2nd Year USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA Student, AMA

mac_53156

New Member
What did your portfolio look like before you started attending (like did your thesis or something earn awards or official submission slots)?
 

sharkb8

iAmB84AshRk
USC
What did your portfolio look like before you started attending (like did your thesis or something earn awards or official submission slots)?
I mean I tried to beef up my portfolio as much as possible, but my “awards” were just school awards from my undergrad at a tiny Catholic college. It didn’t really matter though. USC doesn’t really care about portfolio. Half of my class when they started had never done film before. USC primarily cares about your personal statement, so I really really worked on mine till it was as perfect as I could get it.
Nice to see you back! Hope you're enjoying it. Are you in the production track?
Hey again! I hope to stick around and check back in periodically I still love this site.
I have loved my time at SCA so far. Just finishing up the first year now. I’ve met so many people and had so many life changing experiences and I feel like I’m improving at getting closer to the thing I love doing (creating). And yes I’m in the production track. I started out wanting to direct or edit, but I was surprised to find out along the way that I’m a pretty solid producer, so I’ll be trying that out more going into the second year :)
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
And yes I’m in the production track. I started out wanting to direct or edit, but I was surprised to find out along the way that I’m a pretty solid producer, so I’ll be trying that out mor
Ah yes. I started film school wanting to direct but realized I wanted to edit. :)

Please keep us posted. How many projects have you worked on so far? Can you describe a typical "day in the life" at USC SCA?

Glad you love the site. :) ?
 

truffleshuffle

Active Member
NYU
USC
1) Collaboration: I heard that each class has 60 folks. How hard/easy is it to start scoping out the people you want to start collaborating with? Is it a rat race to get with the strongest DP/Director/Writer/Producer first or does it kind of play itself out over the course of assigned teams/work over the 1st year?

2) Time: In the 1st year, do you have time to pursue outside endeavors or will classes/production pretty much be your singular life?
 

sharkb8

iAmB84AshRk
USC
How many projects have you worked on so far? Can you describe a typical "day in the life" at USC SCA?
I have worked on dozens of projects in basically every capacity including Director, Producer, Editor, Director of Photography, Gaffer, Grip, PA, and Actor.

A typical day in the life is actually pretty normal compared to most other schools. We go to class, do homework, have meetings, etc. The real differences are that 1. Classes are (often) quite enjoyable because we're working on movies. 2. We have no free time. Even when we are not in class, there is always a project that needs to be planned for, shot listed, edited, cast, etc., and then your weekends are spent doing the filming of those projects, so your life is movies. That's what I signed up for though XD.

1) Collaboration: I heard that each class has 60 folks. How hard/easy is it to start scoping out the people you want to start collaborating with? Is it a rat race to get with the strongest DP/Director/Writer/Producer first or does it kind of play itself out over the course of assigned teams/work over the 1st year?

2) Time: In the 1st year, do you have time to pursue outside endeavors?
1. Yes each incoming cohort (spring/fall) has around 60 students. So far in the first year we were assigned our team members so collaboration was incredibly important, but it was more about working with the people we got assigned, rather than selecting people to collaborate with. Going forward, I'm very much looking forward to picking people I want to work with. I already have a list of people who I trust and who I think are talented who I'd like to work with. I think basically everyone in the cohort knows each other, or at least knows of each other, so reputations do get around.

As far as a rat race, I think it's less about people racing to be with the best DP's, and more about how some people just get fucked over. If you get a bad partner you're just gonna have to live with it. That has challenges, but it also can be very rewarding. Some trios manage to overcome their lack of experience because they really work with each other and rise above their inexperience. It's in your best interest to try to bring out the best in your partners, rather than pining over how you wish you could have someone else on your team.

2. No. :p

What should be kept in mind during the first semester? I've heard that the Production I class is difficult
If you can come to USC with a few ideas and/or scripts already prepared that are 5 minutes with no dialogue, you'll have a major leg up. The main thing to keep in mind for the first semester (and even more for the second semester) is that you HAVE to collaborate. Literally everyone will have issues with their trio. But almost no one is willing to admit that they themselves are responsible for just as many issues as the partners they'll blame. If you come into the first year at USC willing to take responsibility for the issues that arise, you will have a wonderful experience imo.
 

truffleshuffle

Active Member
NYU
USC
Thanks for the response.

