Think of the top film schools, like USC or New York University, and Orange Coast College probably doesn’t complete the thought.
Think of their hotshot graduates, like Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee, and such names as Ric Carter or Erik Spikard don’t fill out the picture either.
The people who run OCC’s film/video department know theirs isn’t one of the big boys, but that’s OK. They believe the program is big enough around here to warrant describing it as “Orange County’s film school,” pointing to such grads as Carter and Spikard as examples of the department’s quality.
Carter has been working in Hollywood as a special-effects whiz since receiving a degree from OCC in 1988, said department chairman Bill Hall. Carter has worked with director David Lynch on a few projects, including Lynch’s 1990 movie “Wild at Heart.”
As for Spikard, his studies at OCC led to directing commercials and music videos for Warner Bros. The 20-year-old alumnus, who left OCC two years ago, most recently helped make a video for the Stone Temple Pilots rock group.
“We’ve had some really good people go on to really good things,” said Hall. “After two years here, they have the production skills they need to land work in movies, videos or whatever.
“We may not have the name of a USC or Loyola (another Southland university with an established film school) but our students do some excellent work, (and that) indicates we’re teaching them the right things.”
The department has been around since 1970, which was also the first year for its annual Student Film and Video Festival. This year’s showcase, expected to run about two hours and featuring film, video, television, animation and computer-graphics projects, will be presented tonight in the campus’ Fine Arts Recital Hall.
OCC picked its offerings from team projects created during the past year by more than 400 students, Hall said. He added that about 200 hours of films and videos were submitted. Judges pared down the best of the entries to series of one- to 10-minute presentations.
“You see a lot of projects, some good, some bad, but I think what goes into the festival is interesting,” said Hall, who also teaches film/video techniques at OCC and runs the festival. “I think we have some this year that show some imagination.
There’s also variety. “We have projects that run the gamut, from comedies to dramas to (those with) Christian themes to public service announcements on drunk driving. They go from conservative to liberal--just like our student body.”
The results of the program can be traced to various factors, including the students’ commitment. Hall said that although OCC provides all the equipment, from cameras to editing and sound apparatus, the students have to buy all the film stock they use.
“We just don’t have the money for that, so it’s up to them,” he said. “There’s one guy who’s making a 10-minute film that’s eventually going to cost him $7,000. That’s a good amount for a student.”
Another factor is the Hollywood experience of many of OCC’s instructors. Hall, for instance, worked in movies and television for several years, helping to produce “The Dean Martin Show” and “Little House on the Prairie,” among others. The teachers provide students with hands-on experience, both in learning the craft and in working on projects, Hall said.
In addition to the technical expertise, Hall and others try to educate students on what to expect when looking for jobs.
“We also teach them the mind-set, the work ethic of Hollywood that they need to be aware of,” Hall explained. “It’s a lot of long hours, very demanding, and they need to know that. We’re pretty hard here.
“We have an attrition rate of about one-third,” he said. “Those (who complete the program) are looked up to because the other students know they’ve gone through a difficult apprenticeship.”
Hall said the program’s success can be measured in a couple of ways. There are dozens of graduates who are now working in the industry in jobs from sound editing to directing. And many more have moved on to better-known, four-year film schools, including USC.
He said professors at those schools frequently tell him and other instructors that OCC graduates arrive both motivated and prepared.
“We don’t sell ourselves as the stepping-stone to USC or Loyola, but it’s gratifying to know that (OCC grads) can continue their studies with an advantage,” he said.
And what about that claim to the title of “Orange County’s film school”? Chapman University in Orange, which also has a respected movie and video production department, might disagree.
“Oh, Chapman’s program is a good one and getting stronger every year,” Hall said, then chuckled. “But that’s what we call ourselves. What can I say?”
* Orange Coast College’s Student Film and Video Festival begins tonight at 8 in the Fine Arts Recital Hall, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. A $3 donation is requested. (714) 432-5922.