MFA, Production '16
How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of filmmaking? With every course that I have taken at SCA, I have learned how important each discipline is. I love writing and I love directing (like most people) but while in school I’ve learned so much about that craft from other courses. Each discipline, be it sound recording, producing, or editing, is a tool to be used in putting a film together and telling your story. Only in knowing about those tools can you intentionally use them in telling your story from the beginning of the project to the end. My view is that every discipline in filmmaking informs the other and learning different disciplines is an investment in whatever you want to do as a storyteller.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program? For students interested in the USC MFA Film and TV production program, I would advise you think hard about why you want to do film and TV. What is it that you have to say and who do you want to say it to? Be very specific and honest about your inspiration and purpose and then pour it in your personal statement. That personal statement not only tells the school who you are, but will inform the kind of work you plan to do no matter where you go. I would also say think hard about why you want to go to film school. If you know what you want to gain from the program you can build your experience around it.
How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in your discipline? The School of Cinematic Arts prepared me for filmmaking in the real world by putting many limitations on student projects. These rules and parameters seemed unnecessary at first, but I’ve learned so much from learning how to tell the story that I want within different limitations. Coming from a low-income background, I can appreciate how courses challenge me to think about story and production in ways that are more cost effective, time efficient, but still just as powerful as I want it to be. These restraints foster creativity, forcing me to be very clear in what I want to say and what exactly I need to say it. Getting in the habit of thinking creatively in times of constraint grooms filmmakers to make maximum use of whatever they are given.
What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC? There are so many things but the main one is my relationship with my family. I am second eldest of 9 brothers and sisters so I’ve spent a lot of time around kids all my life. Anyone who knows me at SCA knows that every story that I tell usually starts with or involves a child. It took me some time to notice this motif but I am very connected to my child self and believe that there is something to be learned from the kid in all of us. Coming from a big family, I also strongly believe that every single person is important and has a different voice. It’s my passion as a storyteller to validate those voices that often get lost or remain unheard in our world, especially from marginalized groups.
What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC? I represent a very specific perspective that is unique to my background. Often times I am the only one from that cultural background and when you don’t see your perspective reflected or validated in the room, it is easy to believe that your perspective is wrong. I have fallen into the trap of conforming who I am and the stories I want to tell to the voice of people in the room, instead of my own. I lost what made my story mine and ended up making a story that was neither here nor there. There’s nothing more painful than watching something on screen with your name on it that doesn’t resemble you at all. My biggest challenge has been validating my point of view and seeing my voice as important. I happen to be blessed with an awesome mentor who I can rely on to remind me of what I wrote in my SCA application whenever I seem to be straying from it.
If USC is like driving, my biggest challenge is focusing on my own lane. Everyone has their style and perspective which is their lane. It’s easy to feel behind when other people seem to be zipping past you and it’s easy to feel pride when you seem to be zipping past someone else. Basically, it’s easy to compare yourself to others to see how you measure up. However, I’m constantly reminding myself that I am not in a race, but in a lane of my own. My lane is unique to me. The same can be said of everyone else at school. We are all in our own lanes. If I’m paying too much attention to what other people are doing in their lanes, I’m either going to crash in my own lane, miss my exit, or even worse, jump into someone else’s lane because it looks better, faster, or nicer. That only puts me on a path further and further from where I truly want to go. The biggest thing is to know your lane and use the tools at USC to beast in it.
What personal projects have you worked on and/or are currently working on? Currently I am finishing up my thesis film, Amelia’s Closet. It’s about a young girl (of course) who has to learn how to not let ugly words turn her into an ugly person. It is has been an amazingly collaborative effort from an amazing team and I can’t wait to unveil it in the summer! You can check out more info and updates about the film here: www.facebook.com/AmeliasClosetFilm
I am excited to be working with Kelley Chatman on her developing web series, The Discovery of Dit Dotson and I continually work with a collective of filmmakers from the African American Cinema Society to produce films outside of USC.
Editor's Note: Halima Lucas' thesis film Amelia's Closet was a finalist for a Student Academy Award in the narrative category.