USC Film School – A Review

I attended the undergraduate film program at The University Of Southern California and then proceeded with my film education at New York University where I graduated with a BFA.  During my time at USC I attended numerous classes and worked on several productions of friends that were in the program.  In this short essay I’ll try and give an overview of what I view as the strengths and weaknesses of the program as I see them.

The Location

The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located on the main campus of the University of Southern California which is located just south of downtown Los Angeles in an area bordering what is considered southwest LA.  For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles and USC, the school consists of a well maintained and manicured campus that is enclosed as an ‘oasis’ from the surrounding areas of east LA which are not nearly as nice.

Traditionally, the west side of Los Angeles is what people think of when they think of the beaches and nicer suburban areas as well as Hollywood and Beverly Hills which are just east of the ocean communities but west of USC.  While those living on campus enjoy a nice environment, it is generally accepted that venturing too far away from the main campus is not the best experience with many if not most students choosing to leave during the weekends as the school does have a strong commuter element to it.

The Curriculum

The USC Undergraduate Cinema Program is structured in three tiers, the 200, 300, and 400 level with each tier of courses increasing in complexity and generally relying on the successful completion of those levels below.  While you have a choice between several options depending on your area of interest there are some required classes including the ‘core’ classes of Cinema 310, generally taken in junior year and Cinema 480, generally taken senior year.

Cinema 310 and 480 are the core production classes of the program where students are put into either teams or crews and produce their larger productions.  While Cinema 310 consisted of non-synced sound and 480 was a larger more sync-sound production, things have evolved over the years.  Both courses have a ‘screening’ in a sort of festival at the end of the semester where students show their films to each other and family and friends are invited to view them.  The very best of these can often be used as portfolio pieces to gain representation although usually they are not of the quality or length of the graduate level films.

The facilities of the school of Cinema/Television at USC are outstanding.  George Lucas, one of the school’s notable alumni, has made numerous substantial donations to the school and recently donated $175 million to build a large expansion of the school.  In addition, Steven Spielberg and others have donated money for facilities.  The current school is built like a small studio with notable buildings including The George Lucas Instructional Building, The Steven Spielberg Music Scoring Stage and The Marcia Lucas Post-Production Building.

The Professors

USC has a very good and dedicated staff of professors consisting of both full-time as well as adjunct faculty.  Most professors have an extensive history of working in the feature film and television industries with several having been nominated for Oscars and Emmys.  In the past, the school has had numerous famous faculty including Irving Thalberg, Alfred Hitchcock, D.W. Griffith and Darryll Zanuck.

After Graduation

USC has a very powerful and large alumni network with numerous alum working in virtually every area of Film and Television Production. Only NYU is comparable in numbers and quality of alumni in the industry.  Smart students utilize this resource to gain informational interviews and internships to ease the transition into the work world after graduation. 

 Internships are available through the school at virtually ever studio and numerous post production companies as well as agencies and other areas.  Internships are a great way not only to make connections but to ‘explore’ different areas of the industry before deciding on a career path.  For more great information about film school please visit