January 12, 2007

Exporting Expertise

International Students Experience Global Success

By James Tella

On the set of Sea of Dreams.
Sea of Dreams trailer.

As an entertainment epicenter, Los Angeles and USC have a long history of drawing artists from around the nation to learn about the cinematic arts. Now those lessons are carrying well beyond the U.S., as scores of undergraduates and graduates from abroad bring the lessons learned at the School of Cinematic Arts to an international audience.

"I found my passion in USC and it has opened everything for me,” said

production graduate Jose “Pepe” Bojorquez ’02 writer-producer-director of Sea of Dreams, which he first developed in his graduate screenwriting class. The director credits cinema-television faculty and his years at USC for inspiring him and his film, which recently premiered in the U.S. and received the prestigious XXXVI Diosa De Plata (Goddess of Silver) Award from the Mexican Film Press and Critics in the Opera Prima (debut piece) category.

"To be successful, you have to be committed,” Bojorquez added.

“The industry in China knows about USC, and that helps when you’re trying to secure a deal,” said Simon Weining Sun, a 2002 alumnus of the Graduate Screenwriting Program who began work as an entertainment reporter in Beijing before becoming a Trojan. Sun recently penned and then helped spread word on The Door, a psychological thriller that was shot in Chongqing this spring under the direction of that country’s top female director Li Shaohong and sees his work in China as one avenue that will expand his filmmaking experience. Since writers tend not to seek agent representation in China and usually strike deals by themselves, Sun says his USC experience helped him carve out a path to get the project underway. 
Behind the camera: The Door was shot in Chongqing, China this spring.

Hailing from Seville, Spain, Ignacio Darnaude ’89, turned his experience with the Peter Stark Producing Program into a successful career that is based in Los Angeles, but deals exclusively with the international market.

“I incorporate making movies the local way and combine it with the know-how of a studio on how to market, how to develop and how to distribute,” said Darnaude, who serves as executive vice president of creative advertising at Sony Pictures Releasing International. “That’s what USC taught me.”

At Sony, Darnaude was a driving force behind Ladies’ Night, Mexico’s highest grossing picture of 2003 and his current project, Charm School, debuted at number one and registerd the biggest opening ever for a local-language film.  “Twenty years ago, film schools were more of a niche thing,” Darnaude said. “That’s all changed and there’s a much bigger awareness of the film business,” he added. “I have the best of both worlds.”

Darnaude's Charm School, debuted at number one and registerd the biggest opening ever for a local-language film.
With the studios setting up offices overseas, Sun sees the benefits of making use of the local talent and Darnaude, whose latest film has an entire Mexican cast and crew agrees.

“You need to take everything you learn here and make it your own. It will help you find your way,” Darnaude said.