USC Film School Chronicles
The Fall 2001 semester at USC Graduate Production Film school

Wendy's Film school update #3
Posted: 25sep2001

Topics covered this update:

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

Fade up & zoom in.

The world premiere screening of Echo, 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. 

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 
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 
, which prepares students for their thesis project films. 551 is a mandatory 
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 editing Tania's thesis film, titled Seahorses. She likes 
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
try it. 

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. 

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.

Next => [USC Film school, update #4]
Previous -> [
USC Film school, update for Week 2]

[Index page for the Fall 2001 Semester Chronicles]
Master Index page, USC Graduate Film school chronicles]

Contact Wendy]
Lagunacinema Home]

Radified Home]
USC Film school Program Description]