How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

Final Thoughts

In your experience with the whole admissions process, is there one particular application that you can think of that truly affected you? What was it about that application that made it stand out?

You know, I can't say that there's been one that just blew me away, like through and through, where I was like, “wow.” And that's normal, by the way, because if it really did– probably wouldn't need to go to film school, you know? There are moments in several applications that I won't forget. I remember one of the first people I ever admitted, everything about her application was kind of weak except for one moment in her visual statement. It only lasted about three seconds, but it hit me so hard and it kind of showed . . . this maturity, this empathy, this kind of understanding that this person had in the world. It was kind of a moment of requited love, so to speak, in this visual statement. She just executed it perfectly. So that was one that always stuck with me.

I guess there are just moments where people say something that kind of surprises you and makes you just think about your life a little differently. Almost like reading something cool in a book. But in terms of an overall application, I can't say that there's one that really stuck with me except for the one that I read on your guys' site when I was still applying. Because, of course, that changed the way that I looked at things.

Is it common for applicants to reapply?

Yeah. I think in any class, you have a lot of people who it wasn't their first time applying. My feeling on it is, that's the film industry. If you're not down to reapply and keep trying, you're not gonna make it here in the first place. So yeah, we like people like that, we like people for reapplying. Here's a little tip for people when they're applying: typically speaking, the person who's reading your application doesn't know if you've applied in the past or not. I advise working it somewhere in there that you have– it'll show us that you're serious. It'll show us you’ve improved or are still working towards it or haven’t given up. And that's a good quality in people.

If you could give one piece of advice for future applicants, what would it be?

Dig deep. You have to dig deeper to grow. I think a lot of people who are applying, apply at a very surface level. And even if they think they'd done more than that, oftentimes they're wrong. I know that because that's how I felt. If you're sitting there thinking that your work that you're about to hand in is as good as it will ever get and that you put in all the effort you can, you probably shouldn't be applying in the first place. What you need to realize is that you have room to grow and it can always be better. We want to see the people who kind of pushed past that and surprise themselves because that's the point of film school.

You go there to grow and to search a little deeper than you thought you could. I know it sounds vague, but you can see that when somebody submitted an application: you can see when people took risks, when people didn't just do it the way their sixth grade English teacher told them to (in terms of structure and format and everything). We can really tell when you pushed every piece of art and creativity you could into something.

I always say that filmmaking (including your application), is like a sport. We look at these athletes and they spend 10,000 hours trying to master something. Yet, I see some of these film students who don't want to do that. You need to ask yourself: are you willing to put in the work? For me, that's what got my application there. Every day, doing that. What are you doing with your application is helping you to master the application itself. Because, guess what, that's just a sample of what you'll have to do should you be admitted. Dig deep and just push further than you thought you could. I know that's vague, but it's the truth.

As a closing statement, I'll say this: a great application reads like a great article or a great book. You don't look at it as an application. You don't look at it as “should this person be admitted or should they not?” You know, you don't even necessarily look at it as a person. Sometimes what you do is you start becoming introspective and you start thinking about your own life and you start thinking with the way you view things. And that's a sign of fantastic writing. That's a sign of fantastic storytelling.

I always say: imagine if I were to open up a magazine and read something you wrote. Would it make me want to subscribe to that magazine? You are presenting yourself as the filmmaker you want to be. When we view something of yours, do we want to view another thing? And at the end of the day, we are all reading for ourselves. That's important to understand when you're applying. We're not reading for you. We’re reading for ourselves. If we get something out of it, if we enjoy that time, if we look at things differently, if we understand the world a little bit better, you've done a great job.
About author
Svaja Paka
Svaja is a content creator with an affinity for written content and video, and has been creating films and writing stories ever since she was in elementary school. Her passion for the two subjects led her to specialize in creative writing during college, where she quickly became infatuated by Creative Nonfiction. Shortly after graduation, she began to excel as a content writer and video editor in various professional settings. Although Svaja has been passionate about filmmaking since she was a child, she has recently begun to pursue it seriously and hopes to attend an MFA program in 2021.

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LOVE. so informative and enlightening
Such an excellent deep-dive interview on the process! I'm so glad I have this clarity now.
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