Archive for June, 2008

June 25th, T-Minus 51 days

Posted in State of Affairs with tags , , , , on June 25, 2008 by thenexman

I just returned from a short overnight trip to Tallahassee.  I had to look at house I found on an FSU networking site called ULoop.com.  Very helpful.  It turned to be a perfect situation.  A very cool chick just got her Dad to buy it and she was looking for roommates.  Seems like it will be a great place to spend (or not spend) my time at FSU.  There are some film kids who happen to live there now but under the former landlord.  I met one girl and she just snickered at me when I told her I was going to be in the film school in the fall.  Yeah, snickered and seemed completely disinterested.  She said it was “Two years of Hell.”  Somewhat disconcerning.  But whatever, I don’t use peoples’ opinions to determine what I think of something.  She was EXACTLY like what I think “film kids” are, though.  I won’t go into detail, but for those of you who know “film kids,” you know what I mean… So, I definitely took the cool chick up on her open room.  She seemed relieved to finally have the house situation sorted out, so I’m glad I could offer her some piece of mind.

Back to the application process:

So, I got an interview scheduled with FSU on March 1st of this year.  The only preparation tip they gave you was to have 2 pitches ready for a short.  That was it.  I assumed I was to dress like it was any other grad school interview.  I wore a sport coat and nice pants.  A tie too.  Some kids wore jeans, but I bet they felt a bit underdressed.  It’s always better to look like you care too much than too little.  My interview was on Saturday at 4:00PM.  They are divided into 2 parts: an individual and a group session.  The individual was EXACTLY like what you thought it would be- You, in a chair, sitting in front of a table of people about 8 feet away.  I think the tactic was to intimidate you, which it did.  The session lasted about 30 minutes.  During this time, I was asked questions like, “Why do you want to go to film school? What is it you hope to achieve from being here?  What skills would you hope to enrich?  What is the advantage to film school?…etc”  Is it me, or did all of these sound like the SAME QUESTION, just worded differently?  What made it even more difficult was that the people conducting the interview gave absolutely zero indication of whether or not your answer was anything worthwhile.  They just nodded and wrote notes.  I’m sure this is because they’ve heard every answer ever and probably because they want to stay completely neutral.  Either way, they certainly didn’t make you feel confident at all.  I found myself wondering when I should stop stalking.  You never want to start repeating words or phrases and use filler terms like “all of this, so on and so forth, basically, etc.”  You end up sounding like the kid with a stutter in comm class.

My pitch went relatively well.  It was very well-rehearsed.  I actually paced my hotel room floor and said it outloud for about 45 minutes.  I wanted to sound smooth.  You could tell I was nervous because I NEVER practice things like that.  I’m much more off the cuff, but this is film school and you never want to look like a hack, or even worse, a cocky hack.

I got my friend, and fellow creative day-laborer Jon Velazco, to help me with a pitch idea.  It revolves around a guy named Raymond, a socially awkward 20-something college student who signs up for a study abroad/work program through NASA in the year 2073, mainly to get a change of scenery.  He ends up getting the shaft and just gets a retail job at the Virgin Megastore at the spaceport near Olympus Mons, Mars.  His Martian co-worker, Marvin (aptly named), tries to plug Raymond into the social pipeline with all the cool Martian kids.  It happens to be Halloween and Marvin is attending a costume party with many other Martians and invites Raymond to attend.  Raymond, a totally oblivious sci-fi geek, shows up to the party in a cheesy B-movie 1950’s alien costume, complete with a “We come in Peace” sign on his neck.  The Martians are completely offended by this and call him a “spacist,” or space racist.  So, poor Raymond, he can’t even find friends on Mars.  Just then, he sees a girl Martian being ignored in the corner, dressed like Captain Picard from Star Trek.  She finds his costume funny, he just thinks she hot cause she likes Star Trek, and a romance is born.  A human dressed like a Martian and a Martian dressed like a human…go figure.

Yeah, it’s silly, but we laughed a lot.  I felt like my pitch went well.  I at least knew no one would have pitched the same story, and it certainly wasn’t the typical Zack Braffian depressed college culture stuff they probably always get.  Either way, the made no remarks to validate me.  Nothing.  I wasn’t sure how they took the whole “spacist” thing, especially since one of the ladies interviewing me was Black, but they seemed like they might have secretly thought it was funny.

After that, I had about an hour and a half to burn before the group interview.  An ever-increasing sense of fear came on me: That I had bombed, that it was awful, that I totally got laughed at behind closed doors, that I was way out of my league, etc.  I went to McDonald’s and got a Dr. Pepper…ok, fine, and some nuggets, to extinguish my fears.  6:00PM rolled around and I got the waiting area early, so did the other 3 kids who would be in my group.  They were all really nice.  One had interviewed the year before and didn’t get it.  They seemed very un-film-kiddish, which is a plus to me.  We talked for about 10 minutes before we went it.  This helped a lot, so get there early if you can, it was nice to have all the ice-breaking over with.

