Laura Franco ’17 came from her native Cali, Colombia two years ago to pursue an M.F.A. in Film and TV Production at LMU, and her dream of becoming a cinematographer. We asked Laura to give some advice to prospective students and share some of her personal highlights from the program.
What has been your all-time favorite moment in one of your LMU classes? Learning how to light a car by cinematographer Bill Bennet in Advanced Cinematography class.
If you could give one piece of advice to students interested in pursuing an M.F.A., what would it be? You have to care. You have to be sure you want to study again, do homework and wake up early for class. You have to truly want to learn something new, otherwise you won’t make it.
What has been your most valuable experience at LMU so far? Learning so much about the American film industry and befriending people from countries with a completely different culture from mine. The exposure to different cultures and opinions truly makes you a better and more tolerant person.
Where do you see the future of visual storytelling in 10 years? I think a lot more films are going to be made about cultural clashes, racism and gender violence. I also think international films are getting stronger every year.
Hailing from New Delhi, India, Varun Chopra moved to Los Angeles to pursue an M.F.A. in Film Production at LMU two years ago. His short documentary God on a Leash was recently showcased in the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, an experience he wrote about on KQED’s blog Film School Shorts. We asked Varun to share some advice about grad school, and what he’s learned here during his time at LMU.
What has been your biggest challenge getting your M.F.A.? Following the philosophy, “Film school is what you make of it.”
What has been your most valuable experience at LMU thus far? I am always curious to see how people read my films, since a film is a window to the filmmaker’s psyche and beliefs. I am always looking to see how an audience with a wide spectrum of tastes responds to my classmates’ and my films.
Is there anything you’ve experienced at LMU that ended up being exactly what you’d hoped for when you applied? The spirit of collaboration – hands down. I had hoped to connect with talented, good-hearted people who enjoy and appreciate rigor, and I have.
Do you have a favorite moment from attending an SFTV event? When Kenneth Branagh came for The Hollywood Masters, he was asked about his adaptation of As You Like It, which was not well received by critics. Branagh responded by essentially saying that his philosophy when it comes to his work is: do what you want, and if it doesn’t go well, move on; that’s all you can do. The statement seems simple, but coming from a performer and director whom I admire so much – and being so uncertain, at that time, about my own place as a writer – that sentiment stuck with me, and has ever since.
What has been your biggest challenge in grad school? Balancing a job, an internship and being enrolled full-time has always been a challenge. It requires a whole new level of self-discipline for me. But I know it’s preparing me well for life in the capital-I Industry.
Do you have a “best Los Angeles moment” from your time here so far? Last spring I interned at a startup comedy studio that was based on the 35th floor of the City National Bank Building downtown. The 35th floor! I went to security and took the elevator up and looked out – I couldn’t believe it. That day was when I really, truly believed for the first time that I was working in Los Angeles.
Who have been your best connections in grad school? I think the best connections I’ve made so far are my WPTV cohort. They’re extremely skilled, creative, and, most of all, extremely kind. I’m going to be sad when we all graduate and go our separate ways, but I hope to stay in contact with them. I’m so excited to see where we all go.
SFTV Professor Glenn Gebhard’s most recent documentary Cuba: The Forgotten Revolution, which aired nationally on PBS this year and was nominated for the 47th Annual Lower Great Lakes Chapter Emmy® Awards is available on Netflix June 1!
The film amends history by telling the story of a school teacher named Frank Pais and an architecture student named Jose Antonio Echeverria, who were both critical figures in the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldiva. Although not as well-known as the historically famous Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, both men played important roles in Batista’s eventual overthrow.
The documentary was co-produced by WTIU Public Television from Indiana University, a PBS affiliate in Bloomington, Indiana, and the awards ceremony will take place June 18, 2016.
See the full list of Emmy nominations here.
Watch the trailer: