Journey of a Student Filmmaker Part 5: The Midpoint

It’s been nearly two years since my last post in the article series, Journey of A Student Filmmaker. I moved to California, competed in the Lenovo Seize The Night Competition, and extolled the philosophical ideals of my foray into film school as a graduate student.

Now, I’ve finished two years at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. I’ve competed in the Dr. Pepper Tuition Challenge, pitched reality television series to major cable networks, created a webseries based on Batman, worked as cinematographer on a series featured by news outlets such as Jezebel, interned for Funny or Die, Hallmark, and Panvision, and directed a number of varying projects.  It’s been a long, yet gratifying push into my career field.

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Premiere of short film, One On One

For my readers, your biggest question will pertain to USC and the infrastructure of film school. Simply, is film school worth the trouble? There are a bevy of opinions on this topic. No particular answer is right or wrong, but I can give you my take.

My previous institution lacked the training and facilities I needed. The University of Alabama treated me tremendously well. The Telecommunications Department improved by leaps and bounds, during and after my tenure, through the efforts of individuals like Dr. Raimist. Regardless, I felt my capabilities as a director, and writer, was not fully nurtured. This helped me make my final decision.

Many people bring up the enormous debt leveled upon students, especially if they attend one of the big five (USC, UCLA, NYU, AFI, and Columbia). I’ve tacked on a substantial amount to my student debt, but I believe the benefits outweigh the cost. USC has given me access to faculty, facilities, opportunities, and a specialized education that’s impossible to gain by yourself. This isn’t to say you must go to film school to gain the necessary knowledge, but I found a school setting more conducive to fostering my growth.

I’d like to bring up the point of access to resources within the school again.  USC provides easier access to certain film festivals.  Every day, there are exclusive events and presentations for current students and alumni. The school has direct access to festivals such as Sundance and SXSW, established filmmakers like John Singleton and Rian Johnson, and faculty such John Watson (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Back Draft, Blown Away) and Gail Katz (Air Force One, Bicentennial Man, In the Line of Fire). The facilities are also the superb setting for filmmakers who do not have the funds to invest in editing and sound equipment.

On USC Film Set

Most importantly, many filmmakers do not have the connections in Hollywood necessary to advance their career. USC boasts a broad community of alumni in the industry.  Everywhere I’ve worked or interned has had a fellow Trojan in a position of power.

I can go into more detail, but I challenge you to contact me directly through twitter or facebook for more.

What’s the next step for me? With one more year in the program, I’m currently gearing up to DP (Director of Photography, the cinematographer of a film) on a 546, USC’s largest production of each semester. I’m also working with a screenwriter to craft my thesis film, which I’ll start pre-production during the spring semester, and shoot in the summer. I’ll be working on new comedy sketches for my YouTube channel, Sassy Batman, and competing in screenwriting and film competitions.

If you’d like support, you should vote in my latest competition, Project Film Supply. I want to tell the story of Shanesha Taylor, the homeless mother who left her children in the car during a job interview, and found herself arrested. For many people, Shanesha’s only sin was being poor, black, and female. Others are not so sympathetic. Regardless of your opinion, this is a story worth telling.

To help me make this film a reality, please vote HERE on my Project Film Supply page where you can learn more about the project.  If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to support.

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Be sure to support and vote