Grades for last semester's classes are posted above. You should've heard Wendy whining about that B+, saying, "I should've got an A- in that class. I worked hard and turned in every assignment on time." =)
Writing is one of her more challenging endeavors. Most Film school students enjoy conjuring up intriguing ideas for stories. But it requires tons of discipline to sit down and transform creative ideas into a coherent script.
The bad thing is that Writing the Feature Script (B+) carries 4 units, and therefore weighs twice as heavily on her GPA as the other two classes. The good news is that this is the first graduate semester in which she received two full A's.
Wendy's face lit up like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning when she saw the grade (A) that Nina Foch gave her (for Directing Actors for Film class). This was Wendy's first Advanced-level class.
Despite the harmless-looking photo, Nina can be a terror in the classroom. She's not easy to please, and when she doesn't like something, it's no secret. Students come to Nina's class prepared .. or they don't come at all.
Nina was out sick for much of the semester, but an impressive stream of her former students, who have 'made it' in the industry, stepped in to substitute for her .. a different one each week.
Wendy greatly enjoyed these 'guests' from the industry. They put a lot of effort into each class. This is one of the things that makes USC a little different from your average Film school.
Wendy feels that 551 (Planning the Advanced Production) was the single most-useful class she's had at USC .. cuz it teaches the actual mechanics of making a movie. And that's what Film school is all about.
This Semester's Classes
This semester marks the beginning of Wendy's third year. She'll
be taking two classes this semester, worth a total of 8
- 581A - Individual Production Workshop (4
- 541 - Intermediate Interactive Multimedia Workshop
581 is known as the Advanced project, or the Thesis
project. It's what Film school students live for: the chance to
make your own movie. 581 runs three consecutive semesters
(including the summer). Semesters are structured like so:
- 581A => Polish script, pre-production & shoot
- 581B => Edit, post-production [summer semester]
- 581C => Post-Sound, sound-design, scoring, &
mix [Fall, 2002]
To modify a creed from the Army: the more you sweat in pre-production,
the less you bleed in production. Wendy is generally good at pre-production.
508 semester, she & Lisa
were always done shooting before other groups.
Pre-production involves a host planning-related activities such as,
casting, crewing-up, fundraising, securing corporate sponsors, publicity,
costumes, props, set-design & construction .. uh, not necessarily
in that order. =)
If all goes well (which it never does) she'll walk away with a 12-minute
movie to her name. Some students take nothing but 581
during their 'A' semester. This allows them to focus single-mindedly
on developing their thesis-project film.
The other class that Wendy will be taking this semester (Interactive
Multimedia) is a mandatory requirement. She'd actually rather
take a different class, called Script Analysis, with a prof named
David Howard. She read his book The
Tools of Screenwriting (twice!) two years ago, and *loved* it. This
class would also help her develop her story idea. (She already sat in
on one class.) Everybody raves about this class.
But she feels compelled to take the Interactive Multimedia class,
cuz it's a requirement. She's heard too many stories about students
who can't graduate cuz they have *one* required class remaining.
From the syllabus:
This course focuses on the design and theory of narrative-based
Interactive media. We will work primarily with computer games, databases,
and the Internet as the emergent loci. Course themes will include:
- Cyber culture in Cinema
- Narrative structures of computer games
- Artificial characters
- Metaphors in computer interfaces
The course will introduce technologies through popular software, such
As part of the discussion about Cyber culture, the prof mentioned
the book, Snow
Crash. Some of my techie friends feel that this is the best book
they've ever read.
Wendy is already familiar with both Macromedia Director and Adobe Photoshop,
so she feels that the class won't distract too much from the demands
of her thesis project, which will be considerable. You can see an example
of some Photoshop mojo that she threw together in a collage
at her site.
Wendy got a TA position for an Advanced Editing class, called
Editing the Advanced Project (543). She *also* got a position
as personal assistant to Jim Mitchell, head of the Editing
Wendy's was Jim's TA last semester, for an Intermediate Editing
class (535). Apparently he liked working with her. Nancy
Wang, who is Wendy's Producer for her thesis project, was Jim's
personal asst last semester (Nancy rocks).
