November 3, 2014

SCA Alumni Stories

From the moment they walked through the USC School of Cinematic Arts gates, Charles Leisenring, Caisy Lun, Cerise Robinson, and Justin Warren — all MFA Production ’14 graduates — were enchanted by the vision they call “Hogwarts”. It was the start of a magical journey for these four friends. Of course, there were some darker, “cupboard under the stairs” moments, but the four agree that SCA’s nurturing professors and bright, creative students have created an extraordinary environment (that has even been rumored to have been originally established by wizards!).

Please explain the “Hogwarts” reference in regard to the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
SCA was a place where we learned how to make “magic” happen but with each project, many of us also went through many challenges with which we had to learn how to dig up our inner strength and overcome self-doubt (like Harry had to do!). Of course, we’ve had the fortune to have many nurturing professors who were like the Remus Lupin(s) of Hogwarts! (Caring teachers who allowed us to try things out and grow!).
Cerise: We’ve all come from different walks of life, and we’ve all had our dark moments, our “cupboard under the stairs.” I have met some of the best friends and mentors I have ever had/will ever have at this place. And, those lanterns outside every building – they’re just so Hogwarts-esque!
Charles: I am pretty sure that SCA was founded and developed by wizards for the purpose of teaching and advancing the art of magic and you will never convince me otherwise. Hogwarts is the only other such school I have heard of, and it is fictional… so therefore SCA becomes our Hogwarts.
Justin: I knew I had creative abilities, but I had a hard time finding others with the same interests; I had no idea how to craft and hone my creativity into a film. My acceptance letter to SCA was my Hogwarts letter; it was my shot to move off to a distant land, and discover that there are other people in the world with similar ambitions.

What will you remember most about SCA?
I — we — received a great education at USC, but students have always been told that filmmaking is a collaborative art. I’ve learned that a good concept can become great with a solid team and I believe I’ve found those teammates at SCA.
Cerise: My favorite memories reside in post: locked in editing and mixing rooms with my best friends, creating stories, working for the Sound department, and developing a real yearning for sunlight and windows.
Charles: I will remember how much I learned and how much I grew from my time here. I will also remember graduation day: how quickly this all seemed to go…yet how amazing it felt to sit there with all my friends—celebrating the fact that we had just accomplished something special.
Justin: Working on my films in the lab, bumping into a buddy of mine, and being asked to take a look at his cut. There was never a time I wasn’t amazed by something someone else was doing.

How has SCA prepared you for the future?
Besides the technical training, I learned to develop confidence. I believe that is the most important thing I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate here.
Cerise: SCA has a well-rounded, intense curriculum. I’ve learned not just about the industry and the technology, but about the people. Knowing the psychology of moviemaking, from investors to PAs to directors, has already started to help me navigate the crazy outside world, and so far things are going well.
Charles: The most important aspect of my time at SCA has been the relationships I’ve made, and not just with students, but with professors, administrators, engineers, office workers, and more. Some I will work with; some I will work for.
Justin: SCA prepared me for the future by giving my creative abilities a structure. It taught me the importance of craft, which I didn’t realize I needed.

What advice would you give to a student entering their first semester at SCA?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. One of the most important pieces of advice I received here was from a professor who won multiple Oscars. At the beginning of our documentary class, he told us “the only difference between you and me is that I’ve had many more years of making mistakes.” Cerise: Take it all in. Experience as much as you can. Keep the big picture in perspective, even when the intensity of everything starts to wear you down (never forget that you are here and someone else is not). And never look back.
Charles: Welcome criticism, even if it stings a little. Why? Because it improves your work and shows you whether or not you were able to relay your film’s original message.
Justin: Soak up every single opportunity. It’s pretty shocking how quickly the time flies. Enjoy the ride. I challenge you to say yes to all opportunities that come your way, even if they don’t appear to fit into the creative path you’ve predetermined.