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Focusing on Film Schools

March 19, 1988

In response to Michael Cieply's revealing two-part article on film schools, I must clarify why I "tried to void a script release" I had "already signed" ("Film Schools Face Effects of Success," March 16).

Under the current policy, in the USC School of Cinema-Television's 480 production workshop class script writers are forced to blindly sign over all rights to their material in order to have it considered for production. The school holds the carrot of "a chance to direct" in front of the writer, but it has no obligation to actually grant the student that educational opportunity.

During my "pitch" to direct the musical I had written, the head of the 480 film program, John Howe, made it perfectly clear that he thought it would be unfair for me to be allowed to do a second high-level project. (I had previously directed a successful 480 video.)

Before any announcements had been made of which directors and projects were approved, I voided the original release I had signed and also refused to sign a second 4-page contract. Aware of my dissent, the school nevertheless went ahead and approved my musical and gave it to someone else to direct.

I sincerely believe USC's current 480 system is morally bankrupt. It specifically avoids the issue of accountability.

My hope is that my formal complaints to graduate school officials will bring about a more ethical and equitable set of procedures, not only for evaluating a student's ability to direct, but also in "assigning" his or her work to someone else against that artist's plain objections.

MICHAEL RISSI

USC Grad Student

Cinema/TV Production

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