the WCA blog

  • Q&A with director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum

    A little bit about Liz: 

    Elizabeth ("Liz") recently directed the independent thriller, CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, starring Nick Jonas, Dermot Mulroney, Paul Sorvino, Graham Rogers, and Isabel Lucas.  Produced by Hyde Park Entertainment and Troika Films, the film will be released in 2014.  Allen made her feature film directorial debut with AQUAMARINE, Fox 2000’s 2006 mermaid movie starring Sara Paxton and Emma Roberts.  She followed that up with the 20th Century Fox film, RAMONA AND BEEZUS based on the book series by Beverly Cleary. A graduate of Cornell University and USC Film School, Allen launched her career with the short film, EYEBALL EDDIE, starring Michael Rosenbaum, M. Emmet Walsh, and Martin Starr, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2001.  Produced as Allen’s USC thesis film, EYEBALL EDDIE went on to win awards at festivals worldwide.  Most recently, she directed episodes of Gossip Girl, 90210, Life Unexpected, Vampire Diaries, StarCrossed, and Franklin & Bash.


    What are the first things you do when you approach a new script? 

    When I first approach a new script, I try not to get latched onto anything too quickly.  There are no boundaries at that juncture, and I look at the world with a wide-open “blue sky”.  No restrictions.  It’s the one time that I can just let my mind run wild.  Often, I’ll start to get excited by imagery or by feelings/emotions that the characters go through.   My screenwriting professor, Ron Austin, once suggested that we should “take our characters to dinner” -- get to know them, their fears, and how we relate to them.  Discover what we find interesting and worth exploring in them before nailing anything down. 

    Then, after I’ve given the imaginative stream-of-consciousness phase ample time, I’ll start to apply some structural formatting to the script to see if it’s hitting the beats.  Though I’m not stringent about this, it’s a very useful tool to see if things aren’t working and to understand why. 


    How did you break in to directing?

    Before I became a director, I began by working for several years as an assistant to a producer.  Viewing the industry through a producer’s lens, I was able to see the kind of work that prompted him to hire specific directors, and it became a clear choice for me to attend USC in order to refine my voice and make some short films.   When I began graduate school, I already had some industry perspective, and that prompted me to really funnel my energies into making a short film that could sell me as a capable director with range -- comedy, drama, crowds, visual effects, action, etc.  My short, EYEBALL EDDIE, was a story very close to my heart, but it was also packed with elements that could function as a calling card.  It eventually led me to directing my first studio feature.


    What major lessons have you learned while on the job and from pursuing a creative career in such a competitive field? 

    The more I learn, the less I know.   It’s important not to get too set in my ways.  There’s always more to learn.  The people who stop challenging themselves tend to plateau; I hope to keep learning and growing.


    Talk about a couple of key strategies you use to create synergy on set.

    It’s empowering to realize that you, as the director, can set whatever tone you want on a movie set.  If you decide that you want a playful, loose environment, you can be the one to lead the game.  If you want to encourage people to feel comfortable, you are predominantly responsible for creating that vibe.  I read that Ang Lee would practice tai chi with his entire crew before shooting each morning on SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.  Also, food is so important in influencing people’s moods!  On RAMONA AND BEEZUS, we had the craft service woman provide a chocolate hour in the late afternoon.


    What part of your job as a director makes you say to yourself, "This is why I'm doing what I'm doing."

    The adventure of it.  On any given day, at any moment, a phone call can change the course of my life.  Additionally, I’m constantly meeting fascinating new people -- and getting a chance to collaborate in new ways where people are challenging me and letting me see things through new lenses.  It keeps me alive and enthusiastic. 

    Visit Liz's website at: & follow Liz at:

  • Q&A with festival winning cinematographer Nicola Marsh

    Nicola Marsh:  This year the feature documentary that Nicola lensed - "Twenty Feet From Stardom" - won the Oscar for Best Documentary from the Academy Awards and opened the Sundance Film Festival. On the narrative side, she shot the breakout horror movie Smiley, which played theatrically across the US in 2012. She has been nominated for an Emmy for her work on "Troubadours – The Carol King/James Taylor Story." In addition to this she also shot two documentaries for "Cameron Crowe: PearlJam20" (premiering at the Toronto Film Festival) and "The Union" (premiered at Tribeca).

    Prior to that she shot the narrative feature "Eye of The Hurricane", starring Melanie Lynskey and Campbell Scott. She also shot the award winning documentary "Burn - A year on the front lines of the Detroit Fire Department", which won the Tribeca Audience Award in 2012. Her work has taken her around the world and she has shot in Nigeria, Argentina, Peru, Chile, England and the US.  

    Nicola grew up in London, England. She first moved to the US to work as a news camerawoman for NBC. She holds an MFA in cinematography from The University of Southern California. She now lives in Los Angeles. In addition to her American passport, she holds a German passport, but has a good sense of humor. She is repped by Innovative Artists.

    Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

    I moved to America (from London) is 2000; ostensibly to go snowboarding. I landed a job as an overnight editor at a NBC station in San Francisco. I spent my nights editing, and my days sucking up to the news-camera guys trying to learn their trade. I got my big break when I had to shoot a live-shot with Willie Mayes (who I had never heard of). I shot most of it out of focus, as my back focus was out on my camera, but that was another thing I had never heard of. I kept plugging at it, and in two years I was on staff as a news-camera woman. After another year of backbreaking work, I decided to take my craft to the next level. I applied to several film-schools and ended up at USC. 

    How did you 'break-in' to cinematography?
    It wasn't so much of a break-in, as an imperceptibly slow crawl. Sometimes, I still feel like I'm breaking in. I got all of my early paid jobs from either USC alums, or USC teachers. Of course I shot a million music videos and shorts for random people off Craigslist or other dubious internet postings. The first two years after graduation I was ridiculously poor. There was a brief moment when I considering doing a porno (shooting one), but decided that traveling to Big Bear with a bunch of strangers in the adult industry was probably not going to end well. 

