What interests you the most about cinema and media studies? Watching movies in our Norris Cinema Theater with fellow students is really amazing to me. Not only do I get to see classic and modern Hollywood films on the big screen, but I can also have similar emotional reactions with my friends. It’s different than just being in an ordinary theater with strangers. At SCA, I have a community of film scholars to share my experiences with. Another great part about the program is the discussions after the credits roll. Knowing that I’m surrounded by students who can bounce ideas off one another, present theories, and criticize aspects of the films makes me genuinely happy. Also, the major gives me breadth and depth on certain topics that I can choose. With a wide array of courses to take, ranging from film production to international media, I have so many awesome avenues to follow as I become a professional in the industry. Personally, I like building teams and planning films from the beginning of the story process, so I adapt my classes to prepare me for a career in producing. Being a part of a program that fosters my cinematic curiosity, my career goals, and has an intellectual community within entertainment excites me, and I know I’m in the perfect place to apply my skills.
What originally led you to study cinema and media studies? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a love for how film was made and its effect on me. From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Iron Man, the movies I grew up with have shaped my personal outlook on life and my career interests. I knew I wanted to continue my relationship with film in college and decided that SCA would be the best environment to exercise my analytical abilities. I came to this major because I believe that people should study the different manners in which films are made before creating their own movies. I think having a historical and theoretical background in film is necessary for all creatives to fully grasp the scope of the medium. I wanted to learn about films before making them. Understanding how formal and thematic elements translate to an audience as well as learning from previous pioneers really drew me towards the major since I wanted to know what defines a great film. The more I dissect a movie for its social references and visual techniques, the more I appreciate the director’s work and discover how to master the art when I pick up the camera.
How has this program prepared you so far in your career in entertainment? It’s the students. My friends in my classes are so smart, hardworking, and involved within SCA and the industry that I know they will be successful. They give me great opportunities to be a part of sets or projects and even recommend me for internships, and I do the same in turn. Whether it’s asking for an editor to make a promotional video for a club of mine or needing comments on my screenplay, my friends help me with my aspirations and as a result, these relationships boost my portfolio and support my professional endeavors.
What have been your biggest challenges at USC? When I got to USC, I hit a giant restart button on my life. It was hard accepting that I wasn’t the best academically or artistically and it took courage to admit that I just didn’t know how to do some things. The playing field was at a higher level and I had to adapt to that quickly. I needed to understand that people can be smarter and more talented than me in a bunch of ways, which is not at all bad. I realized that not being the best gives me room for improvement, and lets me get close to and learn from people who are well-versed in similar fields. By being in a community with the best of the best, I set myself to higher standards and continue to reach for goals that may be impossible to get. This challenge ultimately showed me my strengths and weaknesses and how I should improve myself to make the most out of my time at SCA.
Are there any projects you’re working on right now? Where can people find out more about your work? Over the past few summers, I’ve interned at a virtual reality studio, an advertising agency, and a production company where I’ve been a part of short films and brand campaigns. Recently, I helped produce a video that showcases why people had changed their names. You can check it out on the SoulPancake YouTube channel. At school, I manage and produce media for TEDxUSC and am part of USC Project Rishi, a non-profit organization, where I shoot and edit promotional videos with a team to spread awareness of our mission. Also, since I love making my own films, I’m continuing to direct a short documentary that focuses on how Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion, and its community will evolve in the future. I hope to finish that project this year, but you can find my previous work on vimeo.com/rohitp if you want to see my films.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA? Being at USC gives you great access to bright students and alumni in the industry who you will want to network with. Opportunities will sometimes come from the most random places and you’ll want to surround yourself with the right people so you can take advantage of them when they come. Students here could go on to be legends in the industry and being a part of that community will be vital to your career. Also, SCA facilitates an environment that engineers its students to succeed. With experienced professors, awesome facilities, and an industry relations department, you will be in an atmosphere that lets you learn and excel in whatever you set your mind to. This is your time to experiment, explore, and develop the stories you’re dying to tell. If you want to do something great, stop talking about it and just really do it!