater in future updates.
Congrats to Alex & Berni
who had a baby girl named Daniela. Berni provided the
horse (Bucky) used in Liliana. Alex starred in Vandancing, the tribute that Wendy
made to her brother, Van, during the 507 semester. Everyone is doing fine.
Fade to black.
Film school, update #4]
Previous -> [USC Film school, update for Week 2]
page for the Fall
2001 Semester Chronicles]
[Master Index page, USC Graduate Film school chronicles]
[USC Film school Program Description]