    It really was a slow grind. You chip away at it, and eventually you turn around and you realize you are making decent money in your chosen field, working with people you like, and you have the ability to turn down projects you don't like the look of. That's having broken in for me I guess. 

    How do you approach a new script?

    For narrative work (I also shoot a lot of documentaries, that don't have scripts): I just try and visualize it while I'm reading. This is harder work than it sounds. And you can't do the whole script in one or even two sittings. Read a scene and really close your eyes and try and clearly see the images in your head. Work out who I'm looking at, who I'm interested in, and how to visualize the emotional story.  

    How do you work with your director?
    LISTEN TO THEM. A lot of directors are new to the job, and they don't always speak in the most visual language. But my job is to encode what they are saying into a visual structure. So when they say things like:  I love this scene, I want it to be really playful, and dreamy. You have to try and work out what that means. 

    What do you do when you disagree with your director?
    I normally try and persuade them over to my point of view. If they aren't budging I defer to them. Try to avoid conflict at all costs, it's not worth it and not good for your career. If your director is making really bad decisions, the movie is probably going to be terrible anyway, so there is no point in ruining your reputation over it. If you start to bump heads with the director, all the other department heads (producers, production designers, etc) will likely consider you a bit 'difficult', even if they also think the director is incompetent. Plus the director will slag you off all over town after the project is done. Some directors are more generous with autonomy than others, and I enjoy working with them more. 

    What do you do when you have to make a creative versus budget decision?

    There really isn't a decision to be made. The budget always wins. I push as hard as I can to get the things I want. And I wait until a producer tells me definitely-absolutely-no-way-can-you-have-that. And then I go behind their back to the director to see if they have any leverage. Then sometimes I've even put in some of my own money (for a set of anamorphic lenses recently on the movie Preservation). And then if I get the no-way spiel again, I give up. 

    What is your favorite part of your job?
    Being entirely engaged in work, that absorbs me intellectually, physically and socially. I love coming home spent and happy. 

    What major lessons have you learned while on the job?
    Losing your temper makes you look like an amateur. You can assert yourself very firmly without losing your temper. I used to think that getting angry was cool or something, but now I realize it just makes you look flustered and not in control. It takes a lot more confidence to have a direct calm conversation with someone who is frustrating you, than it does to just mouth off at them. Sadly I work almost exclusively with men in my department, and once in while you do get a real macho dude with a huge ego. The show I'm currently working (I inherited the crew from the previous DP) has a camera team made up 10 guys. It can be a little intimidating to assert yourself. There are definitely guys out there who love women and are really sweet to their girlfriends, but they really don't like having a woman as a boss. In my experience though, the one thing a macho guy can't stand, is a direct conversation about feelings. So I often have the 'I'm feeling like you are not loving working for me' conversation, which tends to nips things in the bud. 

    What piece of advice do you wish someone gave you when you first started?

    Follow money and influence. It's very rare that someone with no industry contacts and no access to financial backing makes something very successful. Most people who 'suddenly' make it big, are either being mentored by someone who is already big, or have been chipping away at it for a decade. It was very tempting for me to work on passion projects where I was the most experienced person in the room and everyone thought I was amazing; but actually working for people who had a lot more experience than me (and who didn't give me much creative input) got me further. It's an earning your stripes process. 

    Also it takes forever to make a living in this industry so don't feel bad about it, if you still struggling with bills 5 years after graduation. 

    My mantra is also some mangled Einstein quote, which goes something like 'it's not the strongest or the smartest species that survive, but the most adaptive'. I really embrace this principle in my work. I shoot features, documentaries and reality shows. Sometimes I feel bad about it, when I talk to some DPs who are just so completely immersed in one particular field. I feel like they know a lot more than me, in the subject at hand. But I really think by crossing all these disciplines I mix up my shooting style to adapt to whatever the situation merits and I like that about the way I work. Plus this industry is so crazy and unstable it's comforting to have more than one feather in my cap.  

    Do you have any fun projects in production or about to be released?
    A feature I just shot (Preservation) is about to premiere at Tribeca. I'm currently shooting season 2, of Below Deck, which is a docu-drama on Bravo, about the crew of a luxury yacht. I'm in the Caribbean, and will be here for another 6 weeks, so there are obviously worse places to be stuck shooting.

  • Writing Your Way to a (Paying) Career

    By Dina Gachman

    Bio: Dina Gachman is a writer and festival winning director who regularly contributes to Forbes, The Los Angeles Review of Books and The Hairpin. Her writing has been featured in Glamour, LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Her blog was chosen by Chelsea Handler as one of "24 Top Blogs and Bloggers Who Deserve Academy Awards"

    I remember orientation vividly.
    A room full of strangers buzzed with excitement, still shocked and thrilled that we had actually gotten an acceptance letter and were now entering film school at USC. It was a dream. We imagined ourselves stepping up to the podium on Oscar night and making our acceptance speeches, or getting into Sundance and consequently having a fabulous and lucrative career trajectory that started immediately after graduation and never let up. One day we’d be laughing it up with Meryl Streep at the Vanity Fair Oscar party, or joking with George Clooney, the producer of our latest indie feature (it would be a total passion project for him, of course). As visions of artistic glory danced in my head, the speaker asked, “How many of you want to be directors?” Every single hand in the room shot up to the heavens. Seconds later, our ramrod-straight arms wilted back into our laps when we heard the words, “Well, a very small percentage of you will go on to become working directors.” Ouch.


