Students from the Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts got their time in the spotlight on Friday afternoon at the Norris Theater, as their work received its first-ever organized showcase on the big screen.
The School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is home to many of USC’s most coveted programs - often the subject of shout-outs from famous alumni and school tours culminating at its famed statue of Douglas Fairbanks.
Within SCA, there are six majors for students to choose from. Production majors often receive the most resources from the school because their track demands the most hands-on experience creating student films. CAMS, meanwhile, focuses on the theory and study of cinema.
But make no mistake, these students are still making films.
“All my friends in the major are all doing something, so why not show it on the home turf?” said Evan Siegal, a senior CAMS major and creator of CAMSFest.
Siegal approached SCA with the idea of a CAMS showcase during the summer of 2019. A filmmaker himself, he saw that many of his peers in the program were creating movies, music videos and other content on their free time, but had nowhere on campus to show it.
“We don’t get a formal night to come out and bring or parents and show it off,” said Billy Gould, a junior CAMS major. “It’s really exciting that [Evan] made this opportunity for him and for us.”
Films were taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Since they weren’t created within a strict class curriculum, there was more freedom for creators to submit their works.
Siegal noted one film, titled “Sink Frog Friend,” as an example of the festival’s uniqueness: challenged with confronting a messy roommate, one man finds help from a puppet frog that works in maintenance.
“I’m dead serious, these films are some of the greatest short films I’ve ever seen,” Siegal said.
Most of the films featured were student-produced and funded. While CAMS students can take some production classes, many gain their film experience on their own time. “Sink Frog Friend,” for example, was produced by Artemis, an intersectional student community that helps students create new works. Other students use Indiego-go and Gofundme to upstart their productions or reach out to film-related student organizations on campus in order to bring their work to life.
There were 15 student films shown in total. Each had a CAMS student involved in some aspect of the production, ranging from writers to directors and cinematographers.
Gabriel Gerrano is a junior production major who used to major in CAMS. His documentary, “Meryland,” tells the story of a 12-year-old boxer named Merryland and her path from growing up in Watts to reaching the Junior Olympics. A five-minute snippet of the piece was the 11th work shown on Friday night.
“I don’t think I would be able to work on this project if I wasn’t in CAMS,” he said. “CAMS gives me not only the philosophy of how to tell a story...but also it gives me the time and opportunity to work on outside projects, get an internship [and] try to get industry experience.”
As a transfer, Gerrano does recognize the difference in how much attention production and CAMS majors receive from SCA.
“As a CAMS student, I still feel like I was treated very special and well,” he said. “But I would appreciate more resources to get some work out there to the public.”
The reason for this, however, may just be confusion. Often times professors teaching theory classes aren’t aware of the productions students are creating on their own time outside of class.
“A lot of CAMS majors do production, but we never really get the chance to show it off,” Gould said. “It seems like the school isn’t really aware of that.”
If anything, the first-ever CAMSFest sends a clear message SCA: it’s CAMS time to shine.