FilmSchool.org spoke with writer-director-editor Adriano Mirchou (FilmSchool.org Member @andy001) about his experience attending LMU School of Film and Television as a graduate student during the coronavirus pandemic. Mirchou is a Film and Television Production major working on his second year thesis film. He aspires to become a household name in independent cinema.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to appreciate film.
I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. My dad taught me everything about cinema, so by the time I entered middle school, I knew I wanted to make movies. I did my first two years of college in Santa Barbara and lived there for around five years. Then I transferred to Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah and majored in philosophy.
At Utah Valley University, I made about 10 short films that were mostly self-taught and self-funded. I applied to 10 graduate film school programs and started at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles last August.
Why did you choose Loyola Marymount over other programs?
Los Angeles was definitely the main factor in going to LMU. It's in the Mecca of the film world, and every other program I got accepted to isn’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—you just have more leverage if you're in L.A. and living in the heart of the industry. I wanted to start out by working my way up the film industry ladder.
My daily schedule has been hectic. I'm planning to shoot a film in the next three weeks while writing another script for the film I'm making this fall. Normally, I wake up and have Zoom meetings with my classmates and people in production. I'm almost always writing a script and editing it by noon. If I’m not writing, I’m editing; if I’m not editing, I’m writing.
I don't think I realized quite how intense the workload is in film school is until I enrolled in Loyola Marymount. But I love it—it’s great.
How did you prepare to enter your second year of Loyola Marymount's film program?
I focused on showing what I uniquely bring to the program, developing my voice, and creating original work. Whenever I wrote, I zoned in on what [my professors] asked for in terms of length. Making as much work as possible in your first year is so important—it opens doors. You can write the best script, but until it gets produced it just kind of gathers dust. Due to COVID circumstances, I kind of did what I’ve always done with film—I rallied the troops and made the most out of nothing.
What's your plan for the film you're making this fall?
The movies you make in your second year are some of the most important in your film school career. That's why I'm funneling all my energy into the script. It's not just a script--it's a blueprint for the entire film. Without a good script there's no foundation, so it takes a long time.
Every film I've made has been on my own merit. I'm used to searching for anyone willing to help me on a project. But when I got to film school, I developed a whole new kind of network. The most challenging part [of being a filmmaker] is meeting the right people to help you make what you want to make, so that was an immediate benefit.
Absolutely—it’s called Buffalo 66. It's an obscure film written and directed by the lead actor, Vincent Gallo. He pulled all the financing together and made it on his own, more or less. When I was 14 or 15 years old and learned about the story behind it, I realized that I could probably do that, too. Until I saw Buffalo 66, I don't think I was really aware of independent film. It helped me realize that I wanted to make surreal, conceptual movies that make you think.
Another inspirational film for me was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. There was life before I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and then there was my life after—I was blown away by the ending.
Have you seen Ratchet with Sarah Paulson on Netflix?
Ratchet was actually written by a Loyola Marymount graduate. Last fall, he talked to us over Zoom about the whole process of selling his spec script to Ryan Murphy, who also developed American Horror Story. It was really inspiring to hear that someone from my school could create work like that.
Have your peers provided valuable input into the script writing process?
That's the one thing you learn from going to film school: a lot people will write crazy, elaborate scripts, and you have to ask if or how they can pull it off. Everything I write, especially in film school, is based on a criteria of practicality.
For example, sometimes you'll be pitching a script and somebody will jump in and say, "Oh, well, will you rent a cargo van for that?" or, "Will you get a pyrotechnic consultant to make the explosion?" Workshops teach you to how to weigh a lot of factors that affect the story and how you shoot.
COVID-19 compromised a lot, and it’s definitely been challenging. My first semester, I barely had any crew members for the two films I shot. But I still got quality work done. I'm proud of that. I think I'm still learning the filmmaking process just as well, despite having limited access to certain resources.
That’s the thing: being in a pandemic teaches you how to make films without whole lot. It’s shown us how vulnerable the film industry is when we don’t have easy access to crews and shooting locations and so forth, and it was a giant learning experience for how we can improve things in 2021 and beyond. I think that the pandemic will benefit the film industry in ways we can’t even predict.
Are you satisfied with Loyola Marymount’s response to COVID-19?
I feel like Loyola Marymount has done a good job. They’ve allowed us to check out equipment again this semester. We have health officers at shoots who reinforce social distancing and sanitation. Every week, film students have to get [COVID-19] tests. It’s just about adjusting with the times.
Do you feel that you're on the right track to achieving the vision you had for yourself as a film school graduate?
Moving back to L.A. after undergrad helped me get my foot in the door and get me on track to where I want to be. Loyola Marymount supplies me with a lot of opportunities that have given me access to film industry-related jobs—they're always sending me emails with listings. I’m building the foundation to at least start my career as filmmaker in L.A., which was always my big goal.
The only drawback I can think of is the cost of tuition, which is a bit steep. I wish that I had gotten a program discount during COVID-19, but I don’t know if most U.S. universities are offering that. I think [Loyola Marymount] is doing the best they can under these circumstances.
Is it tough juggling your studies with part-time or full-time work?
In the first year, we were encouraged not to work. Loyola Marymount provides funding for graduate students through loans and scholarships, so I'm not currently employed. With that said, I’m looking for a job since my first year is wrapping up. I feel that it’s 100% doable to take film classes and work full-time by the second or third year.
What are three things that every new or aspiring film school student should know?
To start, you need to be aware that you're going down an ambitious road. It’s not the easiest endeavor. Rejection is normal in the film industry, so you need to get used to that. But you should actually try to fail, at first. The more you fail, the more you'll succeed.
Second, not everyone will understand what you do, so you have to stand your ground when it comes to your projects. That's what I love about film school: everyone has a really different voice, and everybody's unique. You’ll need to convince some people with a different perspective that your films are good, and you have to have the work to back that up. It's a matter of believing in your own films and putting in the effort.
Last, just stay the course and keep going even when you want to stick to your comfort zone. If you can envision yourself being anything but a filmmaker, then do that. When it comes to film school, you need to put your whole heart into it—or don’t go at all.
To learn more about Adriano Mirchou, visit his portfolio or follow him on Instagram and Twitter. You can also contact him at his FilmSchool.org profile @andy001.
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