    It was a challenge – and a reality check. In truth, at least in the Production program, a small percentage of us have become working directors. That doesn’t mean we’re not working towards it, or that it won’t happen. My arm shot to the heavens on orientation day when we were asked that fateful question, and now, several years out of grad school, I’m not an Oscar-nominated director and I don’t think I’ve ever been within a mile of Meryl, but I am a working writer, and I’m paying the bills by being creative every single day. It’s pretty incredible. Do I have the itch to get an indie feature off the ground or sell a script? Absolutely. That dream isn’t dead, and I’m working on it – it’s just that my path to getting there is taking me in directions I never would have expected, which leads me to some of the most important career lessons I’ve learned so far:


    Keep an open mind: During my last year in the M.F.A. program, a professor - who was also a successful, working television producer – said that we need to keep our minds open when it comes to our career path. It won’t be just like Spielberg’s or Bigelow’s or like that person who graduated two years ago and won Sundance. Maybe your path leads you to sound or producing or art direction. Maybe you surprise yourself by making docs instead of sci-fi blockbusters. Since graduation I worked as a development C.E. for two years, wrote two comic books that were published in 2013, started a comedic blog that was featured on NPR and AOL News and landed me a lit agent, got hired to write dialogue for a burlesque show (I tried to channel Bob Fosse – not an easy task), landed a few (small) screenwriting gigs, got interviewed on 20/20 because of an article I wrote, interviewed Martin Scorsese in front of about 300 people, and have seen my writing featured in Forbes, Glamour, Ask Men, IndieWire, The Hairpin and several other pubs. I’m not saying this to show you how fabulous things are. To get to the point where I could call myself a full-time, working writer I had to babysit (changing diapers for cash after getting an M.F.A. is enlightening, let me tell you), take random gigs like blogging for a lamp store (fun times), and talk myself off the, “This career is too hard I’ll just go be an accountant” ledge more than a few times. I really think that if you keep your goal fixed, but allow yourself to try different routes on the way you’ll realize that actually having a career as a director (or producer or D.P. or writer) isn’t only about the final moment of glory. It’s about pushing and working your way towards living a creative life, because that’s really what all of this is about. As long as you’re being creative and pushing every single day, you’re doing more than most.

     Don’t take “no” for an answer: OK, obviously you don’t want to be a stalker or a pest. If an agent passes on your script or book proposal, you should thank them very much for taking the time to read it, pick yourself up off the floor, and try someone else. Rejection is an everyday part of this life, obviously. When I say don’t take “no” for an answer I mean don’t let that horrible little word stop you. I never would have expected to be writing comic books, but one day I read about a publisher whose sensibility seemed to mesh with mine (campy, comedic). Their website said that they weren’t looking for new writers, but I decided to try anyway. It wasn’t an outright “no,” but it was pretty close. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I wrote them. Emails led to phone calls, which then led to writing the books. Did I make a million dollars and get a bouquet of roses from George Clooney? No, but I loved doing it, it expanded my mind creatively, and I discovered a new medium. I don’t think I could have done it without applying everything I learned at USC – framing, storyboards, story, editing, etc. The point is – if the word “no” makes you paralyzed with fear, you might need to reassess your goals. If you have that insane (some might say psychotic) drive to keep pushing past rejection, you’ll get to where you need to go eventually. That ability to push past rejection is half the battle.


    Accept that it’s a business: Some people can work creatively and also have a shrewd business sense. I am not one of those people. At least, I didn’t used to be. I used to think art would triumph and the “suits” were the enemy and you should be able to cast Mark Ruffalo as the lead in a film even though his name doesn’t mean anything in Germany. In school, you’re often told to write about what you’re passionate about, and to tell your intimate, personal stories. You should – if you’re not passionate about a project you will be incredibly miserable. Still, working as a development C.E. taught me to accept that as creative and cerebral as entertainment can be, it’s also a business, and the sooner you can reconcile to two, the happier (and more successful) you’ll be. I’m not saying you should sell out and only write 3D zombie Twilight scripts. If you want to raise money for an intimate, black and white, coming-of-age story set in the Adirondacks, staring unknown actors with minimal dialogue, don’t expect Paramount to swoop in and champion your passion project. Think about your audience, where you want your film or show to screen, and who you want to reach. Keep your artistic integrity, but also remember that it’s a business. Make it easy for them to say “yes” to you. Collaboration isn’t just about picking the color pallet for a scene or discussing how to frame a shot – you’ll have to collaborate with the business side of the industry as well. Thinking of them as the enemy won’t help your cause, or your career.


    The 24-hour pity party
    : Like I said, you will face rejection. That C.E. job I told you about? I got laid off in 2010, lost my paycheck and my expense account, and found myself with no health insurance and a lot of free time (not a happy prospect when the term “unemployed” is involved). It ended up being a blessing since it motivated me to really pursue writing for the first time, but it was still scary. That experience, plus the experience of having a book proposal on submission (a fun adventure if you consider crippling, ulcer-inducing anxiety a blast) taught me the power of allowing yourself a finite time to stew and wallow in your misery. Say you don’t get into Sundance or you don’t make the Nicholl shortlist. Rather than mope around for a week or two cursing the universe and driving your friends and family to drink every time your name pops up on caller ID, give yourself 24 hours (or even five hours if you’re really into tough love) to mope. I started doing this when I realized that all that pouting meant I was wasting precious time that I could have been writing or brainstorming or working out a new pitch. If you do this often enough, you almost become like a machine (in a good way). Good producers often have 10 or 15 projects in various stages of development, and writers should do the same. Don’t spread yourself thin, but don’t put all your hopes and dreams on one project. Having more than one idea or script or short story makes it easier to stop obsessing over the “no” and move on to a potential “yes.”


