Adventurers at USC Film School
Graduate Production | Spring 2002


Update #4

A Chronicle of the 581A Semester

Topics discussed:

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

  • One of Those Days
  • "I Started to Snap"
  • 581 Guidelines

One of Those Days

Fade up & zoom in...

When Wendy & crew showed up at school bright & early to check out the special camera that they planned to shoot the underwater scenes with, they discovered that another student hadn't returned it. I asked Wendy why she didn't reserve the camera. She said, "We did. But if another student doesn't return it, there's nothing you can do."

The only option was to check out a different camera. But the other camera wouldn't fit into the protective underwater housing that they acquired specifically for the reserved camera. They decided to head over to the campus swimming pool anyway and grab whatever shots they could, above the water's surface. This is the same pool where some of the scenes from the movie Cocoon was filmed (1985, Ron Howard, director). They didn't take the digital still camera that day, so there's no photos to show you.

Wendy originally wanted to shoot these scenes in the open ocean, but that scenario involved so many safety precautions that it became unrealistic. Jacques Cousteau himself would have to supervise the shoot, with trained divers positioned in the water nearby.

When they arrived at the campus swimming facility (with all their equipment), they found the place locked and dark. Not a creature was stirring. So they sat on their equipment and waited .. and waited. About the time they decided to call it a day, they found a lady, who didn't have anything to do with the pool, but said that she had a key to the elevator. That gave they access to the (indoor) pool. So they crammed all the equipment in the little elevator and away they went.

Once they finished schlepping all their equipment to the pool area, the guy who runs the swimming facility shows up. He's angry cuz (he says) they aren't listed on his schedule. Wendy told him that she saw him make the entry on his schedule herself, while she was standing right in front of him.

The guy said that they were supposed to come back and confirm the schedule .. after taking care of other items (phone calls, etc. that they took care of). Wendy asked how she was supposed to know that she was supposed to come back to him. He says that the lady who signed to approve the shoot should've never signed off on it, and that she was pressured to sign.

The guy asked, "Are you from the Cinema school? (snide emphasis on the word Cinema) I'm starting to get a bad taste in my mouth about Cinema school students (another snide emphasis on the word Cinema). I don't think I'm going to let any more Cinema school students shoot here." Wendy said that she didn't want to ruin it for other students and said that they would leave if he wanted them to. He told them to just hurry up and finish.

When I suggested that they probably should've called the day before to confirm the plan with the people at the pool, she didn't seem to appreciate my suggestion.

"I Started to Snap"

Later that day, after completing the shoot at the pool in record time, they headed over to the Zemeckis center, where they began to set up for the cave scene shoot. Alex had planned to stop by a store on her way over and pick up plastic kiddie pools to be used in building the set.

They planned to line these kiddie pools with black plastic, then add pieces of broken mirror and then partially fill them with water .. then shine lights into them so that the pieces of mirror would reflect the light and create a cool special effect.

But when Alex showed up, she said that she couldn't fit the pools into her car (VW Bug). She originally thought that they were inflatable pools. So Wendy jumped in the car and drove to the place, fighting traffic the whole way. She said, "I was so over fighting traffic, before I even left.

When they got to the place, they purchsed the pools, but they wouldn't fit in her car either. So she mounted her ski racks, and tried to tie the pools to the racks. But she could see that it wasn't working. The pools would have fell off before she left the parking lot. That's when she started losing it.

She said, "I started to snap. I started losing it right there in the parking lot." Before she went totally postal, Sage said, "Wait," and suggested that they cut holes in part of the pools, so that they could run the rope thru the holes in order to secure the pools to the ski rack. It worked. Whew.

Later, they couldn't figure out how to power to the lighting grid. No one was available to ask. Finally Doug Hunter showed up, and knew a little about how the lighting grid worked.

When they finally got power to the lights, they couldn't figure out how to lower the grid. So they tried pressing every button and pulling every level. Finally, the grid began to lower. But it only came down half way and stuck there. With more button-pressing and lever-pulling, they were able to lower the grid all the way. But then they couldn't get it to go back up. More button-pressing and lever-pulling. Kicking & cussing seemed to help.

581 Guidelines

Poste the 581 guidelines for making a thesis project film. See here (6 pages). This the bible for making an advanced level film at USC. These pages were scanned from the handout using optical character recognition software. Altho good, it's far from perfect.

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