Feedback on USC cinematic arts personal statement?


New Member
I'm applying to the animation and digital arts major. I feel a bit weary about the middle but any type of advice is greatly appreciated. Let me know, thanks.

When my dad told me a story about his mother—a woman who took grand steps to further the lives of her children, grandchildren, and everyone to come after—I was changed. He’d told me this because I was angry with school; angry with how hard it was for me to focus, angry with how other kids had an easier time, so angry that I told myself I hated the very act of learning. He’d come up to my room and decided to tell me about Baji, or my grandmother—a young woman who took eight children by herself from Kenya to India so they could have proper access to education. He described a weeks-long boat ride and a rented living space the size of a one person bedroom. He described a journey of repeating grades and taking classes in a language he didn’t know so he could break through the barrier that hovered between the social classes.

While his story had it’s intended effect of me eventually valuing education and taking advantage of the wide access I have to information, I also subtly cultivated an adoration of storytelling. I thought, if my dad can paint me a simple picture of his mother and his childhood, and it can change me in such significant ways, what other pictures can be painted to offer new perspectives to others? It felt like a breakthrough and a calling at the same time, and I dove into what storytelling had to offer.

As I became more enthralled with film and television, I found myself on the doorstep of animation. Those movies were always my favorite, that and claymation, and it wasn’t until then that I realized I could be a part of it. Animation felt universal to me: my parents enjoyed it just as much as I did, and that was powerful when it came to expressing new ideas—for everyone to receive it with the same amount of open-mindedness. Thus, I began learning about the process, the industry, and the figures that dominated it. I was equipped with exceptional drawing skills, but I realized my strength was realism. Therefore, I needed to learn how to expand my imagination and skill into the bounds of illustration and graphic design.

I began pulling inspiration from things that were around me. I made comics inspired by my favorite shows, made up characters based off my family, and painted dazzling scenes from photos I took during a trip to the city. I analyzed my favorite shows and films, studying their lighting, environmental design, and character movement. Love Death and Robots, my favorite show, was almost like a statement of my pursuits when I watched it for the first time. I read Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling’s How to Draw book almost everyday, executing their techniques for sketching perspective and 3D objects using math. Despite the sheer amount of information I had learned, it was just the start. There was a key part of my dad’s story that made it so impactful: the very words he chose to speak.

I applied my writing hobby to my voyage. Diving into it all—short stories, realistic fiction, personal essays and poems, I mashed my written efforts with my drawings. I was able to bring my art to life by pairing them with histories and futures, by offering them more depth a single image could have. Wanting to go further, I applied and got into a writing program for artistic youth where I worked with New York City based writers and editors to sharpen my knowledge of literature, creative writing, and publishing. It was at this moment that I felt the pieces of my future were slowly falling into place.

I truly believe that this is still just the start. There is much more, too much, that I am bound to explore. I intend to learn the craft of screenwriting so I can translate my ideas onto the TV screen, and observe and take part in the video editing process that accompanies animation. When I close my eyes and imagine the world I am in 10 years from now, I find myself among those who build the adult comedy shows and warm family movies and obscure futuristic shorts that I enjoyed as a young student.

I think back to that night often when I’m struggling. If my stories feel frail, if my ideas seem to infringe upon one another, if my drawings appear as though they’re made up of directionless lines falling in and out of harmony with one another, I go back to the night my dad told his grand tale. I consider what made me invested in his words, what pictures I saw in my head as he talked, and how each aspect of his journey impacted my own thoughts and actions. That story, which Baji lives within, may be the greatest tale I’ve ever heard, and I continuously strive to make something even better.

I hope, one day, I can tell my father’s story with the tools of animation and writing. That I can show the world the same tale that altered the path I would no doubt walk.
Hi, I think you have a good first draft here. I know it's important to USC that in the personal statement you show, don't tell. I think your statement could start with this line:
He’d come up to my room and decided to tell me about Baji, or my grandmother—a young woman who took eight children by herself from Kenya to India so they could have proper access to education.
But find a way to visually describe that experience for the family members involved. That will show your storytelling ability and tie into what type of storytelling you would like to do. Also they do make it clear that talking just about why you want to make stories is something that a lot of applicants do, so try to set yourself apart and really dig into what makes you YOU and how that's shaped the stories you plan on telling.

Hope this was helpful ♥️
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