    Bio: Dina Gachman graduated in 2007 with an MFA in production. Her thesis film Archer House toured the fest circuit and won the Jury Award for Directing at the Sidewalk Film Festival. Her comedic blog about the economy, Bureaucracy for Breakfast, was featured on Marketplace on NPR, AOL News, and Huffington Post. It was picked by Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing Comedy as a featured blog and named one of the “24 Top Blogs and Bloggers Who Deserve Academy Awards” alongside sites like People of Walmart, Huffington Post, and Funny or Die. She regularly contributes to Forbes, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Hairpin, and Ask Men, she’s a staff writer at Studio System News, and her writing has also appeared in Glamour, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune. She’s written comic books about Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, both published by Bluewater Comics in 2013. Playboy’s Kim Morgan called the Marilyn book a “sensitive, celebratory ode to Monroe.” In June 2013 Gachman was interviewed on ABC 20/20 for a segment called “Teen Confidential,” which explored the Rich Kids of Instagram phenomenon. She’s currently writing a comedy feature and is represented by Foundry Literary + Media.





  • The Hustle of Independent Documentary Filmmaking

    The Hustle of Independent Documentary Filmmaking
    A Case-by-Case Study on how to get your film made

    By: Charysse Tia Harper, USC Alum 2006 (Production) Director/Producer/Journalist Xplore the World,


    When you hear the word “hustler,” you think of a shady character on the side of the street trying to sell you something. His or her mouth is moving a million miles per minutes, their hands are going up and down and their eyes are shifting to look out for their next customer. The main reason why this character is on the street is to make money. Plain and simple. They have something they think the public wants and does – by any means necessary – to make that sale. Believe it or not, filmmaking – specifically independent documentary filmmaking – is a form of hustling.  You just have to know how to do it well.  

    I have decided to break down my experience of “this game” into a series of three case studies.

    Case Study #1: Lupus Project
    Summer 2006. This is when my “hustler” lifestyle begins. I just graduated from the University of Southern California in May. My best friend tells me about an idea to bring more attention to lupus. I say, “Let’s do it as a documentary!”  We shoot for a couple of weekends in San Diego until we run out of resources (seeing we only had what we walked in with) to continue. Final ‘Hustler’ Analysis: FAIL. 

    Case Study #2: The Other Side of Carnival
    December 2007. I am preparing to move to London to begin in my Master’s degree. I meet with some USC buddies and tell them I would like to make a documentary about Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago and its social and economic impact on the society (The Other Side of Carnival).  We all agree to work hard to prepare for our first shoot in July 2008. 

    I move to London in January and start making connections with people in Trinidad & Tobago and reach out to the British community. The other producer, USC alum Drusilla Luna Bouraima, does the same thing in California (though she is reaching out to the American community). We successfully make it to Trinidad & Tobago for production in July 2008, February 2009 and September 2009. We finish the film in January 2010, where we are able to premiere it in Trinidad & Tobago, as well as do a few media-related promotions there.

    Though we finished the film, no one got paid and we did not utilize online crowdfunding or do a lot of “in person” fundraisers. Final ‘Hustler’ Analysis: SEMI-SUCCESS.


    Case Study #3: Panomundo
    April 2011. I am in New York City hosting The Other Side of Carnival during the New York International Film Festival. I meet a British filmmaker, Keith Musaman Morton, who really likes the film. He tells me about his passion for music and Trinidad & Tobago culture and would like to do a film in the country.  Keith lives in London and I reside in Las Vegas. We exchange information and agree to stay in contact.

    September 2011. I am in London for a screening of – what is known now as – ‘The ‘Carnival doc’ at Caribbean Film Corner. Keith and I meet up and we put the final steps into place for making our documentary in Trinidad & Tobago. We decide to focus on the steelpan and agree to begin in January 2012.  Keith comes up with the name Panomundo, which really highlights what we are doing: looking at the history of the steelpan and its influence around the world. We would like to uncover the steelpan communities not only in Trinidad & Tobago, but also in England, USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Nigeria.  Keith is hosting his Black History Month film series in October in London, where we will begin fundraising. 

    January 2012. Keith and I are in Trinidad & Tobago. We are here for 3 months.  We were able to raise close to $1000 from fundraising ventures (and picking up second jobs) in London and Las Vegas from September 2011 to January 2012. Instead of contacting people in T&T via phone or email, we decide to wait until we get there, so they can meet us in person. From making The Other Side of Carnival, I have come to understand that the citizens are wary of foreigners and I want to gain their trust and understanding.  We visit a variety of panyard (locations that are used to host steelband practices) getting b-roll and conducting interviews.  We are also able to get footage for another documentary entitled T&T 50 in Fifteen, a 15-minute piece looking at important events that have occurred during Trinidad & Tobago’s 50 years of independence. We are hoping that this short documentary can give the Trinidad & Tobago citizens an idea of what we are all about.

    July 2012. I am in SoCal and Keith is back in London. Keith edits T&T 50 in Fifteen and I edit the 8-minute promo for Panomundo. We form an international team (producer in Trinidad & Tobago, publicist in London and producer in Los Angeles) to assist us in spreading the word for both.  T&T 50 in Fifteen lands in Caribbean Film Corner for September 2012. We will simultaneously use that venue and social media to launch our press release for Panomundo.

    October 2012. We are receiving feedback from our
    Panomundo press release.  People all over the world are contacting us about assisting us while we travel to their country. We host an Indiegogo campaign for $30,000. It fails BADLY.  We raise under $140! Yes, as in one hundred and forty dollars!  We agree to stick to what we do best: hosting “in-person” fundraisers. We plan to have at least one fundraiser per month starting in January. In addition, we realize we need more help.  We look to to provide an affordable production assistant. We are able to find one and he has been with us ever since.

    February 2013.  We have set a timetable for our “international” travels: Switzerland in July; Canada, Japan and England in August; USA in September and Nigeria in November. We start contacting steelbands in those countries, as well as reaching out to the steelpan community via social media.  This proves formidable as we link up with Matt Potts, owner of The Steelpan Store who assists us in publicity and interviews as we plan to travel to his Steelpan Festival in April 2013.

