My $100,000 Student Film



How did I end up with a career on the internet? The answer is I went to film school, spent $100,000 and made a student film.


Student Film FantasyI attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. It's the same school that George Lucas attended along with Ron Howard and just about every other famous person in Hollywood. It's also the school that rejected Steven Spielberg. (He still gives the school money though.)


So we were all pretty proud of ourselves in my graduating class. USC is a hard film school to get into. Harder, statistically, than getting accepted into Harvard. The halls of the Lucas building are covered with movie posters signed by famous alumni. We all believed in our hearts that someday our own signed posters would drape from the same concrete walls.


And we had fun. We made movies, right? We watched movies, shot movies, edited movies, made sound for movies and talked about movies all the time. And we did it without the abstract theory you might find at some Midwestern liberal arts college. Stuff like "the role of suppressed feminism in post-war 1950's Polish cinema." No way. This was Hollywood baby! USC was about doing, not talking. We liked action and special effects. We got to cast real Hollywood actors for our student films. (Not always the best actors, mind you, but real actors.)


Then I graduated.


Instead of becoming famous, I quickly became un-famous. I became as un-famous as an un-famous person could be. I got my first Hollywood job working for a producer named Steve Tisch. My job was to drive scripts around town. If the script was really bad, I got to read it and write up a report. And yes, I made coffee every morning.


After reading enough scripts, I left my job to pursue screenwriting. The problem was I couldn't write. That didn't stop me from trying. I put everything I had into writing screenplays. It took me a year to write an entire script. After about eight screenplays I started to do well in some big Hollywood contests, but I was burnt out.


Did anyone in my class succeed? Most didn't. My friend Erik Aadahl works as a sound editor for big films such as Monsters vs. Aliens and Transformers. He should win an Oscar someday. (He also acted in my film.)


Film school was fun, and only cost me a cool $100,000. I don't have much to show for it, except for this short film made my junior year. Was it worth $100,000?




A five minute movie at $100,000 works out to about $20,000 per minute. If my

student film ran a feature-length two hours, it would cost only 2.4 million dollars, a bargain by Hollywood standards! Looks like I did learn something at USC. Spielberg, if you're reading this, I'm still available.


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