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May 10, 2016

SCA Student Stories: Allison Begalman

By Eileen Kwon

Looking to graduation, Allison Begalman ’16 reminisced on the past four years she has spent at SCA as a maturing writer, and an active member and President of the Women of Cinematic Arts. Begalman discussed the growing expanse of WCA, reflected on her journey of discovering her own writer’s voice, and offered advice to current students.

Since you became involved in the Women of Cinematic Arts (WCA) organization, how has it changed? Originally, WCA began as a space for the SCA student female community to openly chat about classes, professional endeavors, and inequality in the industry. Between Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2016, the organization morphed into what will be SCA’s first official Feminist Media Festival. The festival will mirror the diverse media within the industry in that it will be open to submissions spanning film and television to interactive, animation and music videos. WCA has been reformatted to fit the notion that simply talking about change isn’t enough; if female content makers want to move ahead, they need to start making projects together.

Leading up to the festival (to occur late-March 2017 with a prominent guest panel) will be seven months of female content makers gathering, meeting team members, and creating projects with the aid of SCA faculty-led workshops in areas ranging from pre-production to production to post-production. Other fun aspects include one large mixer featuring industry keynote speakers at the onset of the semester and another later in the year. The mixer will be open to musicians and content makers, allowing students to partner with composers.

What have you learned from your experience with WCA? From these past two years as President of WCA, I’ve learned that the only way to make change is by creating content. Film students are on a tight schedule, so making weekly organization meetings isn’t viable without a tangible incentive. We’re at SCA because we’re passionate about visual storytelling. Coming together as women content makers, putting our perspectives on screen is the best way to forge connections. What better incentive than to be able to work hard all year on a project that will be evaluated by successful industry professionals?

During your time as a student, what have you learned and discovered about your own creative voice and aesthetic as a writer? It wasn’t until the beginning of senior year that I realized my authentic writer’s voice. The scripts I’d written up to that point had been primarily darkly comedic and while they always featured strong female protagonists as reluctant heroines, this earlier material functioned as a training period until I was able to discover sci-fi dramedy. Currently as a writer, I build worlds that explore social trends through disillusioned characters. With comedy as a base, writing sci-fi feels natural because I’ve always seen advancing technology (especially social media) as a blessing and a curse. Of course, as a writer your voice and perspective change throughout your life. But for now, I connect most to this particular genre.

Looking back on your time at SCA, what are some things that youre glad you did? My freshman year I co-wrote, executive produced, and acted in a comedy web series called EveryTINGs Alright, a show following a socially awkward girl who goes to college. The team was extremely small—my co-write/producer Aarin Abel ‘16, director/editor Anjoum Agrama ‘16, and star Jenevieve Ting ‘15—but together (with no budget) we produced eight 3-4 minute episodes, each released weekly on YouTube. I learned how to write quickly, rewrite for an actor and utilize acting improv in scene work, and how to distribute my content to an online audience. SCA students actually watched the episodes and recognized me from the show, which was awesome recognition for a freshman.

Two years later, Aarin and I co-wrote, executive produced, and starred in our own short film, Spectrum, a dark comedy about two best friends forced to confront their sexualities together. Tone-wise, it’s Broad City meets Transparent. In April, Spectrum received the Don Thompson LGBT Award and was recently accepted into the SF Frameline Film Festival, one of the world’s largest LGBT film festivals. Based on our experience turning our scripts into short visual content for our web series, we were able to do that on a much larger, professional scale with an actual budget for Spectrum.

Do you have any advice for current students? Make outside projects. This will force you to interact with students in other SCA majors. You can’t make a great film with one person. Reaching out to other SCA divisions will expand your network. That’s all you have in Hollywood, where relationships thrive on interdependence. Classic example: writers need agents as much as agents need writers.

Take creative risks. Apply for unique internships. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in the spotlight, or more specifically, market your student-made content online or wherever you have the opportunity. SCA has an abundance of knowledgeable professors and helpful connections that can assist in any content-related endeavor. Hopefully, WCA can now provide the SCA female community with even more access and an extra confidence boost in relation to their work. But, to be super cheesy and quote Dumbledore: “Help will always be given at Hogwarts (SCA) to those who ask for it.”

And for current writers: don’t stay in the film bubble all four years. Get involved in other communities. I joined Delta Omicron Zeta, USC’s leadership fraternity, and it gave me access to brilliant, open-minded friends whose perspectives cultured my own and benefited my writing.