    June 2013. We host a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark to obtain flights to Canada and Switzerland. We succeed.

    November 2013. We are coming off a 2nd run of a successful Seed&Spark campaign to obtain flights to Nigeria.  We have made it to six countries with the assistance of crowdfunding,  hosting over 20 “in-person” fundraisers and guest lecturers in four countries and having good people around us.. We finish up the USA portion of Panomundo by visiting a steelband made up of autistic children on the 8th in Akron, Ohio, and journey to our final country, Nigeria, on the 18th.

    While we have not gotten paid for this project, we have figured out a strategy that has enabled us to capitalize on funds to make Panomundo – which takes place in seven countries – and not go bankrupt. Final ‘Hustler’ Analysis: SUCCESS!


    A great hustler of cars may not even be a good hustler of DVDs. To be a good “hustler,” you need to understand your strengths and capitalize your monetary investment from it. Over the past seven years, I feel I have honed my craft of hustling when it comes to independent documentary filmmaking.  

    Yes, you are working a full-time job, a part-time job and filming small projects when you can and hosting fundraisers (live and online) to make it all possible.  Yes, you use social media like it’s your best friend! Why? Because it is a global network! Instead of reaching out to one person, you are able to reach out to millions!  Yes, you are writing press releases and contacting the local media of whichever country you are visiting. The best way to get support is by getting the locals to get support for you!  Yes, you barter like crazy! A restaurant is in need for some publicity? You make the video for free, so you can use the venue for a fundraiser in which you get most of the proceeds. Yes, you take whatever assistance you can get; money is not fundamentally necessary! We need $5000 for the Nigeria trip.  However, by contacting the CEO (Chief Bowie S. Bowei) of Africa-Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan Development Company, Ltd in Lagos, Nigeria, who in turn is close with former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, we are able to have accommodation, meals and a local crew sponsored for us while in Nigeria. Most importantly, YES, you will fail along the way, but really who doesn’t at one point or another?!

    All hustlers doubt themselves at some point. That is normal. But all great hustlers also get back to their spot on the street and keep an eye out for the next customer. They see a woman in the distance and start to take some purses out from their bag. But, wait…there’s a man coming. He may be interested in some watches. Either way, they know they are going to make a sale! They HAVE to make a sale!

    After all, if you aren’t going to represent yourself, who will?


    Have a webisode you want to shoot but lack a production budget? Need finishing funds for your indie feature? Turn to crowd funding to get your project made!

    USC's Women of Cinematic Arts presents
    Finance My Project Online Workshop & Panel
    with Akua Boyenne & Harold Lewis

    (The sequel to last year’s Crowd Funding Workshop & Panel)


    Featuring AKUA BOYENNE, LA-based entertainment attorney, and HAROLD LEWIS, Founder and Chief Deal Officer for PITCH2ME.NET

    How do I raise money for my next project?

    "Crowd funding" – using the Internet to raise donations from the public – has become an increasingly popular and accessible way to finance a film. Learn what the latest rules are using platforms like, and now social media!

    After the crowds are gone, what’s next?

    Instead of chasing down bankers, distributors and studios, learn how you can use online professional funding as an efficient way to connect with funders interested in your specific type of project.

    Attend this comprehensive workshop with industry experts and learn how to build an effective crowd funding campaign. Then use the momentum you’ve gained from crowd funding and turn to the professionals to get your project financed!

    AKUA BOYENNE is a Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney specializing in music, film and television transactions. Her clients include award-winning and aspiring writers, directors, actors, producers and production companies that work in both the studio and independent systems. Akua and her staff of legal professionals also specialize in additional entertainment related areas of law including: corporate formation, trademark registration, copyright filing, music and finance transactions.

    HAROLD LEWIS is the Founder and Chief Deal Officer for PITCH2ME.NET, an online film finance platform that brings filmmakers and professional film financiers together. PITCH2ME.NETallows filmmakers to upload about 40 elements of their projects including a pitch video, trailers, script, budget, cast, etc., then allows investors (including distributors, private equity, family offices, banks, studios, etc.) to cull their database looking for projects that meets their specific criteria. Harold, a principal and a founder of FILMBANKERS International, is considered one of the most experienced and highly regarded executives in the field of entertainment financing and banking. His knowledge and abilities in assisting clients to properly evaluate their projects for banking purposes has been a key to his successful career to date. Prior to founding FILMBANKERS, Harold served as Vice President and Manager for the Entertainment Banking Group for Union Bank of California. 


    **This event is free and open to the public. However, EACH GUEST MUST RSVP SEPARATELY TO GUARANTEE ADMISSION. Also, we will be asking non-USC students for a $5 donation at the door.**

    Please RSVP here:

    DATE & TIME:
    Saturday, December 7th

    1:00-4:00 p.m.

    USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex
    SCA Room 108 (George Lucas Building)
    900 W 34th St.
    Los Angeles, CA 90007


    PARKING INFORMATION: Metered and street parking on Figueroa, Jefferson, Virgil and Vermont. Or park on campus ($10):

    PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Take the bus or the Metro Expo line to USC (Jefferson/USC stop).

    About Women of Cinematic Arts

    Women of Cinematic Arts (WCA) was founded by SCA students and alumnae in 2005 to increase cooperation among female classmates, and to address the specific challenges women face in the film, television and cinematic arts industries. With a membership base of over 900 women, WCA's outreach includes: monthly networking and professional development events in Los Angeles; WCA chapters in New York, Europe, Asia, and SF Bay; plus an active online community addressing career advice, job placement, cast/crew recommendations, and literary tracking.

    Join us on Facebook:

  • Media 4.0 by Jules DiBiase

    Media 4.0

    by Jules DiBiase, MFA Production 2008 

    Director of Digital Media, Stand Up To Cancer 
    Jules is responsible for Stand Up To Cancer’s social and digital media strategy and leads the team.

