Wendy's USC Film School Chronicles

The Fall 2001 Semester at USC Graduate Production Film School


Update #7

Topics covered this update:

  • Getting Greenlit
  • Crewing Up for 581
  • No 508 TA-ship
  • Last Class of the Semester

Lights, camera, action! .. at USC Graduate Film School

Getting Greenlit

Wendy was selected by a mentor to begin work on her 581 thesis film. She feels like this is the biggest thing to happen to her since being accepted into the graduate program at USC two years ago. To say she is excited would be an understatement.

Industry lingo for receiving a 'go' signal to make a film is called getting greenlit. Last night I saw a commercial for a new HBO series titled: Project Greenlight .. where relatively unknown filmmakers are given the mean$ to make their dream-movie. Now I understand where they came up with the idea for the name.

Only 12 students were selected this semester (3 mentors, 4 students per mentor). Wendy is one of only 3 students from her class (of ~50) to get 'greenlit' this semester. [Dennis & Quinn are the other two.]

This is a copy of the memo she received:

TO: Spring 2002 581/587 Students

FROM: Mary Beth Fielder, Project IV Coordinator


Congratulations on being selected as one of the SPRING 2002 Advanced Projects!

The registration and greenlighting-to-shoot process has been changed to a three stage process.

The first stage involves assembling a qualified USC crew and getting the "581/587 CREW PREREQUISITE FORM" approved by Student Affairs.

The second stage is to attach this form to the "581/587 REGISTRATION APPROVAL FORM" and begin scheduling meetings with the appropriate people to get the required signatures.

This part of the process must be completed in order to register and receive a 581/587 production number. [This process must be completed by the last day to register for classes or you will have to pay a late registration fee.]

The third stage is outlined in the form "581/587 GREEN LIGHT TO SHOOT SIGN-OFF." This must be completed before you begin shooting. The purpose is to ensure that your production plan is realistic, based on the amount of money you are able to raise. Your mentor will review this with you.

You should immediately begin assembling a crew, getting the "581/587 CREW PREREQUISITE FORM" approved, and schedule meetings to discuss the following items with the people who must sign off on your "581/587 REGISTRATION APPROVAL FORM":
  1. Budget
  2. Fund Raising Plan
  3. Shooting schedule
  4. Crew Prerequisite Form

Wendy's mentor is Brenda Goodman. She has a producing background. Wendy feels fortunate to have her for a mentor. From what Wendy has said, Brenda sounds like a no-bull type of person, who provides insightful feedback on her script.

Brenda is one of two profs for Wendy's 551 class, which deals with Preparing for the Advanced project, and is a prerequisite for 581. Wendy calls 551 the single most useful class at USC. It teaches students the nuts-and-bolts of filmmaking. Wendy said, "I can't imagine going to USC and not taking 551."

Sadly, Wendy's editing partner from last semester, Geof, didn't get selected by a mentor. This is surprising cuz he's obviously very intelligent, a graduate of Columbia, who majored in English. In other words, he's familiar with the dynamics of story.

Wendy feels that Geof may have resisted implementing suggestions from potential mentors. She became good friends with him when they worked as a team, editing a 546 project (Echo). She feels bad for him, cuz he worked hard on his thesis project. Even tho it doesn't necessarily mean that his script/project was of lesser quality, rejection is always painful.

Crewing up

Serendipity: Soon as Wendy left her meeting with Brenda, where she learned about getting greenlit, (by chance) she ran into a girl named Nancy Wang. Two weeks earlier, Wendy had sent Nancy a copy of her script (titled: Breakwater), asking if she'd be interested in producing her 581.

Nancy bumped into Wendy and said, "Hey, I just got your email. I don't know what's been wrong with my computer." Long story short -> Nancy agreed to produce Wendy's 581. So she had a producer only minutes after getting greenlit.

Nancy is ahead of Wendy in the program. She produced 546 documentary, so she has producing experience. Wendy says, "Nancy is a hard-worker who is on the ball and takes care of business."

Besides Nancy as Producer, Wendy has already secured commitments for an Editor (Eric, who edited a 546 Narrative last semester, and was selected to direct a 546 Narrative next semester), a Sound person (Peter, who is currently doing Sound on Tania's 546 Documentary), and a Production Designer (Keith, who's currently shooting a 546 Narrative). She wants to get more crew, but already has enough commitments to register .. which eases the pressure a little.

Many students called her when they heard that she got greenlit for 581, wanting to send a reel, pitching for a position to work with her. 581's go to First Look, which are seen by industry heavyweights. So students want to work on them. Advanced projects (58x) are the most prestigious projects at USC.

Between getting greenlit (one of only 3 in her class) and having so many people wanting to work with her, Wendy's self-confidence has taken a quantum leap. She thought she would have to seek out crew, but they are flocking to her.

Perhaps I should add that not all of her classmates applied for 581 positions. In fact, students who choose to shoot (cinematographers) for their 546 project (such as Luke, Keith & Doug) are required to take a separate (semester-long) class before they can even apply for 546 .. which is a prerequisite for 551 .. which is a prerequisite for 581.

Despite the enormity of the upcoming project, and feeling a bit overwhelmed, she's feeling better about 'things' than she has in a long time.

From what little experience Wendy has had at 'crewing up' for 581, she feels that it's *easiest* to get Cinematographers, and *hardest* to get Producers.

Wendy has a bunch of Cinematographers to choose from .. all are good, some are very good. She's still negotiating the Cinematographer positions (also called DPs, short for 'Director of Photography').

Working with Tania on her (Seahorses) project has helped Wendy see what needs to be done in order to make a 581. She has been picking Tania's brains on all the forms that need signatures.

No 508 TA-ship

Wendy didn't get a 508 TA-ship .. the one she interviewed for, with Amanda Pope. Amanda already had already promised the position to another student, but simply wanted to meet Wendy, cuz she heard so many good things about her.

Amanda teaches a Documentary class, and encouraged Wendy to take her class, saying that everyone should have a 'Doc' on their reel. Synchonistically, only a few days earlier, Wendy had just been considering a doc. The tribute to her brother, titled Vandancing, is the closest thing to a documentary that she has done.

Wendy said that she knows the student who Amanda selected (Shawn Ku), and that he's a hard-worker, and will do a good job for her.

There's one other 508 TA-ship that Wendy is currently in-the-running for. When she interviewed for that position, she asked, "This position isn't already promised to anyone, is it?" She should hear about it any day now, but isn't too hopeful cuz she has never met the prof. Profs usually choose TA's who they have rapport with.

If she isn't selected, she'll still have her 535 Editing-TA position (most likely), but it pays only 3 units .. and even that isn't guaranteed.

Last Class of the Semester

Tomorrow is the last class of the semester. Wendy is finishing a 30-page script, and is excited about seeing Nina Foch tomorrow, who was out sick most of the semester, but is supposed to return for the final meeting. Wendy loves Nina, who reminds her of her grandmother (Mimi).

For her final day of classes tomorrow, Wendy will show a scene that she shot with Lani. Lani drove all the way down from Santa Cruz to act in the scene (taken from the film Joe versus the Volcano, with Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan). Wendy is excited about showing off Lani to Nina.

Fade to black.