After taking a lengthy hiatus from looking back to, uh, you know, graduate, I'm going to try and run through these top moments at USC before the fading nostalgia quickly morphs into vitriolic bitterness.
ANYWAY, for my fourth fave USC film school moment I'm going all the way back to my first semester...good ole' spring of 2008. Back then, a promising young Senator from Illinois was stunning pundits with big wins in Iowa despite being a radical Muslim born in Kenya, the Cubs were looking good early on with mutterin' sputterin' Lou Piniella leading the way, and a very select percentage of cultured Americans were making jokes about drinking milkshakes.
I had been enjoying my whole USC experience so far but still felt an overriding sense of doubt. Did I really belong here? Am I ever going to get over bars closing at 2am? Is it really as hard as people say? That's what she said. Overall, I was rolling along, making movies and sh*t, but still feeling out of place in the land of palm trees and freeways.
Those feelings of doubt went away when something kinda cool happened - my very first film project at USC was selected to be shown to the whole class.
We had a class called "510", where our whole semester class came together to get insight from real-live industry professionals (who were also almost all current USC professors, but that's not so bad..right?) and it was okay, for the most part. Some offered real insight and others were boring as hell. But when the great and insightful editor extraordinaire Norm Hollyn asked for us to submit our projects to examine good and bad editing, I actually got a little excited.
I dropped off a DVD of my first 507 project- a dialogue-free 5 minute short. "507" was the class where you made a bunch of movies by yourself and it was crazy and you made fast friends (or enemies) and got essentially thrown into the "ring of fire" as far as production was concerned. Nowadays, most of the 507 films are like the shuttered-away stepchildren we all like to keep hidden from our new friends and usually end up being embarrassing when they come out in a social situation. Back then though, they were the bees knees!
So lo and behold my surprise some two weeks later when Norm announced he was going to show my dark comedy film to the whole class. I went to the front and Norm said "We probably won't watch the whole thing" (I had made the USC classic "Five-Minute Short Film" with a running time of over eight minutes).
But, we watched it all the way to end. I thought that was the coolest fucking thing in the world.
And- holy shit- people actually laughed.
And not because it was a poorly-made over-acted drama piece. It was a comedy and people seemed to like it.
Now, lets be clear, it means nothing now and meant very little then, except that it was a little sigh of relief that "I may very well be okay here". The class proceeded to pick apart my editing problems but just to be in the mix was really nice. I mean, here I had a real Hollywood features editor suggesting that I maybe should have put the heroin scene after the jerking off scene. Or, maybe I should have intercut the jerking off, the heroin, and the cocaine all together! They were all really good suggestions for changes! (I never made them)
We watched another short (which was really good and charming and funny) and then class ended. I felt invigorated by the showing. I knew we had some really good filmmakers in our class, just in our little section alone with talent like @coog510 and more and so even to be up there and having gotten a few laughs was a real big thrill and made me feel like I could do the kind of comedy I like writing AND people may like it.
I mean, at the end of the day, all this effort of writing/ directing/ producing/ camera operating/ casting/ editing/ getting coffee/ paperwork/ running late/ being stressed/ not sleeping/ asking 'Why God, why?' is all just so that whatever I'm making can get seen by other people and hopefully bring out some kind of a reaction. Ideally a positive one.
It was a moment that, like a super-mushroom on your first lap in a game of MarioKart 64, just gave me a nice and needed boost early on in film school and gave me confidence when I embarked on more ambitious projects down the line.
I decided to finally share this rookie endeavor with the world and now its up on my snazzy Vimeo page, you can watch it here:
Man, if I could just talk to the excited, nervous, idealistic, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing film student who made that short I'd beat him to within an inch of his life and tell him to start working harder if he ever wants to make it in this town. Then I'd tell him to make a massive bet for the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in two years.
God, what a shmuck that guy who used to be me was. But at least he made a decently funny movie.