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October 16, 2009

Trojan Teamwork

First Team Brings SCA Alums Together

By By Jimmy Kelly

“The USC Mafia.” It’s a term that many SCA students have heard used in jest over the years in reference to the vast network of SCA alums working in Hollywood. In an industry where countless opportunities come down to who-you-know, a new program has been introduced that will help Trojan alumni cultivate connections - First Team. First Team is the brainchild of writer Kam Miller ’02 (Law & Order: SVU) and director Barbara Stepansky ’02 (Hurt). Although they were working in the industry, they realized many alumni could benefit from meeting other talented USC SCA grads.

The concept of First Team sounds simple – bring USC alumni writers, directors, and producers together to form teams around film and new media projects, then take them to the industry. But in actuality, it was quite a feat. Around 400 talented alumni applied for the program this year; 95 were chosen, about 30 from each discipline. Participants range from SCA’s most recent graduating class of 2009 and first-time filmmakers to film veterans who have been working for years, Emmy nominees and even a winner of the Palme d’Or.

To complete the leadership team, Miller and Stepansky sought out producer Henry Lowenfels ’06 (Rock the Bells). With each representing the alumni for their respective divisions, a proposal was submitted to SCA and, soon after, the program was born.

Stepansky, Miller and Lowenfels shepherd First Team.
“Hollywood is changing fast. Business models, financing, content creation and delivery –everything’s in flux,” said Miller. “First Team offers a completely fresh approach to creating and developing features and new media. We believe that building a creative team – writer, director, producer – based on talent, shared interest as well as moxie can create momentum for three careers. Trying to stay afloat as a single writer, director, or producer is tough. Teaming up with fellow SCA alumni who bring different skill sets and can-do attitudes just makes sense.”

Once the 95 participants were chosen, they were invited to a structured networking event at the Zemeckis soundstages. The event facilitated some, 1,900 meetings. All the meetings coordinated at the kickoff mixer were matches based on the interests of the filmmakers as expressed on their applications. Writers, directors and producers had one month to form teams. Those teams have agreed to work on a film or new media project over the next year.

Throughout the year, the teams will come together for momentum seminars with special guests chosen to help guide the teams along as they get closer to having their ideas become reality. Miller, Stepansky, and Lowenfels shepherd the projects through development, but they are not producers or attached to any of the projects.

When each team’s project is deemed industry-ready, some heavy-hitters will be waiting to take a look. Current industry affiliates include William Morris Endeavor Independent, CAA, FilmNation, 3 Arts, BenderSpink, Bona Fide Productions, and Participant Media, among many others. (Current list below.)

Note: Over the coming months, readers can check the SCA website for a series of articles that will check in with different teams as they develop their projects along different stages of the program. This will all lead up to the beginning of application submissions for next year’s First Team. All alumni, including upcoming graduates from the class of 2010, will be eligible. Stay tuned to learn more and don’t miss out next year on what could be a career-making opportunity that only SCA could make possible.

“USC First Team offers an opportunity to reconnect alumni with the school – and each other – in a tangible, career-boosting way,” said Miller. “And with each passing year, First Team could help build the SCA network into an accessible ‘mafia’ for all alumni.”

For more information about USC First Team, please visit uscfirstteam.com.

Current list of First Team Industry Affiliates:
  • 3 Arts
  • B-Side Entertainment
  • BenderSpink
  • Bona Fide Productions
  • CAA
  • Circle of Confusion
  • The Collective
  • End Game Productions
  • Echo Lake
  • FilmNation Entertainment
  • Flat World Productions
  • High Treason Productions
  • Mayfly Films
  • NewMarket Films
  • Legende Films
  • Occupant Films
  • Participant Media
  • Trademark Artists
  • Stroock, Stroock, and Lavan LLP
  • Sacks
  • William Morris Endeavor Independent