I think Wendy gets 5 units (total) for these two positions, which
means she only has to pay for 3 units this semester.
Luke got the 508
TA-ship that Wendy was vying for. She said Luke was happy about getting
the position, which pays 8 units, but found that he can't take
any good classes, cuz the 508 class for which he is TA'ing conflicts
with all the good classes (Tuesday/Thursday schedule).
Omens & Injuries
The evening of the day that Wendy learned she got
green lit, she went dancing after dinner (sushi) with her friend
Natalie ('Nads'), an undergrad classmate, who is now producing.
Wendy was in a celebratory mood, but she was also feeling the pressure of making her own movie. I don't think she thought she was really going
to be selected. She had the idea that the faculty would pick upperclassmen
first, and that she'd get green-lit during the summer.
Getting green lit was a surprise, and meant that the race is on.
If you've stayed after a movie to watch the credits roll (..and roll, & roll), you have an idea of how much work is involved.
Anyway, the girls were drinking sake. Natalie has Russian blood (for
real), and is seemingly impervious to alcohol, but Wendy spent much
of the next day in the bathroom, on her knees, praying to the great,
white, porcelain god. I believe his name is Ralph, cuz that is
the name she kept calling out repeatedly from her position of worship.
I'd never seen her so religious.
She wasted a couple of days recuperating, and then decided to take the
kids skiing for Christmas. I had a bad feeling about the
ski trip. I told her that she just got the biggest opportunity of her
life (getting green lit), and that she shouldn't do anything to jeopardize
that. I felt like she was tempting fate, but she would hear none
She tweaked her knee while testing some new 'powder skis' on a steep
face at Heavenly
Valley (Tahoe), getting into position to shoot
video of the kids snowboarding off a jump. One leg went one way
.. the other went another. She said, "I heard something snap."
The snow that day was heavy - ideal conditions for snapping tendons.
Wendy told the people in the ski shop that she was an 'expert' skier,
which means they cranked her bindings down real tight. Wendy thought
she was 18 years old again, but her body refused to believe it.
Next thing ya know, Ski Patrol is toting her away on a stretcher.
Doc said she tore a ligament (ACL, left knee), and will need surgery
if she ever wants to do active stuff again, like hiking
or backpacking. She's was hobbling around on crutches, with a brace
on her knee & sad look on her face. She getting better, tho.
If I said, "I told ya so" once, I must've said it a hundred
times over the last few weeks. Every time she asks me to carry something
for her, I say, "Ya know, if you would've listened to me..."
Of course, she hates that. =)
So things haven't started out so great. When I ask her about these self-inflicted
wounds coming so soon on the heels of getting green-lit, she replies
by saying, "You obviously know nothing about the creative process."
I hope this doesn't mean that she plans to cut
off her left ear next.
The good news is that she's not had single drop of alcohol since the
night with Natalie, and has been focusing on developing her story.
Sometimes a little humbling can be a good thing. I heard that Michael
Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team...
Wendy receives letters from people who find these updates via Internet
engines. I posted one of these letters, from a girl named Tara,
who is currently a Poetry major at Sarah
Lawrence College, near NYC. She'll be graduating in May and has
applied to USC Film school (she won't find out until April whether she
is accepted). You can find her letter ->[HERE].
I can't help but feel that a Poetry major would make an ideal
platform from which to approach filmmaking, as it also uses the language
of imagery. We wish her all the best.
An updated copy of Wendy's script
is posted here. The file is password protected (she doesn't
to steal her idea). If you'd like to check it out, let me know and I'll
send you the password.
It has developed considerably over the last several months. I'm sure
she'd appreciate any constructive criticism you might have. Sometimes
it helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at your script.
for her story reads like this:
The divorce of her parents tempts Elena to give up on love and sends
her reeling into a fanta-sea world where mythical creatures challenge
her to face her pain and embrace love again.
A logline is industry lingo for a single sentence that sums up your
Fade to black...