USC Film School Chronicles
The Fall 2001 semester at USC Graduate Production Film school
Wendy's Film school update #4
Topics covered this update:
Fade up & zoom in.
Yesterday Wendy submitted the script for her thesis film, titled Breakwater, minutes
before the noon deadline. Five copies: one for each prof (2), & one for each of the
(3) potential thesis-project mentors.
The office where these scripts are submitted is located on the 4th floor. Wendy has
an aversion to elevators (phobia), so she took the stairs down. She paused at the
top of the (outdoor) staircase & looked out over the USC campus.
After working furiously for several weeks to submit the strongest script possible,
she finally had a moment to stop & smell the proverbial flowers. She's been working
on the script since early summer, rewriting it from scratch several times.
Then it hit her. After four years at USC, standing there on the 4th floor staircase,
she realized: "This is cool," (USC Film school) & heard angels sing 'Hallelujah.'
While at school, she usually has many things to do. This was the first time she had
time to reflect on her situation & its implications. She's thrilled to be there. Knowing
that her dad & both grand-dads graduated from USC adds to the enjoyment.
Yesterday was a particularly pleasant day in LA. After meeting the deadline she
walked down the stairs a bit more leisurely than normal.
The theme for Wendy's thesis film centers around a 17-year old girl, who's tempted
to dismiss as futile the hope for love in her life when her parents divorce.
Many people are affected by divorce, or have friends who have endured the divorce
of their parents, especially here is SoCal.
Wendy wants to make a film from the kid's point of view - one that gives voice to
the things that children of all divorced parents feel, but may not possess the skills
Many films have dealt with the topic of divorce, but most take the parent's point
of view. Wendy wants to approach the subject from the kid's perspective - something
that she & her friends have much practical experience with.
Wendy had some 'colorful' conversations with her mom about the idea for her film.
She thinks mom may find the subject uncomfortable. From the other end of the
house, I heard her saying on the phone, "It's not about you, Mom."
Her profs like the story, tho caution that the concept is ambitious. All of Wendy's
films have been ambitious. It's a common theme for her. She'd have it no other way.
Three profs serve as thesis
each semester. Each prof accepts
5 projects (students). So not all students get to make their thesis films. Like
everything at USC, the program is structured to mimic the way the industry works.
Students must pitch their projects to mentors (one of more). Some will be accepted,
but (like the real world) most will suffer rejection.
The good thing is that some great profs are mentoring this semester. The guy who
served as the Directing prof for 546 last semester, Tom Abrams, is one of the three.
Wendy's 551 prof, Brenda Goodman, is another. Brenda is also the head of 582,
which is a thesis project that students do on their own, using no university
equipment, no insurance, no post-production facilities, etc.
She also heard many great things about a mentor named Mark Harris, altho she has
never actually met him. He works as a Documentary filmmaker. Some students have
even postponed pitching their thesis projects in order to wait for him to be available.
Thesis project films are limited to 12 minutes. If the student-filmmaker gets someone
to serve as a Producer, for their thesis project, the time limit is raised 20 minutes.
(There's no time limit for films in which the student uses no university equipment,
altho films longer than 30 minutes are discouraged.)
Wendy is going to try to get someone to produce her thesis film, and raise the time
limit to 20 minutes. She has already approached Alex (from Singapore), who says
she might be interested. Wendy also plans to talk to Sabrina. Both Alex & Sabrina
have experience producing other projects.
Wendy hooked up with a
student in USC's (graduate) Screenwriting
Jim. He did his undergrad work at UC Santa Cruz, and is a friend of Lani's. The exact
role that Jim will play in the script's development has not yet been determined, but
it looks increasingly like he will serve as a co-writer, and receive a credit in the film.
He has already reviewed her script & provided valuable feedback, but is busy with
his own work & not available as much as Wendy would like.
Wendy has also been talking with people who are familiar with 3D-design and those
enrolled in USC's Animation program. She wants to inject an element of fantasy
into her film. In the spirit of The Wizard of Oz, she wants to create something in
the fantasy genre.
The 3D-design & Animation people seem eager to have their work used in films.
directors are due next week. Wendy sought to direct
a 546 last semester, but wasn't selected. (only 4 of 60 applicants selected).
She's not sure she wants to direct a 546 next semester, now that all her energy
is focused on developing Breakwater.
546 films are a community effort. For this reason many students shun directing
a 546. They'd rather make their own film, where they have more creative control.
Directing a 546 satisfies graduation req'ments for a thesis project. The good thing
about a directing a 546 is that:
1. USC pays associated costs (film, developing, etc.), whereas students pay
all costs for their own thesis film.
2. If you're one of the 10 students selected to vie for one of the final four
directing positions, your 508 film is shown to all students who want to crew
on a 546 film (as editor, cinematographer, sound, producer, etc.)
The value of your 508 film being seen by large group is that other students
become familiar with you & your work. This is how Wendy came to meet Tania.
Tania's 508 film was screened, but she was not selected to direct.
Even tho Wendy no longer has her heart set on directing a 546, she is still going
to submit .. to keep her options open.
Last semester, the scripts selected by the 546 committee seemed to be those that
were quickly thrown together at the last minute. Scripts that students worked long
& hard on were passed over.
Wendy posted Liliana (5-minutes),
her 508 film, at her website -> here.
have a broadband connection, you'll be able to stream it (Real video). If not,
you'll first have to download it (9MB file). If you have trouble, this page may help.
Wendy heard from several sources that USC is in cahoots with the government,
but she never knew in what capacity. This Yahoo link (thx to Rob) discusses
how Intelligence agencies solicit terrorist scenarios from USC's Institute for
If a filmmaker could conjure up a particular scenario, there's a chance that a terrorist
might also .. which means it might be worth trying to prevent. The ICT home page
is posted here.
Wendy's 508 partner, Lisa, is taking off this semester. She's traveling to Europe
(Germany, Paris, etc.), leaving today.
Lisa had a rough go of it the last couple of months, and could probably use some
prayer. She plans to return to school rejuvenated next semester.
continues to edit
thesis project film, titled Seahorses.
They plan to
screen a rough cut next month & solicit viewer feedback. This puts more pressure
on Wendy, but the feedback will be valuable.
Wendy's 551 class meets today at the Director's Guild in Hollywood (Sunset blvd).
They will view films being screened at the FirstLook festival. She looking fwd to it.
The 546 film that Wendy edited last semester, Echo, will screen at FirstLook this
bought his first car last week. Actually, a truck, a '94 Toyota pick-up.
Except for a slow radiator leak & a burned out headlight, it runs good. =)
Fade to black.
Film school, Wendy update #5]
Previous -> [USC Film school, Wendy update #3]
page for the Fall
2001 Semester chronicles]
[Master Index page, USC Graduate Film school chronicles]
[USC Film school Program Description]