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.