Zoë Smurr ’17 came to LMU two years ago to pursue an M.F.A. in Film Production in hopes of telling the world her stories through directing. We asked Zoë to share some personal highlights from the program, and words of wisdom for prospective students.
Why did you choose LMU? I knew LMU was the place for me because of the small class sizes and emphasis on auteur filmmaking. Not only that, but unlike most other major film schools, I get to own the films I make here rather than have them be owned by the institution.
Tell us a risk you took as an LMU student? I made a documentary that was very personal, about my family’s journey with my dad’s Alzheimer’s disease. It was nerve-wracking to screen cuts for my classmates and hear their reactions to my story. Ultimately, it paid off. At the final screening in Mayer Theater, I saw the huge emotional response and also got valuable feedback from people who genuinely care. I only wish I had stopped doubting myself and not let that hold me back from pushing my filmmaking even further.
What’s been your favorite opportunity at the film school so far? I loved the “Writing with Partners” workshop I attended my first year. We paired up with students from other SFTV majors, brainstormed story ideas, and pitched to writing teams working in the industry. My partner and I got to pitch to Bob Orci, and have worked together since. It was a real confidence booster to see how well our pitch was received by such a big producer, and made pitching seem more like a conversation than a scary speech.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself in film school? Let your work speak for itself.
Film Independent has announced the fellows selected into their Screenwriting Lab, a five-week program that helps writers take their current scripts to the next level in a nurturing and challenging creative environment. This year, SFTV alumnus Evan Romanksy (WPTV – M.F.A. ’16) is one of six fellows selected into the Lab. Romansky was also awarded the FIND/LMU SFTV Screenwriting Fellowship, a $10,000 grant that will allow him to develop his script, Detroitus, in the Lab.
Detroitus is about a petty criminal, who, “after being tricked into contributing to the death of his best friend’s wife, must find the men who set him up before the former, a Detroit internal affairs investigator, uncovers the secret.”
Read more on Deadline.
Two years ago Laura Franco ’17 left her native Cali, Colombia to pursue an M.F.A. in Film and TV Production at LMU, and her dream of becoming a cinematographer. We asked Laura to provide some advice for prospective students and share her personal highlights from the program.
What has been one of your favorite moments from an LMU class? 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.