Another question: Are there opportunities to be a Teaching Assistant or something similar to offset tuition costs?
 

sharkb8

iAmB84AshRk
USC
Thanks for the response.

Another question: Are there opportunities to be a Teaching Assistant or something similar to offset tuition costs?
Basically yes. TA positions are reserved for critical studies students (PHD’s). But production classes (the ones for MFA’s) have SA’s “Student Assistants”. You aren’t allowed to be an SA in your first semester, and not many people do it in the second semester because the second semester is the busiest one of all. But at the beginning of your second year a lot of people decide to SA. I will be SA’ing for 2 classes next semester, and I’m excited.

The pay is basically minimum wage, but if you SA for some of the more challenging classes, there will also be a tuition cut ranging from $1,000-$4,000 for that semester. USC, like any of the top film schools other than UT-Austin, is exorbitantly expensive, so SA’ing will barely make a dent in the total cost, but it’s still money and it’s good experience if you’re looking at a professorship in the future.
 

truffleshuffle

Active Member
NYU
USC
I know it's possible to get a merit-scholarship once you're already a student, but how are the chances of actually getting one?
Oh, to piggyback off of storyteller's question, I read somewhere that if your 1st year films win any awards or gets recognition at various film festivals, that this positively affects how much SCA will offer you in 2nd year scholarships. Is this true/accurate?
 

sharkb8

iAmB84AshRk
USC
I also have a question!

I know it's possible to get a merit-scholarship once you're already a student, but how are the chances of actually getting one?
There are a lot of scholarships, but virtually all of them are partial scholarships. From what I understand, nearly everyone here has at least some sort of scholarship. So it's not hard to get one, but it is usually hard to get some of the bigger ones.

Oh, to piggyback off of storyteller's question, I read somewhere that if your 1st year films win any awards or gets recognition at various film festivals, that this positively affects how much SCA will offer you in 2nd year scholarships. Is this true/accurate?
Yeah I've heard this too. I believe it's true, but you'd probably be best off not banking on this happening. In your first semester, your production class will be 507, where you and your trio make films using a very very nice camcorder, The Canon XC-15... but it's still a camcorder. I've seen some lovely work from 507, but a 5 minute film shot on a camcorder by 3 people, 2 of whom are usually noobs, your odds of having a festival winning film are virtually 0.

In your second semester, you take 508, where you get a professional quality camera, and you tend to be better off in terms of experience. But here's the thing. I've watched a few hundred 508's now. If I've seen 300, then I'd estimate that 250 of them were equally forgettable. 30 of them were godawful. And the other 20 were slightly memorable. I haven't ever seen an amazing film that will be going to Cannes or winning any significant festival. Part of that is also that they're 5 minute films, so it's not exactly conducive to making a festival film.

Also the professors will hint at this repeatedly even though many students don't seem to hear it. 508 is an exercise. It's not an attempt to make the most perfect film ever. It's a chance to learn how to collaborate with people when you're thrown together on a team. So don't bank on this exercise turning into a festival winning, scholarship earning short film.

Still, all that being said, yes there are scholarships available if your films win some festivals. Just don't throw all your eggs in the "I'm gonna get a scholarship cuz of my 507!"
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
What do you wish you know before you applied?

What do you wish you knew before you started?

How does the reality of USC film school compare to what you imagined it would be like?
 

sharkb8

iAmB84AshRk
USC
What do you wish you know before you applied?

What do you wish you knew before you started?

How does the reality of USC film school compare to what you imagined it would be like?
So far nothing has blindsided me. I feel like I knew exactly what I was going to get, because I researched it all in advance. I made sure to be fully aware of how the loan situation would work out. For me that meant being aware of and committed to the concept of using Income Based Repayment, so I always justified the decision to go to film school by asking "Am I willing to give up 15% of my income for the next 15 years to be able to get into the industry I truly love?" And I always answered that question yes. So that mostly means I'm willing to rack up a big dollar amount in loans, because that won't change the amount I actually will repay, since what I'll pay will be tied to IBR.