The group session was simple: You sit at a table with 7 pieces of paper in front of you, each with a different scenario on it.  Your job is to pick one, divide the plotline evenly amongst you, and come up with a story with beginning, middle, and end in 20 minutes…all while being “observed.”  This is where you really want to make it a point to spit out your ideas, even if they don’t get used.  The scenario we picked was:

“A man robs and bank and takes a hostage, but it turns out the hostage is suicidal.”

Very funny.  It was easy to jump off from this.  We easily got to work.  One of the kids was applying to the writing program, but he didn’t really seem to take the lead on ideas.  We decided to have the guy get dropped off by his grandma to rob the bank, unbeknownst to her.  He holds the bank teller hostage, but then finds out the guy doesn’t care if he dies, which makes the robber look stupid.  It turns out, the bank teller’s house is being foreclosed and, even though he works in a building full of money, he has none (IRONY!!!).  Within seconds, they decide to rob the bank together.  They leave the bank, get in the grandma’s car and he tells her that the bank teller is his friend who wants to come eat dinner.  As they drive away, the cops pull her over for driving erratically and running a red light.  The two robbers sweat it but stay calm.  When the cop asked why she ran the red light, she said that you learn in life that sometimes you “just have to go for it.”  He lets her off with a warning.  The end.

Not bad for 20 minutes.  I felt like I contributed a lot.  So I was happy about that.  One kid in my group even said that the main dude smiled when I suggested the line about “going for it” in life.  So, interview over.  We had a tour that ended up lasting about 2 hours because we asked questions and watched some students’ short films.  I was so relieved to have it over with that I went and ordered a huge sandwich from Jimmy John’s and watched a movie in my hotel room.  My friend, Pete, was down there the next day for his interview and he said his was equally as awkward.  He also said he overheard the dude in front of him get in a verbal argument over a question during his interview.  When he walked out, he looked at Pete and said, “Well, guess I’m not going to FSU.”  Probably not the route to take.  Like I said, you never want to be a cocky hack.

That’s long enough for now.  I’ll start getting in to other stuff next time.  I’m also very behind on movies.  I haven’t seen Hulk, Happening (which I heard blows), and some others.  I do kinda want to see the Strangers, because the thought of someone standing outside your house with a bag over their head is like something out of a really really bad dream…. or a really good joke to play on someone.

June 23rd, T-Minus 53 days

Posted in State of Affairs with tags , , on June 23, 2008 by thenexman

My name is Michael, of the Copponex variety.  The name is French.  We’re fairly certain it was Copponaux at some time, but based on my 2-minute Googling of my family history, we came over from France right around 1860-something, and the current spelling stands by itself.

Certain things interest me heavily: Space, Nuclear War, TV series, the impossible, the spiritual, Adriana Lima, movies and music.  I also firmly believe in A God, one that plays an active role in my life and has since I was born.

I’m 24.  I have lived in Marietta, GA nearly my entire life.  I have a large circle of fellow Marietta citizens I call friends, mostly comprised of Sprayberry High School alumni classes ’00-’03.  It makes for a fun group, a very social environment, and a leisurely existence…

But in less than two months, this will no longer be my existence.  I was recently accepted into Florida State’s Graduate Film Conservatory and will be moving to Tallahassee on August 15th.  So, I begin this electronic journal not only as a firsthand account of the beginning, middle, and end of the film school process for those interested, but also as personal documentation by which I hope to recount and read later in life.

The decision to apply to film school came one year ago, May of 2007, on the sidewalk of the AMC Barrett Commons here in Kennesaw, GA.  A former teacher and friend to many of my friends, Pete Difazio, met us at the theatre to see Spiderman 3.  Two and a half hours later, in order to quickly forget about just how bad Spiderman 3 was, we began talking about other, more encouraging, things.  Pete had just returned from Tallahassee and had visited Florida State’s film school.  He spoke very highly of it.  He made it sound tangible.  He made it sound like an option.  Pete was in a very different stage in life from me.  He was/is in his mid-thirties, already had a master’s in English, and had taught at they very same high school he attended for many years.  Now, after years of teaching an introductory film class elective to high school students, and writing many of his own screenplays, Pete decided it was now-or-never to do what he had excused and put off for so many years: he would apply to film school, multiple films schools, in fact.  Florida State just happened to be one of them.

As I stood on the sidewalk for those 45 minutes, Pete seemed to be divinely placed there in order to convince me to make the same decision… not that any of my friends knew that I would be interested in film school.  The decision to complete the application, while still daunting, seemed plausible.  As Pete spoke, the fear and intimidation of film school began to erode away.  I had heard horror stories of just how expensive and iffy of a venture film school could be.  But suddenly, the people sounded real, the facilities sounded a like a playground, and the opportunity would be undeniable.  Why not, I mean, a tour can’t hurt.  So on my way to my cousin’s wedding in Florida, my brother and I swung by Florida State to take a look.  It was awesome, no doubt, but they made it a point to drill into your head that this was “NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. YOU WILL CRY AND PROBABLY QUESTION YOUR MANHOOD.”  They explained how serious the graduate program was and how much of a life you will not have when you’re in it..IF you’re in it.  Ok ok, I-I- I got it, thanks.

