extracurricular activity

The USC School of Cinematic Arts

It’s 1929 Los Angeles and you’re on the board of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. You want to create an excellent school to support the region’s vital new industry. The host university school will be among the largest and best private institutions in the country. The founding faculty will include Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, William C. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, and Darryl Zanuck.  If predicting success for this undertaking seems a safe bet, you’re right. It’s now the School of Cinematic Arts, commonly referred to as the SCA, at the University of Southern California.

The SCA is a private media school within USC that offers multiple undergraduate and graduate programs covering film production, screenwriting, cinema and media studies, animation and digital arts, media arts and practice, and interactive media and games. Additional programs include the Peter Stark Producing Program and the Business of Entertainment Program, offered in conjunction with the USC Marshall School of Business. It’s the oldest and largest film school in the country. The SCA is first among film schools in rankings by industry-related resources such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. As such, admission into the SCA is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate as low as that of Stanford and the Ivy League schools.

Due to an abundance of funds from alumni donors who have made fortunes in the industry such as George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis, the quality and size of the physical plant and equipment available to undergraduates is unmatched by any film school in the world. The labs and classrooms of the SCA give students access to the same state-of-the-art technologies being used and developed in the industry itself. Students can use the latest Oculus Development Kit or a Render Farm to bring their VFX shots to life. They can study live models in figure-drawing rooms or reserve special meeting rooms for their computing and collaboration needs.

An education at the SCA is two-fold: students train as both media creators and media scholars. SCA houses a full cinematic arts library in the Doheny Memorial Library. Students can access the Warner Bros. archives and the collections of some of the most famous people in motion picture industry history. SCA’s libraries, archives, and collections contain primary and secondary source materials that are of interest to scholars all over the world.

Undergraduates are provided with sufficient camera, lighting, and sound equipment to meet the needs of hundreds of student productions every year. For animation and interactive media projects, the SCA provides game development kits, animation cubicles, play testing suites, and audio devices.

From a short film to a complex interactive media installation, producing the student project is only half of the process. Post Production resources include Avid editing bays, color correction suites, sound mixing rooms, and visual effects studios.

Once the hard work of producing and refining a project is done, the school has several places to exhibit student work. Screening facilities range from fully equipped classrooms and small theatres for day-to-day viewing to the 365-seat Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre Complex and an IMAX theatre for large-format projects.

The SCA offers a variety of stages for student work and instruction, including television, film, stop motion, performance capture, and green screen stages. In addition to these traditional stages, the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts offers cutting-edge production areas such as the Michelle and Kevin Douglas IMAX Theatre and the World Building Media Lab, both of which are redefining the use of stage resources, work space, and motion capture in media creation.

Since graduates of the SCA most often go on to careers in the production and technical facets of the movie and TV industries rather than performing, their names are not usually as familiar as graduates of the best performing arts schools. A few graduates whose names are recognizable include Judd Apatow, Ron Howard, Sam Peckinpah, Shonda Rhimes, John Carpenter, George Lucas, John Milius, Matthew Weiner, and Robert Zemeckis.

USC, the institution within which the SCA thrives, is a private research university in Los Angeles. Founded in 1880, it’s the oldest such university in California. USC has historically educated a large number of the nation’s business leaders and professionals. The university has used its location in Los Angeles to establish relationships with research and cultural institutions throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim. An engine for economic activity, USC contributes $8 billion annually to the economy of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and California. In the 2017–18 academic year, there were 19,170 students enrolled in four-year undergraduate programs. USC also has 26,517 graduate students in programs that include business, law, engineering, social work, and medicine. USC is ranked 22nd on the U.S. News & World Report 2019 list of National Universities, tied with Georgetown and UC-Berkeley.

IvySelect is a college admissions consulting firm specializing in Ivy League and similarly elite institutions such as USC. We provide superior comprehensive, individualized counseling based on years of experience in assisting high-achieving students. Like many top-tier institutions, USC has accepted a number of students who were successfully guided by IvySelect in attaining their educational goals.

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