I also made sure to research all the different schools very closely. I knew I wanted USC because it's the highest ranked film school, it has a really fun atmosphere for sports (which I had missed in undergrad so I'm glad I get to experience it in grad school) and most importantly, the SCA is far and away the best film school for providing students with job placement opportunities. One of the criticisms I sometimes see of USC is that it's too rigid/set in the way things have to be done, but much of that is because if you want to have a paid job, there are expectations you'll have to fulfill. USC prepares you for that, and the professors/alumni are always on the lookout for paid opportunities to hook you up with. That's the real advantage of the SCA. If you can't get a job in the industry coming out of here, you can only blame yourself, because the hookups are here. Once you have the job, then maybe you can go pursue some super experimental artsy stuff, but if you want to eat, you need to get the job in the first place, and USC is the best at helping you get there.

I think the reality of USC film school is a little bit different than I expected, in that the quality of the films are generally pretty crappy. I think I had a somewhat head in the clouds idea that everyone's movies were going to be amazing, but really that's just not the case. This says 3 things to me.
1. It's nowhere near as hard to get into SCA as you might be telling yourself. There are noobs in every class, so we all have/had a good shot of being equal to them.
2. All film school projects need to be judged as learning experiences. I've also done screening for films submitted to AFI Festival, and I noticed the same thing. The school projects, no matter what school (USC, NYU, Columbia, Chapman, etc.) were nearly all lacking in some aspect or another. Just being at a top film school won't make you a great filmmaker. Then you need to really apply yourself and put maximum effort into being able to notice the flaws in your work that others can see but you haven't gotten good enough to notice yet.
3. Making movies is a hard hard skill. Part of the reason there's so much shitty content in the real world is because even the best people don't really know how to perfect this art form. It's like a bar of soap that keeps slipping away from you. You might eventually be good enough to have a good grasp on it, but it'll always be right on the verge of slipping out of your fingers.

And I'll do a separate comment tomorrow or Saturday about tips I have for applicants. I actually do think there's a formula to getting in, certainly at USC, and probably at all film schools.
 

truffleshuffle

Active Member
NYU
USC
Thank you for these candid responses. Absolutely helpful.

I plan to live about half an hour from campus. Is the parking situation pretty bad at SCA? Is it tough to get a parking pass? And do those who live some ways off campus come to regret it or feel at a disadvantage academically/socially?
 

courteroy

New Member
Supporting Member
Oh, since you're doing this AMA and are planning to respond to us future applicants, I have a question that I'd love to ask. When applying for grad school, are you allowed to apply to more than one discipline or do you have to commit to ONE program and apply to it alone? I want to apply to the producing program AND the tv writing program and am hoping I can submit two apps.

Thanks!
 

truffleshuffle

Active Member
NYU
USC
Oh, since you're doing this AMA and are planning to respond to us future applicants, I have a question that I'd love to ask. When applying for grad school, are you allowed to apply to more than one discipline or do you have to commit to ONE program and apply to it alone? I want to apply to the producing program AND the tv writing program and am hoping I can submit two apps.

Thanks!
I just went through the application process a few weeks ago for Fall 2020. You can apply for up to 3 programs, but the recommendations, personal statements, portfolio, etc. need to be submitted to both programs separately. I'll let sharkb8 confirm or dispute that, though.

Source Info
 

Latest Classifieds

Latest Applications

Latest reviews

  • USC Cinematic Arts - Film and Television Production (MFA)
    1.00 star(s)
    Questionable Investment
    If you don’t get a scholarship to attend USC I would advise against going. It’s too much money to throw away for a school with so many problems...
    • Anonymous
  • Rome International Film School
    5.00 star(s)
    BEST use of your time!
    Thanks to professor Carl Haber I was able to learn the fundamentals of screenwriting and how to implement them. For the first time in my life, I'm...
    • pcasmur
  • UCLA TFT - Screenwriting (M.F.A.)
    5.00 star(s)
    The Right Move For Me
    I have loved this program so far! For me, it was the right move. Coming from out-of-state, I learned a lot about LA and housing, but it could have...
    • Anonymous
  • University of Chicago - Department of Cinema and Media Studies
    5.00 star(s)
    In my opinion, the University of Chicago's Cinema & Media Studies program is one of the most outstanding and underrated programs out there. I...
    • jn0pe
  • Emerson College
    3.00 star(s)
    I went to Emerson for my undergrad for VMA (Visual media arts, just generally the film program) and...it was a lot of fun, I certainly learned...
    • julia1
Top