Film School Blog

285 - My Favorite (and most important) Film Class

To briefly give context to the posts which will follow: I’m currently taking the best class ever, CTPR 285. If you don’t go to USC then that means nothing to you, so let me explain: 285 is a class near and dear to my soul because in my opinion, it epitomizes precisely why filmmaking is so challenging, so stimulating, and so much fun.

Me, creepily recording a GoPro video of Chandler eating a bagel in 285, because here there are  no limits.

Me, creepily recording a GoPro video of Chandler eating a bagel in 285, because here there are no limits.

The philosophy behind the class is that SCA wanted to give first year students an opportunity to start making movies right away—something many film schools don’t offer. In making these films, we’re supposed to be "unlimited in our creative potential". We’re supposed to experiment, to make films outside of our comfort zone, and strive to be as emotionally authentic as possible.

We’re encouraged to think of impossible scenarios, film ideas we’d stop ourselves from making because “it’s too hard,” “the idea is dumb,” “no one will like it,” “I don’t have the right equipment,” (god, I've said this one at least 50 times) --and a thousand other excuses we as film students are experts at pulling out of our asses-- and told to go make them. Not tomorrow. Not in a few years. But today. This class can essentially be boiled down to the Nike slogan. 

SCA did this mainly to capitalize on the fact that we as young, naïve, and charmingly enthusiastic filmmakers need some place of catharsis. Past examples have shown that really original, unique, compelling films have come out of this class. (This video, for example, is one a group of production students made last year, which I’ve watched six times in the last three days. Comedy gold.)

Gee, *scratches head* I wonder why it is that these projects are often more interesting for audiences to watch and more rewarding for us to make? Maybe because there is no pressure, there are no expectations, and that we’re allowed to make mistakes inspires us to be audacious. In fact, we’re encouraged to fail as much as possible because failure is the best way to learn.

So riddle me this, readers: why does SCA imply that 285 is something to just “get out of our system”? Do they assume that our pure and unadulterated passion to make movies will be sullied by the harsher details of film reality: budget constraints, caffeine highs, long hours, and hard, tedious, exhausting work in the next three years? This is why so many filmmakers burn out in their 30s/40s, or no longer generate any interesting content. They’re no longer offered an opportunity to make films for the same reason which got them started: for the sake of storytelling.

One of my all-time favorite quotes that I try to remind myself of everyday.

One of my all-time favorite quotes that I try to remind myself of everyday.

Will my next three years in SCA, or for the rest of my film career effectively squash my “earthly pursuits”? No, hopefully and probably not since I acknowledge this risk and will remain honest with myself about what kind of work I’m producing. Lest we forget that one of the best ways to make days melt into seconds is to spend time dreaming up impossible worlds, wandering aimlessly about and noticing every detail, every story that surrounds us, and to living synonymously with our earthly pursuits. 

The last six weeks have resulted in tremendous amounts of growth and learning opportunities which I will spell out more specifically in future posts.

Here’s a Vimeo album I made where I’m trying track down the films all 50 of the production students make each week and save them somewhere, and I'll be mentioning these in future posts to illustrate more clearly what it is I'm learning about becoming a better filmmaker and storyteller.