You’ve typed the two most exciting words in your screenplay: FADE OUT. This is your twenty-second revision on your genre-bending period piece based on your accidental trip through the Mediterranean coast. Everyone who’s read it has given you their two cents, but overall people love it. What do you do next?
For Carrie Gutenberg, Catlan McClelland and Myles Reid, three recent screenwriting MFA graduates (all class of ’14), they found professional representation with scripts that had way better premises than mine.
“Dark alley, handshake, firstborn,” said McClelland wryly when I asked him how he got signed.
As much as I would love to believe that was true, Gutenberg told it to me straight. “A manager that attended one of our LMU pitch sessions asked to read my material. She was brave enough to take a look at two features of mine and offered to work with me to develop one of them for the marketplace,” said Gutenberg. “Needless to say, at the end of the meeting I asked her if we were officially ‘in a relationship’ or just ‘casually dating.’ Thankfully she likes commitment.”
A big myth about securing professional representation as a writer is that it leads to overnight success with an Oscar and an Emmy around the corner. The truth is, getting signed means you have a new hill to climb. It’s the beginning of a partnership that hopefully brings years of successful projects. “It’s exciting, but life feels like hurdling. Once you crest one obstacle, you’ve got the next one to look forward to, and it’s coming fast,” said Reid.
All three have spent the last three years in SFTV’s Screenwriting MFA and credit LMU on having an impact on their signings. The program boasts ‘What separates our school from other schools is our third year launch into the industry.’ It seems the program has accomplished that goal for these three.
“Probably the three years of intensive writing is what helped the most. Without the time spent on that and the body of work that goes with it, it wouldn’t matter how good I could make my scripts sound in a meeting,” said Reid. “The stack of rejected scripts from most places is sky high, so learning how to work consistently and constructively to whittle an idea into a first draft into something people might enjoy was the best gift LMU gave me.”
With a deal in hand, you’d think these three alums’ days have changed drastically, but really it’s only fueled their desire to turn out better writing everyday. “I now have zero excuses not to write every day. If there is someone out there who is working on my career then I need to be working at least 10 times as hard,” said Gutenberg.
All three are working on scripts with their new representation. “A horror-comedy about a gated community full of evil white folks who eat newly-arrived minority families. It’s called White People Problems. No, really,” said McClelland.
Some ideas are a little stranger than others, but these alums certainly are writing, and as a recent graduate from the screenwriting program, it’s a solid beginning.
SFTV is currently accepting applications for our graduate programs in Screenwriting, Writing and Producing for Television, and Film & Television Production. Click here for more information and application materials.
“Is this a joke?!,” was Mindy McKoin’s (Production – M.F.A. ‘12) first reaction upon learning that she had been selected for the Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program. “After I settled down, I realized what I worked so hard for was finally coming true. It’s surreal. I’ve applied more than once and couldn’t believe I got it. All the work paid off.”
The Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program is a highly competitive program aimed at aspiring ADs. The two-year program offers intensive on-the-job training combined with seminars and special assignments. As a trainee, McKoin will be working with seasoned DGA members who work professionally as second assistant directors, first assistant directors and unit production managers on the sets of various features, television series and commercials.
McKoin initially thought that being an assistant director wasn’t for her until she spoke with LMU production professor Charles Swanson. Swanson encouraged her to pursue the path, saying that her personality, and how she worked on set, are qualities that make a successful first assistant director. With that seed planted, McKoin was determined to hone her skills as an assistant director and found a seasoned assistant director in SFTV’s head of production administrator John Syrjamaki. Syrjamaki told her about the DGA Program and helped with McKoin’s application. “Without Charles and John, this wouldn’t be possible,” said McKoin.
As an SFTV graduate, McKoin’s experience in the production program has prepared her well. “LMU does such a good job at making us well-rounded filmmakers because we have to work on other people’s projects – you’re not one-dimensional. Working all those projects, I saw the difference of having a good assistant director versus a bad assistant director. It’s a balance of being super strict and being too relaxed. Being an assistant director is not about having a power trip. You have a servant’s heart helping others. You really shine by pulling the best out of people.”
Currently, McKoin is immersed in the required reading assigned to her and getting her DGA standardized resume ready. She also plans to get all her personal travel in because once the program starts she needs to be ready to work. According to McKoin, many of her assignments will be in Los Angeles, but she has spoken to past program trainees who have been assigned to projects all around the world.
To find out more about the program, watch the video below.
SFTV instructors do a lot when they’re not teaching classes, like shooting documentaries that get picked up by PBS! The Wedge: Dynasty, Tragedy, Legacy, directed and edited by SFTV instructor Ray Greene, has been scheduled for 12 airings on the Southern California PBS affiliate, PBS SoCal, with the premiere on Friday, May 23, 2014.
A deep archival piece filled with rare period film footage and historical photos, the documentary tells the tragic story of one of L.A.’s forgotten founding families, the Rogers of Newport Beach, who paved the Grape Vine and Alameda Street in the early 1900s, and owned the largest construction materials company in the world by 1920. After the scion of the Rogers family died at age 15 in a terrifying boating accident, his father, George Rogers Sr., sold his company and spent the last ten years of his life in a war against the treacherous waterway that claimed his son. Newport Harbor was transformed from the deadliest port of call on the West Coast to one of the finest small boat harbors in America, and a world-famous surf spot, Newport’s Wedge, was born.
The American Society of Cinematographers has honored alumnus Arden Tse (Production – B.A. ‘13) with a nomination for the Linwood Dunn Student Heritage Award for his cinematography in the film The Imperfect Method. According to Tse there were over 150 entries this year. Tse is one of 12 cinematographers from 10 film schools nominated.
The Imperfect Method was shot half in China and half in the U.S. The project itself was a mix of action, comedy, TV-drama, horror and documentary. This presented a challenge to Tse because of the many visual styles he had to shoot, which he believes is part of the reason the ASC took notice.
“I think the mixture of heavy eastern elements, 100s of monks and 200 sheep stampeding the Northern China field, and western culture could be something that is not usually seen in a film at student level,” said Tse. “It’s definitely the most challenging project I’ve ever done but frankly, also the one I had most fun.”
In 2013, Tse was nominated for the Ian Connor Award For Best Cinematography at Film Outside The Frame for his work on Electric Fade.
Lately, Tse has been shooting different projects including films with fellow Lions. He’s recently finished Fairytale directed by Kyle Laffey (Production – ‘14) and Starcrossed a feature film directed by Chase Mohseni (Production – ‘14).
Watch the Trailer for The Imperfect Method here: