1) What interests you the most about your specific division or program at SCA?
What interests me the most about the Film & TV Production Division is the ability to create and truly learn, hands-on, about filmmaking. It gives you the opportunity to learn from people who actually know about making movies since most faculty members are still working in the industry or have done so for years and have so much experience to share from. It also allows you to gain experience yourself through the amazing equipment and installations that are available to you, giving you the ability to truly experiment and try new things and mess up whilst still preparing you for an actual career in the filmmaking industry when you graduate.
2) Why did you choose SCA?
SCA became my dream school from the second I learned about it. To know that some of my cinematic heroes such as George Lucas, Ryan Coogler and Kevin Feige, amongst so many other amazing filmmakers had all studied here was a large influence in my affinity for the school, but I truly fell in love with SCA the very second I stepped into it during my USC Campus Tour and realized just how truly incomparable it is to any other film school out there. There is a true sense of community here, of collaboration and of family, and the amazing opportunities that come from being in SCA are immeasurable. From the incredible faculty to the installations and equipment available, to the connections and people you get to meet and collaborate with, learn from, SCA allows you to create a life-long network and provides lessons that will push you forward in your professional life and will challenge you and help you grow as a person as well.
3) What has been your biggest challenge so far in your time here?
I think my biggest challenge so far has been to not become too overwhelmed by change and the challenges that come with starting a college career and moving to a new country on my own. Coming from a small country such as Costa Rica and having lived there for the first 18 years of my life, I had never been exposed to this huge amount of new opportunities, people, cultures, places and at once. It is hard to not get overwhelmed by everything new that’s happening to you at once, especially when it seems like there is way too little time to take it all in and truly appreciate and take advantage of every single opportunity, but it’s not necessarily about doing every single thing, it’s more about truly being present and enjoy what you can take in at any given moment. The key is to be grateful and remember that these opportunities are only given to you once, to make the most out of it, do your best and trust yourself and your process.
4) What has been your biggest success?
Probably the relationships and bonds that I have formed with people throughout my life. I believe connection and collaboration are the key elements to success, I would be nothing and nowhere if I didn’t have the support of those that are close to me, and knowing that I have solid relationships built on trust, love, and respect is my biggest achievement.
5) Is there a project you are working (or have completed) that you're especially proud of?
I would probably say the project I’m most proud of is the art exhibition I produced for my IB Visual Arts class, as it incorporated a variety of pieces and works I created in medias such as photography, acrylic paint, sculpture and even a short experimental film I made for it. It was 2 years’ worth of work mashed into one and I’m particularly proud of the outcome.
6) How has SCA prepared you so far in your career in entertainment?
In the short time I’ve been here I’ve already learned so much from being in SCA in ways that have prepared me for a career in entertainment. It has taught me about the value of connections, and about the importance of seeking out opportunities for yourself as well as making the most out of what you have or the chances you get. SCA is the best place to build relationships and collaborations that will benefit you in your career and it allows you to learn from people that already have successful careers in entertainment meaning they are the most qualified to prepare you for your own.
7) How has being an HFPA scholar helped you in achieving your goals?
Being an HFPA scholar has helped me achieve my goals in the sense that it has allowed me to tell my distinctive story and make a difference through my work and ideas by facilitating my being here at SCA. Receiving a grant from such a prestigious institution that values and encourages the nurturing of the input of International Students is an honor that I am grateful for every single day. I am seeing my dreams come true in front of me, as I would not have been able to afford USC’s cost of tuition for the 4 years it takes to complete the program without this incredible grant.
8) What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?
I would say follow your instincts, don’t try to be someone you’re not or try to copy someone else’s formula, your unique voice and story are what will truly make you stand out. It may seem impossible, I definitely thought it was when I applied, but now I know that anything is possible if you work hard and shoot for the stars, so give yourself a chance to believe in yourself.
Maria Paula Quesada is a Film and Television Production Student from San Jose, Costa Rica.