Jonathan Zimmerman is so on point with this piece about USC Film school (and this absurd book). Film school was such a surreal experience. They said we are the chosen ones! It’s harder to get into than Harvard Law School! They only let in 24 screenwriting students each year! That’s right, 24. And only 19 of us graduated in my year. It doesn’t matter that 80% of us wouldn’t even last in the business past year ONE (only two working screenwriters that I know of). We had Josh Schwartz to look up to. Three years before us, that guy MADE IT.
Imagine how it felt to step out of Lucas (I don’t know if Lucas is still there or if the behemoth new building has swallowed it). Besides the point. Imagine stepping out of Lucas, new graduate with thesis script and snappy logline in hand, wondering where all the agents were. Weren’t they waiting in line to meet USC grads? Isn’t that what they told us? And when you got your agent… oh boy. Naive young idiot, you’ve never written a comedy in your life but comedy is easy to sell, so guess what, you’re a comedy writer now. Give me ten comedy ideas by next week. Uhhhh… CUT TO: Me crying in my beater car while driving back to my shitty job in a beauty shop. FADE TO: One year later, no agent, no scripts written in one year.
"Comedy" ideas like… high school wrestling coach falls in love with his male student, chaos ensues. (I was really into Election.)
What do you mean it’s not sellable?
By the way, this doesn’t come from a bitter place at all. It comes from looking back at how clueless I was. And right now, instead of working on my rewrite, I’m thinking back about that perplexed graduate who was completely unequipped for a business that makes no sense. I’d like to meet this Jonathan Zimmerman and shake his hand.
Read this essay.
on the mythology of film school.
Film School: The True Story of a Midwestern Family Man Who Went to the World’s Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke, and Sold a Television Series to CBS
Benbella Books, November 2011. 352 pp.“Life … at 24 frames per second.”OPEN ON: a smoldering, post-apocalyptic hellscape. The once great city sits desolate, its iconic landmarks reduced to rubble. A mysterious red carpet unwinds into the distance, indicating — I don’t know, some sort of dystopian Emmy party? The king of this land wields his standard issue Arri-S camera like a magic scepter. His power is mighty, evidenced by the throng of ladies grasping desperately at his bulbous calves. In the mid-ground, a villain in a beret and Che Guevera T-shirt scowls, the intensity of his ire matched only by the girth and heft of our hero’s rippling muscles, who is shedding his USC shirt in a Bruce Banner-esque manner…— Tagline for Film School Confidential
I am trying not to judge, but the alarming cover of Steve Boman’s Film School: The True Story of a Midwestern Family Man Who Went to the World’s Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke, and Sold a Television Series to CBS demands comment. The book does manage to live up to the promise of its cover, but not in the way the author intends. The scorched earth and smoke clouds reveal themselves to be as portentous as they are pretentious. Set against the backdrop of the University of Southern California’s famous School of Cinematic Arts, Boman’s memoir is a tale of tribulation and triumph. Portraying himself as the prototypical Midwestern everyman-in-big-city-made-good, Boman shows off the crowd-pleasing story techniques practiced and preached as gospel at USC. Dealing in broad strokes and archetypes, Film School follows him from stumbling student to respected director and, finally, successful television producer. His USC is one of emerald towers to be scaled, gold to be mined, and bad guys — Simon Cowell-like professors and anonymous latte-chugging intellectuals — to be overcome. It is, in essence, mythology.
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