    When I came to USC in 2005, it was with the intention of leaving behind 10 years in the tech biz.  In my head, the life of a filmmaker would be meaningful, influential, and free of the bonds of the computer: no more carpal tunnel syndrome, no more dark, windowless offices.

    Subsequent to having that naivete wiped out by long nights in the windowless AVID lab, I got an internship working for USC graduate and producer Laura Ziskin. 

    Around graduation time, Laura approached me with an offer.  She and a number of other influential women in the entertainment industry were hosting the first of its kind modern day telethon to raise money for cancer research, with the goal to someday make everyone with cancer a survivor.  It was a lofty goal, the kind befitting of no less than the same ambition it takes to make a movie.  

    It's been almost six years since I signed on to lead the digital media team at Stand Up To Cancer.  In that time, we've had three Hollywood star-studded, televised fundraisers and SU2C has become a force in changing the way that cancer research is done. In those same days, the way that people take in media and content has also changed.  Social media has become mainstream among our grandparents. YouTube gets over 4 billion video views per day.  If you do still watch television, you likely do it in a three screen way - interacting with content through your phone and your computer at the same time as you "watch" (attention span being an artifact of the 90s). As content creators, what do we do to evolve with the technology?

    We’ll soon enter pre-production for Stand Up To Cancer’s fourth televised event.  We’re considering things we couldn’t even have conceived of in 2008.  What auxiliary second screen content will we produce to be watched or referenced simultaneously during the show?  How can we integrate live twitter stories into the show? Can we perfect telethon 2.0: the idea that celebrities could take your donation by video conference instead of phone? And, most importantly, how do we create short form, high access content that not only moves people emotionally, but emboldens them to take action.  To do something.  To donate.  To help us help doctors and researchers achieve Laura’s vision of making everyone with cancer a survivor.  

    In 2005, my USC colleagues and I sat in our orientation, before we even set foot into the first day of 508.  As I remember it, Jerry Kagan said unto the captive, enthusiastic new cadets: 

    How many of you want to direct Films?
    (The entire crowd raised their hands)

    How many of you want to direct Television?
    (Five kids raised their hands)

    How many of you want to direct Reality TV?
    (One person raises her hand.  He points to her.)

    "You’re gonna get a job.”

    You can fit 1000 iPhones in the space taken up by one movie screen.   I often wonder what he says today.  

    About Jules:
    Jules DiBiase has been working in technology for over 20 years, but only recently in the growing intersection between technology and entertainment.

    With an MFA in film from USC and a Ph.D in computer and cognitive science at CU Boulder, Jules proudly leads the SU2C's digital arm in the movement to end cancer in our lifetimes. She is an alumna of Laura Ziskin Productions, the Colorado Internet Cooperative, Freshwater Software, Net Daemons Associates, and Burger King.

  • Comedy @SCA Festival: Beyond BRIDESMAIDS - Women Taking Charge of Comedy

    Comedy@SCA and Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative
    invite you and a guest to attend a special panel discussion

    Beyond Bridesmaids:  Women Taking Charge of Comedy
    Co-Sponsored by Women of Cinematic Arts

    From Mary Pickford to Tina Fey, women have been killing it in Comedy.
    Meet four of the women who are continuing that tradition in movies, television and emerging media.

    November 9, 2013, 2:00 P.M.
    Free admission

    The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


    The panel discussion will include:

    (Writer: The Heat, Parks and Recreation, MADtv)

    Photo of Katie Dippold provided courtesy of photographer Robyn Von Swank.

    Formerly a Co-Producer on Parks & Recreation where she wrote for 3 seasons, Katie started out as a writer/performer at UCB in NY. Prior to Parks & Rec, Katie was on the staff of MADtv for 3 seasons.  Katie sold her spec feature The Heat to Fox which was released in June 2013. The Heat was directed by Paul Feig with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy starring.


    (Creator: Ben and Kate, Writer: Couples Retreat, What Happens in Vegas, Producer: New Girl, Stark Producing Program)

    A native of Rochester, New York, Dana Fox graduated from Stanford and the University of Southern California's Peter Stark Producing program. She worked for the creators of Smallville and screenwriter John August before being named one of Variety's "10 Screenwriters to Watch." Dana wrote the 2005 film The Wedding Date, the 2008 film What Happens in Vegas, and co-wrote the 2009 film Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn.  She was previously a Producer on the Fox series New Girl and created and executive produced the critically acclaimed Fox series Ben and Kate. She currently has several feature writing and producing projects in development, including Don't Mess with Texas with Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, and a comedy at Universal she's attached to direct. 

    (Writer/Producer/Actor: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Writer: The Neighbors, Stark Producing Program)

    Tracy Oliver is an emerging writer in the TV, feature, and digital space who first earned acclaim with her spec screenplay, Marriage is For White People, which Morgan Freeman is attached to star and produce. She recently completed her first season as a staff writer on the new ABC comedy, The Neighbors, where she wrote two produced episodes, including an Emmy-nominated musical episode featuring original songs from award winning songwriter/composer Alan Menken. She's currently developing a musical feature with Overbrook Entertainment and producer Sandy Stern. In the digital space, Tracy is known for writing, producing, and acting in the hit comedic web series entitled, Awkward Black Girl. She recently sold a half hour digital series entitled The Last Single Girl to Universal Cable Productions. 

    (Writer: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

    Jen Statsky is a Los Angeles-based TV writer and comedian. She graduated from New York University in 2008, majoring in Film & TV Production with a concentration in writing. Jen has written for The Onion, McSweeney's, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and is currently a staff writer on HBO's Hello Ladies and NBC's Parks and Recreation.