What makes FSU attractive is not only the facilities and prestige of the school, but that Florida State is part of something called the Academic Common Market, a program in which many southeastern schools participate.  If a student applies to a school, such as Florida State, from a participating state, and that student’s home state does not have an equivalent program to the one they are applying to, the student is offered in-state tuition.   In my case, this would essentially cut tuition costs down by almost 75%, a truly fantastic benefit.  If you’re interested, you can read about it here: http://www.sreb.org/programs/acm/acmindex.aspx

I went home that night and began secretly looking at FSU’s program.  I also began looking at many other top schools in the nation: USC, UCLA, AFI, NYU, Chapman, Columbia, etc.  Out of the top schools in the nation, FSU and Chapman are the only two that subsidize students’ films.  This means you won’t have to raise money to complete your thesis film in order to finish your degree.  I liked the sound of that.  Referring back to the horror stories of film school, I had heard that NYU and USC kids were taking out $50,000 – $100,000 loans to finance their films.  I had two problems with this, ok three:

1) I don’t even know if the loans were THAT large, but I’ve never heard anything to the contrary.

B) I don’t think it would quite take that much money to prove you’re a good filmmaker.  Part of the reason I like film is that a small movie like Juno can kick the spandex out of a movie like Spiderman 3, and it has nothing to do with money.  I feel like money is the great equalizer.  It’s a handicap, and through this handicap, your real talent shines through.  “Compressed Expression” as my friend Bill calls it.  Too much money also bites you, on the flipside, and creates overly-done, cinematic fluff like last summer’s sequel explosion.  Name on sequel last summer that was worth anything, besides Bourne Ultimatum, and even that got tedious.

3) If I have to raise that much money to finish my degree, what, exactly, is my tuition paying for?

Film school was something that had always rested way back in that “dusty dreams” section of my mind.  I didn’t visit it too often, and when I did, I quickly grenaded it with excuses and fears of competition, debt, and overall unhappiness.  We’ve all got insecurities, and I find that we use them against ourselves more than anyone else.  But I’ve also found that the thing you talk yourself out of the most, is the thing you most want to do.

I printed out the Florida State application and it sat…for months… all through the summer.  Applications weren’t due until Dec. 15th.  It sat because it seemed like there were way too many fires to extinguish.    What teachers would even write me a recommendation?  My GPA was mediocre.  What would I include as an example of my work?  I felt my stuff was well-done, but very very small-scale.  I certainly wasn’t gripping on any local Atlanta film sets.  Regardless, I told myself that applying didn’t hurt anyone.  I at least wanted to see where I stood.  I found two teachers who actually did believe in me. 1) my 11th grade Lit teacher, Miss. Sandy Case. 2) One of my former college film professors, Dr. Charles Eidsvik.  I have never read what they wrote about me, but I appreciate every word of it, because they obviously did something right.

I decided to apply to Chapman University in Orange, CA and Florida State.  Both schools subsidized students’ work and seemed like a great deal.  (USC, I’ll be honest, intimidated me and was REALLY expensive, as were UCLA, AFI, and the others).  The applications were very different.  I had to write about 4 separate pieces for Chapman (3 page script on a given scenario, transitional moment, statement of interest, and a favorite movie). I could not send in a video example of my work, only something called a “portfolio list” where you named off your creative projects chronologically.  FSU’s application was much more rigid.  A statement of interest, a video example, and 2 transcripts from every university attended…that was it.  At the time, I was much more confident in my Chapman application because I felt it showed more of who I was.

Chapman sent me something in the mail almost weekly.  It was quite misleading.  It was always info on the school and then a DVD.  From FSU, I didn’t hear a peep.  Pete texted me one day and said “I got accepted into Chapman! And don’t worry about the envelope being small, mine was small.” No interview, no nothing.  Hmmm, maybe I’ve got shot here.  Then, one day a letter came (sure enough, little envelope).  “Dear Michael, NO.”  It might have said a little more than that, but they could have just gotten away with saving their ink and keeping it simple.  Welp, one down, one to go.  This is why I did this, though, just to see if I could do it.  But seriously, if Chapman takes 85 kids and FSU only takes 30, what were my odds here?  Then again, I don’t believe in odds.  If something is meant to happen, odds don’t factor in.  Kinda like how I don’t think aliens exist just because the universe is “so big” that the odds are in their favor.  If they’re not there, they’re not there.  But that’s for another blog.

One day, while chatting on Gmail (kinda like I am now) an email came through saying “Congratulations! You got and interview.” WHOA. I immediately responded and scheduled my interview for the first weekend in March.  First hurdle down.  I always told my Mom that if I got an interview, I’d get in.  The interview wasn’t quite as easy as I thought.  This blog has been long enough, so I’ll talk about the interview next time.

BTW, if you’re wondering why the name of my blog is “Pure White Adult Rocker,” it was from a rocking chair for sale at Cracker Barrel and the name of the line was a Pure White Adult Rocker.  “How fitting,” I thought.  It has no racial overtones.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2008 by thenexman

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