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October 7, 2016

Faculty Profile: David Maquiling

By By Erica Feldfeber?

What experiences or people have had the biggest influence on you and why?

I mean first and foremost it would have to be my family. These stories are important to me because of my background and my ethnicity. I definitely am more driven to want to tell stories that relate to the Filipino and the Filipino-American experience and that's certainly the product of my family and my culture. I grew up in the U.S. but I spent a lot of time going back and forth a lot. And so, wanting to tell stories that celebrate that culture that hopefully share the joys and the frustrations and the struggles and the beauty of Filipino culture with broader audiences - that's important to me. So I would say that's probably the biggest influence.

What got you into storytelling?

You know there is a long oral tradition of storytelling in my culture. So growing up and hearing my father tell us classic Filipino folk stories was really important. As a kid, they're drilling, funny, and scary. But it was also a way to transfer the values of a culture from one generation to the next. Like, what does it mean to be a good human being, or to be a part of a larger society. Kind of almost an instruction manual on how to be a good person. I think that tradition of telling engaging and entertaining stories that also have a purpose to teach, inform, enlighten, and guide an audience is what I aspire to do in my own work as a filmmaker and as a teacher too.

What’s the difference between teaching and directing?

Those two professions are in a lot of ways very similar to me. There are strong parallels between directing and teaching. I learned some incredibly valuable lessons about directing from teaching. It's a very similar skill set, being able to motivate, inspire, and lead a group of very different people and have them invest all their talents and passion into one, central unifying idea. Whether that's in education or whether it's in a script or a story. I try to do it in such a way that I can bring out the best in people by creating an environment in which they can feel safe, relaxed, and comfortable. This way they can be at their intellectual, creative best. That's the approach I take to directing and in a lot of ways it's the same exact approach I take to teaching.  I really aim to be there to give students the opportunity and the feeling of confidence that they can explore and discover and try things. I want to empower the incredibly talented people that I have the blessing to collaborate with. I want them to really be at their best as artists. That's what's so great about teaching at USC, you have incredibly smart and talented and generous students here. I just want them to be at their best and to find themselves in the classroom - to work really hard but to also have fun.  

What has been your favorite experience at USC? 

I say this all the time and I mean it, it's absolutely working with the students. The students at USC are incredible. I learn so much from them every day. They absolutely inspire and uplift me with their energy, passion, and excitement. I have the pleasure of serving on the admissions committee. One thing I can say is that when we are going through the applications we're not necessarily just looking for the best filmmakers - we're really looking for the best people. More than just talent there is dedication, compassion, generosity. There's curiosity, hunger, and a real level of commitment. Not just a commitment to us as a school but commitment to society. A commitment to doing good in the world and helping it be a better place. The greatest joy that I have is teaching these students.

Can you describe your journey towards producing your film, Too Much Sleep? 

Well I went to I went to film school, New York University, and that was a huge part of the journey. I really had the opportunity to find my own voice, explore, and experiment - much like you do here at USC. Coming out of school I worked a lot. I worked in the independent film industry in New York. I learned a lot. I basically worked in every conceivable department on different productions; cinematography, editing, production manager, assistant director, and writing. I was really putting myself in jobs where I could learn as much as possible. But then I guess I was also wanting to be in a position where I could work on my own stuff and my own writing and directing. Working for a lot of other people just didn't give me the time to actually work for myself. That’s actually when I started teaching.

Had you thought about teaching before you became a filmmaker?

I honestly had never thought about teaching and it wasn't a career goal for me at all. I had been working in the film industry after I got out of school for three or four years and I was learning a lot, but I just felt like I was moving further and further away from my own goals. I just didn't have the time being a freelancer in the film industry. You know you're working 14 - 15 hours a day six days a week or sometimes even seven days a week. I just felt like I didn't have time to breathe, let alone create. So just coincidentally a friend of mine in New York was working at a school and there was an opening to teach a writing class, not on film or anything but just a basic writing class. He offered me the job and I took it. Then I started teaching these writing workshops and that sort of expanded into teaching some film classes and some screenwriting classes and then directing classes. And so here I am.