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Bridging the Gap Between Stage and Screen

Amanda Charney discusses opportunities for collaboration between film students and theater students. logo

USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) (Courtesy Amanda Charney)

Ah, downtown Los Angeles: where the Emmys are held across the street from a college campus and you can happen across David Spade in the parking lot (true story). Living meager miles from Hollywood, it's impossible to ignore the thriving film and television industry that employs 193,220 people in California (according to the MPAA). It would be foolish of any theater student planning on living and working in Los Angeles to not explore acting on screen in addition to on stage.

Here on USC's campus, we're lucky enough to have not only a great school of theater, but also a film school that ranks among the best in the nation. When you take this into consideration, it seems impractical how little direct collaboration there is between the two schools! Film students making films for classes need actors, and acting students in the theater school need experience. Why shouldn't we work together to help our fellow Trojans through this dog-eat-dog business?

It's true that there are some students who have been able to make good connections with their peers. Alex Diehl, a freshman theater student, is in the midst of participating in his 11th student film this year! "At the beginning of the year I submitted my headshot to the USC casting website, and soon after that a lot of people started contacting me for auditions for their films. Now I mostly find out about auditions through the film students I've worked with thus far recommending me to their friends or through the Facebook group."

Theater student Kate Flexter has also managed to become heavily involved in student film projects. "I would say the majority of the things that I've gotten have just been from knowing someone who needs an actor. I got my most recent part though by auditioning for the film school archive--they do this once a year and it's great exposure! Also, all of the film students use [LA Casting] so get on there! The film I'm currently working on is a senior thesis film…and I'm having so much fun with it! The professionalism that the film students bring to the set blows me away. It's really good practice for the real deal. These people are the future of the entertainment industry, so they're great people to know!"

Sarah Huck, freshman Critical Studies major in the School of Cinematic Arts, has also had success stories with fellow students. "I've tried LA Casting without any success in the past (the people on that site are very unreliable), but I've had a lot more success using theater students. In fact, I've built up a database of different USC actors I can turn to with casting notices. My experience with theater students has been very good."

Even though there are good connections and interactions established between a number of students, there aren't any consistent resources to encourage and facilitate collaboration. Lani Amaro, a sophomore Film and Television Production major, wants a better way to connect with theater students. "I wish there was a public place I could post casting notices where the theater students would see them, or even an official website instead of the Facebook page. I also wish the Theater school was a cool place to hang out like the SCA building is so that I'd have a reason to bump into theater students. I also believe there should be a required class that film and theater students have to take together so that we could all meet each other and learn better collaboration techniques."

It's true: unlike the cinema school, the school of theatre doesn't have one building or complex where more classes are held, and the buildings we do have are not conducive to just hanging out and chatting with people that aren't involved in theater. And there really is no centralized way of finding out about acting opportunities for student films outside of a Facebook group with a limited following.

So what do we take away from this? Even though meeting cinema and theater students isn't necessarily easy, get out there and make it happen! It's possible that in the coming years, the schools of cinematic arts and theater might be pushed to work together more, but for now, there are a few key resources to make use of: Facebook, callboards, and mutual friends! Student films are a great way to make connections and gain experience for future projects, and definitely worth the time it might take learning how to get involved.


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