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Jen Bashian

Jen Bashian

MFA, Writing for Screen & Television '21

What inspired you to want to study the cinematic arts?

I feel lucky that I have always known what I want to do. My earliest memories revolve around stories and my obsession with them. When I got a concussion in elementary school, I was allowed to skip recess and sit in a dark room reading books -- I couldn’t have been more excited. In middle school, I wrote a *painfully* bad, one-act play called “Renaissance Coffee Talk” about underrepresented female writers of the 1600s. And in undergrad through my twenties, I studied and performed theatre. After working as an actress in LA, I knew that my heart was still drawn to writing but I didn't know how to break into that niche of the industry or cultivate my skills. I knew that USC's School of Cinematic Arts would expand my knowledge and give me experience in a pre-professional training ground.

What scholarship award(s) did you receive directly from SCA?

I received the Pantelion Screenwriting Contest award.

What has been the impact of receiving a scholarship from SCA?

Attending graduate school was a financial and emotional investment for me. There are times I have doubted myself and my decision to leap into this arena of the industry. Was investing in myself an unwise choice? Am I too old? Is it too late? Though these thoughts may creep in, they have never prevented me from continuing my work and pressing forward. Beyond a scholarship's explicit monetary benefit, my award has propelled me toward my goals and given me an endorsement of my potential. I am blown away by USC's support for young artists and can't wait to be an ambassador for USC in the years to come.

What activities or student organizations are you involved in outside of the classroom?

In the midst of a global pandemic, our extracurricular activities have moved to the Zoom room! I've been blown away by the number of Q&A's and screenings that SCA has coordinated for us. A highlight of this past semester was being on a Zoom call with television legend Norman Lear, just casually hanging out in his home office. It's been really remarkable to listen to our icons in a digital--but somehow more intimate--setting. Definitely a silver lining. 

What has been your favorite class or project at SCA thus far?

CTWR 516: Advanced Motion Picture Script Analysis with Irving Belatache was transformational. I will never watch, or write, movies the way I did before that class. My entire cohort walked away with an expansive knowledge about structure and a common language for storytelling. With Irving's guidance, we detected story patterns across films and pilots. That methodology has simplified my own writing process in a transcendent way. The seemingly-massive undertaking of writing a new script feels both accessible and exciting with the tools we gained from Irving. 

What is a meaningful experience you've had while at SCA?

Early in my second semester, I was feeling particularly down on myself. In a fit of panic, I e-mailed one of my professors, FJ Pratt--who I had only known for two weeks at this point. He wrote me back right away and reassured me that I should not give up on my project and should definitely not give up on myself. We met in the SCA courtyard later that week and talked out my idea. While we broke the story together, I furiously scribbled all of our brainstorm ideas into my notebook. That moment showed me the genuine spirit of mentorship that exists within the SCA faculty. With renewed confidence, I worked on that project each week and had fun all the way to "The End."

What are your career goals after graduation?

Hitting the Hollywood pavement as a baby writer. I want to tell impactful, comedic and cathartic stories--in television or feature world. If a story makes people laugh AND cry in the same sitting? I'm in.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?

Trust the feeling that led you to type "USC film school" into Google. It probably means there is a massive well of creativity inside of you with nowhere to go, with no time outside of your day job to nurture your passion. USC will help you develop and enhance your skills. In your essays and sample pieces, let your freak flag fly. What makes you unique as a human is also what makes you unique as a creative in the cinematic arts. They are one in the same. So, let your authenticity shine in your submissions. Once at USC, you will be challenged to use and enhance your unique voice as an artist. And when things get hard or scary, which they always do, just remember USC's motto. Keep going and "Fight On."