    Joanna Cherensky, two-time Co-Chair of the USC Women of Cinematic Arts Industry Forum, is a former Alumni Co-Chair (2008-2010) and a current Alumni Advisory Board member. Since graduating from USC Cinema’s MFA Writing program, Joanna has studied Improv at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, performed Stand-up at Flappers and The Comedy Store and was a finalist for the Fox Diversity Writers Initiative, for her original comedic television pilot, Raised by White People. Inspired by the inaugural Comedy@SCA Festival, Joanna has written and directed several comedic shorts, including Douchebag Whisperer (a spoof of “The Dog Whisperer”) lovingly posted online at:

    Check-In & Reservations

    This panel discussion is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 1:30 P.M.

    All SCA events are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


    The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

  • Welcome to the 2013-14 USC Women of Cinematic Arts East Coast Board Members

    Merva Faddoul, Co-Chair


    Merva Faddoul is an award-winning writer/ director. Her scripts have won grants from National Geographic and the Doha Film Institute. Her short films have screened at dozens of festivals worldwide, including the Cannes Short Film Corner, Human Rights Nights (Italy), Doha-Tribeca Film Festival and Tricycle Cinema in London. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America and the International Academy of WebTV. She is very grateful to great teachers, collaborators and mentors she's met along the way while pursuing an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and a BA in Communications from the Lebanese American University.  She has recently been named a Global Expert on Youth and Media by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.  She's in development on her debut feature set in the Middle East. 


    Diane Lisa Johnson, Co-Chair

    Diane Lisa Johnson is an award winning Writer-Director-Producer who has won grants from the Irving Lerner Endowment fund and The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors Foundation.  Her acclaimed short film SWIMMING has screened at 26 festivals internationally and won 16 awards and honors, including the Ida Lupino award from The Director’s Guild of America. Her film also garnered television broadcast distribution throughout Europe and the United States on the French TV Channel MCE (Ma Chaîne Etudiante), the Military Discovery Channel, and PBS.

    Ms. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s top ranked Tepper School of Business and went on to study filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and screenwriting at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program before going on to receive her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Cinema-Television Production from the University of Southern California’s renowned School of Cinematic Arts. 

    In 2010 Ms. Johnson teamed up with USC classmate Merva Faddoul to re-launch the East Coast Chapter of USC’s Women of Cinematic Arts. In addition to their Facebook Group and List Serv, The WCA East holds networking events in New York City, including their Annual Spring Brunch, Oscar Party, and Holiday Party. Ms. Johnson has been a member of WCA since its inception. She also organizes screenwriting groups of USC Alumni writers which meet up monthly in private homes throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.

  • Welcome to the 2013-14 USC Women of Cinematic Arts Student Board Members

    Chair - Mallika Dhaliwal, Critical Studies 2015


    Mallika is a current Junior studying Critical Studies at the School of Cinematic Arts. She considers herself a Bay Area native despite spending some of her childhood in LA. She is passionate about film, television, literature, journalism, traveling and education, and can often be found volunteering in her limited downtime. She hopes that WCA can help foster connections between USC students as well as alumni. 




    Vice Chair - Annie Lloyd, Critical Studies 2016


    Annie Lloyd is currently a sophomore pursuing a degree in the Bryan Singer Division of Critical Studies and a minor in French. She hails from Kansas City, MO and spent her high school years at a boarding school in Massachusetts so she considers conquering the West coast as the last frontier. She has a passion for French films and all kinds of scripted television. Her career aspirations keep changing every time she exposes herself to something new, but thankfully she has some time to figure it all out. This is her first year as Co-Chair of the WCA Undergraduate Student Board.



    Secretary - Allison Begalman, Writing, 2016

    Allison Begalman is a sophomore screenwriting major from Scotch Plains, New Jersey. She is also on the board of Comedy at SCA and has volunteered at several awesome SCA events. Allison is the co-developer and writer of a comedy web-series, EveryTiNG’s Alright, which aired last semester. This past summer, she was honored  to receive the Marguerite Roberts Screenwriting Award. At present, her genre of  choice is dark comedy, but she figures she’ll switch over to melodrama one day…  when she’s less dark and twisted.


    Events - Kirsten Jakob, Writing, 2015

    Kirsten Jakob is our current Events Chair, and a junior Writing for Screen and Television BFA from Highland Park, Texas. While her career goals include dappling in screenwriting, producing, acting, and winning the lottery, her goals with the WCA include enticing more current students to join with fun events, and building a strong student-alumni network.

    Publicity - Nicolette Daskalakis, Production, 2014

    Nicolette Daskalakis is currently pursuing a B.A. in Film and Television Production at the University of Southern California and a minor in Digital Media-Based Imaging from the Roski School of Fine Arts. She was born in San Francisco and spent her childhood in the hills of Oakland, CA. As the daughter of a visual artist, she grew up amidst an environment of creativity - always passionate about pursing a creative profession. With a desire to add movement, sound, and narrative to her still photography, Nicolette began exploring film in high school. After gaining experience in both print and radio journalism, she began applying her journalistic skills to filmmaking through her creation of documentary shorts for community television. After arriving at USC Nicolette worked in both experimental and narrative contexts. She has discovered a particular love for writing, directing, and production design and plans on continuing to pursue these after graduation. When she's not making films, Nicolette enjoys fencing, photography, French conversations, and sixties music.

    Graduate Liaison - Lauren Bailey, MFA Writing

    Lauren Bailey is a second-year Writing for Screen and Television MFA.  Her script No Place For Us won her the Jack Nicholson Scholarship in Writing.  Lauren’s frequent travels (and knack for finding adventure) serve as constant inspiration for her writing, which often combines a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously dealing with contemporary issues.  She is always on the look out for a good used bookstore and the perfect cup of tea.  Lauren previously attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a double degree in English literature and film studies.  As part of her degree, she studied at the University of Cambridge.  While living in Boulder, Lauren began working with super-8 and 16mm film and has made over 15 short films.  She continues to explore her passion for film and film preservation in Los Angeles.  It is her hope to one-day work as a drama television writer and to create a series for the BBC.

    Treasurer - Jennifer Katz, Critical Studies, 2016

    Jennifer Katz is currently a sophomore in the School of Cinematic Arts majoring in Critical Studies with a minor in Consumer Behavior. She comes from Marin, just north of San Francisco. While she spent most of high school acting and directing in the theater department, she decided college was the time to dive into a new medium: film. Jennifer has always been very passionate about women's portrayal in film and their influence in the entertainment industry. She is very excited to have a part in WCA!

  • Welcome to the 2013-14 USC Women of Cinematic Arts Alumni Board Members

    Alumni Co-Chair: Nora Donaghy


    Nora Donaghy has been a member of WCA since its inception in 2005. She earned her MFA degree in cinema/television from the USC'S School of Cinematic Arts, where she produced the CINE Eagle-award winning documentary Back to Life, about taxidermy; and directed the award-winning documentary Adventures in Geocaching. Since then, she has worked in various producing capacities on feature documentaries such as the award-winning films Darfur Now and Bhutto. She has written and produced nonfiction television series on Investigation Discovery, E! and TLC. Additionally, she recently spent two summers in Saudi Arabia teaching documentary filmmaking to young women, and a month teaching filmmaking aboard the Crystal Symphony cruise ship. She has also taught filmmaking to high school students in Watts, Los Angeles.

    Alumni Co-Chair: Mekita Faiye 

    Dr. Mekita Faiye, a proud Chicago native, has an extensive educational background, which includes a B.S. from Illinois Institute of Technology, a M.S. and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology and most recently an M.F.A from USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. A Lucent Fellow and Motorola Fellow, Mekita has accomplished over 20 publications in the field of electrical engineering and received numerous awards for her accomplishments including the National Society of Black Engineers: Golden Torch Awards “Graduate Student of the Year”. Her decision to turn down a tenure-track position at a university propelled her move to Los Angeles.

    Mekita produced the feature film SPEED-DATING, which won the Pan African Film Festival ‘Audience Choice Award’ and was the opening film at the Roxbury International Film Festival.  Mekita also co-produced the feature MY GIRLFRIEND’S BACK, starring Malik Yoba and LOVE & OTHER 4 LETTER WORDS,  which received a ‘Juror's Choice Official Selection for Excellence in Producing, Screenwriting and Acting-Female Lead’ from The Brooklyn Arts Council's 41st International Film and Video Festival.  Mekita currently works in development at MGM; however, her greatest pride as a 3-time nationally awarded speaker, is impacting the lives of over 25,000 high school and college students.

    Alumni Finance Chair: Shayna Gianelli 

    Shayna Gianelli earned her B.A. with honors from the University of Washington in Comparative Literature/Cinema Studies. Then moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting and dancing, she hoped to learn more about the other side of the lens. Encouraged by mentor Pat Churchill, Shayna wanted to be a producer. After working for writer Zak Penn as his assistant, she attended the USC Peter Stark Producing MFA Program. Since graduating in 2012, Shayna utilizes her love of music and dance by producing music videos. With director Cole Walliser,she recently produced P!nk’s opening video for “The Truth About Love” tour. She is currently helping Cole to develop a filmmakers collective of directors. 

    Events Co-Chair: Silvia Grossmann 

    Silvia Grossmann is a storyteller, at first in illustration, photography and now film.

    A Fulbright Fellow, she recently obtained her MFA in Film and Television Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She likes to chronicle the absurdity of life and aspires to live according to the Oscar Wilde maxim: “If you must tell the truth, do so with humor – otherwise people will kill you.”

    Prior to filmmaking Silvia had a career as a fine artist and Art Director. Her photographs have been shown all over the world, and recently in the Museum of Modern Art.  Her latest film, LieLand, written by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret, has premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. 

    Events Co-Chair: Nirali Thakkar 


    Nirali Thakkar is an independent writer and producer. She studied Masters in painting at Parsons School of Design in 1999 and she completed her Masters in film and TV production at the University of Southern California in 2004.  She has worked on numerous projects in the capacity of producer, production designer as well as sound designer- most of these fared very well at prestigious film festivals. She likes to experiment with different media. She has worked in Indian films and well as films as well as in Southern California. She has exhibited and traveled worldwide and had numerous awards for her paintings.

    Publicity Chair: Mallory Carra  

    Mallory Carra is a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. Currently, she works at Hulu as the face (and voice) of the TV streaming website in customer support, assisting customers over the phone, e-mail, and social media. She graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with an MFA in Writing for Screen and Television and from NYU with a bachelors degree in journalism and mass communication. At USC, Mallory assisted with public relations and communications for the Center for Religion and Civic Culture for two years. Before coming to Los Angeles, she worked as a journalist at the New York Daily News, Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee, and The News and Observer in North Carolina, along with contributing work to the Columbia Journalism Review, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and Born and raised in New York City, Mallory prefers living (and driving) in Los Angeles.

    Website Editor: Annie Lukowski


    Annie Lukowski takes her comedy seriously. Annie took matters into her own hands when she jumped into the world of new media. She co-founded to make people laugh and cut her teeth in an exciting market. Her first webseries and branded entertainment venture, Road To the Altar, earned over 72 million impressions and garnered praise from Entertainment Tonight to Access Hollywood to Businessweek. Her second popular show, A Series of Unfortunate People, guest-stars Keegan-Michael Key (Comedy Central’s Key & Peele). While writing and directing for the web, Annie also develops feature films with her management, Circle of Confusion. Annie’s constant creative frenzy drives her to break new ground in art --- and fart jokes.